What is yoga dance?

We are living in a unique and exciting age of yoga in which experimentation is welcome. Yoga instructors are exploring different ways to approach the practice and various kinds of motion to integrate with the traditional yoga asanas. From classical music, hip hop, tribal music, goat biking to quiet disco yoga, there are endless new ways to cropping up for all to interact with the practice.

Yoga dance combines elements of yoga, dance, chakras, positive psychology, breath, and the four components to create a fusion of the spiritual and physical in a joyous expression of being. It's a funky, sacred, and multidimensional dance that focuses on releasing anxiety and psychological stresses. The dance transitions from the lower chakras to the top and ends in soothing quietude.

Everyone knows the benefits of yoga for keeping fit. The ancient Indian science of yoga has today spread all over the world. Regularly practicing yoga is known to bring stability, balance, poise, and overall well-being in your body, mind, and spirit.[1] At the same time, dancing is also an excellent source of exercise for the body and the mind as it increases the production of the feel-good chemicals known as endorphins. Endorphins trigger a happy feeling in the body and reduce the perception of pain.[2] 

In recent years, the concept of yoga dance has become popular around the world as a complete spiritual-mind-body fitness program. So what exactly is yoga dance, and how can it benefit you? Let's find out.

What is Dance Yoga?

Dance yoga is a specific style of yoga practice that combines the various poses of yoga with the fluid movement of dance and music. While practicing the multiple asanas or poses of yoga, people do it in rhythm with music and incorporate various dance techniques into their practice.

In these pandemic and uncertain times, this fusion of yoga and dance is needed more than ever as it promotes wholesome well-being. For example, Kripalu's Joy of Letting your Yoga Dance is one of the oldest examples of incorporating yoga with dance to benefit from both yoga and dancing.[3] 

The yoga dance format helps spread and increase awareness of yoga in a fun and non-intimidating way so that more and more people can experience the many benefits that yoga has to offer. This has also allowed yoga practitioners to express their creativity through movement.[4] 

Dance yoga helps you achieve balance, harmony, and well-being by using a three-fold technique of movement, sound, rhythmic breath, and mindfulness or sensory awareness. The underlying concept of this form of yoga is to harmoniously align the body's vital chakras or energy centers.[5]

See: Pranayama breathing exercises & poses

The human body alignment

Yoga and dance are equally longstanding traditions with numerous historical influences that have led to the evolution of each form with time. In yoga and dance, the movements or postures are based on the middle line of the body in relation to gravity, both customs keep the head, neck, and spine straight and balanced, they're both grounding and stabilizing, and concurrently necessitate and cultivate a profound presence and stillness in concentration.

The alignment and form in the asana are intended to "nurture awareness, relaxation, concentration and meditation," according to Swami Satyananda Saraswati of the Bihar School of Yoga at Asana, Pranayama, Mudra, Bandhai. Yoga scriptures identified 8,400,000 asanas (translated from Sanskrit as "seat," known today as physical postures), which have been reduced to a few hundred. He identifies that asana practice can strengthen the body, teach people to live in harmony with nature, trigger energetic centers that assist evolve human consciousness, and discharge obstacles to integrating body and mind.

In dancing, the human body's alignment and form are intended to evoke rasa from the audience, or just for aesthetic purposes. The dancer attunes her body into the rhythm or melody of this tune, to the poetry, to the emotion which is to be expressed so as to evoke rasa, or just for the beauty of this artwork.

Classical Indian dance and yoga are two systems of spiritually based motion practices that could provide unique methods of experiencing embodiment.

The most striking distinction of both methods has been that dancing enables one to experience union with the self through immersion with artwork, and sharing this experience with others. The beauty of artistic expression is the attention that cultivates a state of transcendence. Yoga (hatha yoga form) provides a way to experience union with the self through introspection. The practices help unveil layers of oneself, resulting in deepened consciousness and a state of spiritual union.

See: Yoga for cancer patients side effects

Meditative experience

Rooted in Hindu mythology: Hindu mythology is intertwined in both dance and yoga. Dancers are storytellers of mythology, as well as the mythology inspires names, themes, and practices in yoga. 

As Nataraja, the Lord of Dance, Shiva performs both Lasya (a gentle dance representing the creation of the world), and Tandava (an energetic dance representing the destruction of this world). Lasya and Tandava can also be known as feminine and masculine energies, which may be compared to the sun (ha) and moon (tha) energies in hatha yoga.

As Yogiraj (the fantastic yogi) or Adiyogi (the first yogi), Shiva is consumed in a transcendental condition as a supreme guru of yoga. He's believed to have transmitted seven aspects of yoga into seven sages called the Saptarishis, who spread this knowledge to various areas of the world. Yoga is considered to have preserved these seven kinds now. Patanjali, the writer of these yoga Sutras (circa 200 c.e., an authoritative text on yoga), was thought to be motivated by a spiritual experience with Shiva.

