Indian dance, yoga and other performing arts from India have self- exploration or realization as their ultimate goal. Dance, yoga, music are all different paths to attaining the same goal. Hindu philosophy, therefore has a pantheon of gods for people to realize that there is no specific way to be one with the soul, but that there are several ways. The most important part in this path is our breath. It is not unknown that irregular breath causes a lot of physical ailments. Indian dance, not only addresses breathing, but also brings with it several benefits.
Indian classical dance and Bollywood dance, which is influenced by classical dance do have a lot of health benefits. The following are the list of benefits:
- Breathing: The best part of learning a move is also about observing the breath while moving. The tendency of any body is to hold the breath during a move. The nature of practice in dance enables regulation of breath when done slowly, and helps in addressing a lot of health problems.
- Hand-eye coordination: “Yatho hasta, tatho drishtihi” – means where the hand moves, there moves the eye. This exercises the parts of the brain that deal with ‘coordination’ apart from working on eye sight. This is a really important part of Indian dances and quite a unique aspect as compared to classical dances from other parts of the world.
- Limb coordination: It is known that dance requires highly coordinated limbs – where the right hand, left hand, left leg, right leg, torso, neck and eyes might end up doing completely different things. This is really important to keep the brain functioning optimally. The body and the brain need to get used to the limbs performing completely different actions at the same time.
- Loving oneself: When you start ‘looking’ at your limbs, you eventually start appreciating what they can do for you. And as you look into the mirror, to hold a pose with your hands, you start admiring your gaze, your expressions and moves. This is just a start to loving yourself.
- Emotions: Indian dance emphasizes on rasa – or experiencing an emotion and thereby making the audience experience it. Its focus is catharsis through the dancer. This holds the possibility for emotional release while experiencing myriads of emotions as one dances.
- Group work: If practiced in a group, the way it is done in the video with props or feathers, you start appreciating the touch of the fabric or other’s hands or feathers which leads to general appreciation of the ‘little’ things that are present in nature along with appreciating what others can do for you.
It is amazing how the Harefield hospital in West London is helping its patients recover through Indian dance.
I hope more hospitals all over the world adopt it. Dance is not just about performance, it is about a communion with one’s self, nature and other people – but the most important part of all this, is self. Therefore dance has no age barriers, it is for everyone and benefits everyone differently. So, happy dancing, if you aren’t already! 🙂