When Did You Stop Dancing?

It’s a long time since I have felt graceful; Parkinson’s has left me feeling clumsy, heavy-footed, and awkward, but dancing has become my daily medicine. For the duration of a dance, I can forget that I have Parkinson’s; all symptoms are suspended. The music puts my brain into a relaxed state, something that those with Parkinson’s rarely experience; rigidity is transformed to fluidity, my body feels lighter and young again, and I am no longer self-conscious or lacking in coordination.

Dancing addresses many of the physical and emotional symptoms of Parkinson’s and indeed many other conditions. Chronic illnesses can chip away at your confidence as you deal with accelerated aging; the body experiences disability, but so too does the whole person. Loss of energy and joy are symptoms of Parkinson’s, but dancing is a natural antidepressant, and it is now essential to my wellbeing. I cried when I first started dancing again; for the first time in years, my body was able to move in ways that I thought it would never do again, energy was moving through every cell and negative emotions were released, I was able to dance with abandonment and like nobody was watching.

‘Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass; it’s about learning to dance in the rain’.

Vivian Greene

Dancing is open to all regardless of mobility or ability, and everyone can do it at their own level. There has been much research on the physical and psychological benefits of dance; it can be a fun cardio workout, feel good endorphins are released, the body relaxes, and it is a chance to escape and to clear away the mental clutter. Dancing is a shortcut to happiness. I dance to all types of music, but as a teenager of the 90s I always end up fist-pumping to my 90’s playlist; once a raver, always a raver😉!

Dancing can have a powerful impact on the wellbeing of those with Parkinson’s and other chronic illnesses, and it is an important part of my own programme of recovery and rehabilitation. Dance retrains my brain to release dopamine, it helps to slow down muscle wastage, I can unwind as my tense body loosens up, my feet no longer drag, muscle movement and motor control improve, my gait rebalances, and for the duration of that song I don’t have Parkinson’s. Those few precious moments can help to create new neural pathways as feelings of joy immerse every cell, and my body and soul are always left feeling refreshed.

If mobility is an issue, then dance the way that you can; there is no wrong way to dance, you don’t need to be able to pirouette or do the Argentine Tango. You could sit on a chair or on the floor, lie down on your bed, tap your toes, shimmy your shoulders, nod your head, just keep it simple and relax. Dancing is not beyond your reach; this is your dance and your own moving meditation.

Your body is asking you, ‘May I have this dance?’, just listen to it. Feeling lighter is just a few moments away, so give your body some peace, surrender to the flow of the music, and rebuild your confidence one step at a time. Dance can offer you a lifeline, and the more you do it, the more you will give your body, mind, and soul the therapy that they need. So, get your glowsticks at the ready! Once you start, you will wonder why you waited so long…

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