How you breathe changes the way the body stores energy. Working out with dance you breath differently from any other workout or physical activity. When my brother started salsa dancing, his asthma problems disappeared and he felt alive again. Often with asthma, physical exercise can cause attacks, but instead he found dance was alleviating the problem altogether.
One of the reasons that a dance workout empowers the breath is that the body is being asked to be creative and not just go through the motions of an activity – like an ordinary aerobic or machine based workout.
Dance asks you to bring more of yourself than just your physical body. Dance includes your mind, emotions and creativity. If you’re dancing with a partner you also get to share this freedom of experiencing your body.
Even dancing solo, when the body dances and listens to music – something simple and magic happens that is different to other workouts. The breath and the heartbeat and the nervous system, the organs of the belly, feel the rhythm of the music. The body’s sensory and sensual system literally comes alive to the sounds and rhythms of music.
You could ask – why do humans love music compared to other animals? Music stimulates our human imagination, the capacity to feel emotions, ideas, memories and the pleasure these feelings evoke. As the music stimulates the nervous system and the imagination the breathing pattern changes to allow the body to move organically.
The intention of the breath in dance is to fill the body with movement and feeling and the music. Using the breath to move you in dance is different from yoga or running breathing or cardio exercise that aim to oxygenate the blood and cleanse the body of toxins. Qi Gong shows breathing is the most powerful way to move toxins out of the body. However, even the intention of the breath in Qi Gong is different to dance where breathing is less conscious and more connected to feeling the rhythms of the emotions.
Dance has a powerful way of connecting you unconsciously to a feeling level of our breath. When we feel our bodies we can unlearn unconscious habits that create shallow breathing and keep the heart, lung and diaphragm tight and tense.
The importance of bringing dance to your workout is to allow your body to feel itself in an organic and sensual way. As you allow your heart and lungs to feel the music through dance, you can create a simply way to release emotions and energy that get stored in the body.
Start by creating awareness around the heart area when you hear music, breath into that part of the body and allow the breath to find its rhythm with the music. Breathing is the first dance of life outside the womb and the simplest way to find your rhythm even if you think you can’t dance! You can experiment with different beats, speeds and qualities of music to see how your heart and lungs and breathing responds.
The best thing for maximizing the pleasure of your workout is to recognize what beats and speed your body enjoys. Not every body enjoys high intensity – and maybe your body wants different speeds on different days. The resting heart beat ranges from 70-80 beats per minute so music in this range can be very grounding to connect back to your self.