You Won’t Believe What Dance Therapy has to do with Yoga…

Trudi Schoop was a dancer who pioneered the concept of dance and movement therapy for those who were residents of psychiatric hospitals and residential facilities in the late 1950s.  In her memoir, Won’t You Join the Dance?, Trudi chronicles her formation of dance therapy, as well as describes concepts and techniques that contribute to dance therapy.  Trudi worked with her patients minds as well as their bodies through movement therapy which focused on: alignment, breathing, center, breathing, tension, rhythm, space, separation/unity of body, as well as dance itself.  Trudi describes the historical relevance and scientific theory behind these concepts as well as brings these concepts, theories, and techniques to life by telling the stories of her real patients.  These stories help give the reader background into the strengths and needs of Trudi’s patients as well as show how Trudi came up with various aspects of her teachings.

In Won’t You Join the Dance?, Trudi explains that “…Dance therapy can offer new body-experiences, which in turn can engender new mind-experiences, thus furnishing new material for psychiatric examination.” (133)  This concept can be applied both to my personal life, my growth in yoga, and to my work in the special education field.  A key to unlocking new experiences or discoveries of the mind is to stimulate the body.  In my own life, I find that exercise and other physical activity helps with my stress, fears, and overall mood.  When my body is moving and working, I am able to also work through problems and confusing situations with a clear outlook.  I have found this to be true when practicing yoga, when I finish a practice or am successful in a new position, I gain a positive new frame of mind and confidence that transfers to other parts of my life.  Even during yoga sessions, when I am successful with “building block” positions, I feel more confident and ready to try more challenging positions.

This can also be applied to working with students with disabilities. These students, as with anyone, may not recognize physical outlets that they have to be able to calm, soothe, or stimulate themselves.  Teachers can use this concept of body experiences to engender mind-experiences to help students with their needs.  The second part to this concept is that once these mind-experiences are unlocked, professionals, or the person themselves, are then able to analyze strengths and needs to encourage further improvement.  An extremely important aspect to working with students with special needs is that teachers must take data to monitor their students’ progress and analyze this data in order to identify additional areas to work with and improve.  By helping students through movement to achieve new things, further plans, interventions, and exercises can be planned to help to continue growth and development.

Another interesting concept that stuck out to me while reading this memoir was the concept of “Oneness of Being” and “Split Figures.”  Trudi compares “oneness of being” to a dog chasing a ball.  When playing fetch the dog’s whole self, body and mind, are focusing on one thing and working towards one goal.  In contrast, “split figures” are those whose body may appear one way, but their mind feels another.  These “split figure” traits may apply to the whole body, or simply one portion.  In our fast-paced society, often we are juggling multiple things with both our minds and bodies.  We do not take the time to fully enjoy or partake in situations because there are so many things on our “back-burners.”  This causes many of us to become “split figures.”

I have found that I very rarely fully immerse myself in an experience, and definitely do not take the time to ensure that my body parts are also fully immersed.  I often rest with a frown though I am happy, jiggle my legs though I am relaxed, and my mind will wander even when “fully” engaged in various activities.  Even while practicing yoga, I find that I am thinking about what I would like to make for dinner, what I need to prepare for my day,  etc.  I also find myself forgetting about my various limbs while working on a position.  I will completely “forget” about my back, core, arm, or head while practicing a position, and will need a reminder to position it correctly to enable me to fully participate in the move.  I believe that part of this is due to my inexperience with yoga, since I am still learning the moves and terms, I am not able to fully focus on my body position because I am unsure of all of the correct body positions.  This can be worked on simply by practicing and becoming more familiar with yoga poses.  In my own life and in yoga, I also need to focus on being present and immersed in “the now.”  To work on my “oneness of being,” I must be able to become fully engaged in the present, both mind and body. I will need to slow myself down so that I can be more intentional and notice how both my body and mind naturally react to a situation, without the added impact of various other factors in my life.   This concept ties very well into my yoga goal from my previous blog post.  My goal is to improve myself physically through yoga so that I can fully immerse myself into the mental yoga mindset.  Currently I am a “split figure” while practicing yoga, and I would like to work toward finding my “oneness of being” on, and off, the yoga mat.


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