Disciplined Practice: Yoga and dance are equally traditionally educated within a guru-shishya convention (mentorship between a guru and disciple). Students are initiated into the connection, and the educational process is deemed sacred. The formal analysis of both yoga and dance each requires commitment and dedication for many years.

A primary goal of dance is to evoke rasa, which can be described from the Natya Shastra as a "taste," character," or a "transcendent and blissful aesthetic experience. Rasa can be compared into samadhi in yoga, that's the culminating state of"total absorption. Both fields incorporate "internal, subjective experience with outer, objective form," working on"the physical, intellectual, and spiritual" degrees simultaneously.

While yoga places a pathway to marriage through introspection, dance lays a path to marriage not only through the dancer's experience of this artwork but also her introduction of the experience for the audience members. This dual experience of transcendence is referred to as a double blessing.

See: Nadi Shodana Pranayama - Alternate Nostril Breathing

Yoga dance health benefits

Benefits of Yoga Dance

We are well aware of the vast health potential of yoga. The health benefits of dance are also equally extensive. When combined, yoga and dance help strengthen our lungs, heart, muscles, bones, and boost our endurance. Dance yoga helps improve our flexibility, agility, coordination, proprioception, and balance. 

At the same time, dancing is known to release endorphins, boost our self-confidence, and improve general mental well-being. Yoga dance is especially beneficial for those with mental health conditions, such as clinical depression or anxiety, as it helps calm down the mind. At the same time, endorphins promote a sense of well-being and happiness.[6] People have reported feeling lighter, calmer, and livelier after a session of dance yoga.


Points to know about Yoga Dance

If you decide to join a class of yoga dance, or you want to try it out at home yourself, then here are some facts to keep in mind.

1. The movement will be different from that of traditional yoga. There is a lot of unique action in dance yoga compared to what conventional yoga poses involve. This is why you should dress comfortably and keep an open mind and be ready to explore. If you go into dance yoga, expecting to be doing traditional yoga asana practice, then yoga dance is not for you. Be prepared to expect a fusion of fluid movement, rhythm, and music. This is a very versatile form of yoga, and the rhythm of the moves will change frequently. 

2. Be ready to sweat a lot. Even though dance yoga is not a form of heat or hot yoga, but everyone knows that dancing a sweaty activity as it is ultimately a form of cardio exercises.[7] The movements and music will generate a lot of heat inside and out. So again, dress accordingly and bring along a towel or change of clothing if you join a class. 

3. There are no set rules for dancing, and you can move as you want. No rule says you have to go all out or begin at a slow pace. You can always stick to doing familiar movements instead of worry about the dance element involved in this type of yoga.[8] 

See: Relaxing Yoga Poses to help you sleep

Try yoga dance

So, should you try yoga dance?

Practitioners of dance yoga have frequently claimed that it helps them cultivate a mindful presence as they can move as they like to the rhythm of the music, which changes often. Being a versatile form of yoga, it can easily be practiced by people of all ages as the dance movements are suitable for all ages, regardless of what their previous yogic capabilities are. 

The fusion of music and exercising is age-old, and this concept is only becoming more popular with the introduction of yoga poses. Many yoga studios now offer yoga dance sessions. This form of yoga will not only allow you to experience the many benefits of yoga but also let you benefit from cardio exercises, like dancing.

See: Yoga Helps You & Your Baby For Gestational Diabetes

References

1. Ross, A., and Thomas, S., 2010. The health benefits of yoga and exercise: a review of comparison studies. The journal of alternative and complementary medicine, 16(1), pp.3-12.

2. Harber, V.J., and Sutton, J.R., 1984. Endorphins and exercise. Sports Medicine, 1(2), pp.154-171.

3. Alpert, P.T., 2011. The health benefits of dance. Home Health Care Management & Practice, 23(2), pp.155-157.

4. Cowen, V.S., and Adams, T.B., 2005. Physical and perceptual benefits of yoga asana practice: results of a pilot study. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 9(3), pp.211-219.

5. Johari, H., 2000. Chakras: Energy centers of transformation. Simon and Schuster. 

6. Estivill, M., 1995. Therapeutic aspects of aerobic dance participation. Health care for women international, 16(4), pp.341-350.

7. Claremont, A.D., Simowitz, S.A., Boarman, M.A., Asbell, A.O., and Auferoth, S.J., 1986. The ability of instructors to organize aerobic dance exercise into effective cardiovascular training. The Physician & sports medicine, 14(10), pp.89-100.

8. Warburton, D.E., Nicol, C.W., and Bredin, S.S., 2006. Health benefits of physical activity: the evidence. Cmaj, 174(6), pp.801-809.

See: Laughter Yoga or Hasya Yoga Health Benefits

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