A woman told me recently that she really wanted to come to SOL more often, but it made her feel guilty because she didn’t usually go out by herself in the evenings to have fun.
First, let me say, I think we underestimate the benefits of fun. It depends on your definition of “fun”, of course, but if you’re talking about doing something that moves your body, feeds your mind and nurtures you spirit, make no mistake, it’s important. And you need to make the time to do it.
Okay, so, this may sound like a shameless plug for SOL. I created it, after all, and there’s no doubt that I’m a little biased. However, I’m learning from a lot of you that you’re not taking the time for yourself to do what makes you feel strong. You’re not putting yourself first and a lot of you need more than just “fun” to get you out the door.
So, let me give you a doctor’s note, so to speak.
Turns out there’s a lot more to dancing than fun.
In fact, Dance Movement Therapy (DMT), an “expressive therapy”, has become a major focal point in many arts/healing programs. SOL is not “formal” DMT, however, we share a lot of the same benefits. Take a look at this description from Wikipedia:
“… DMT looks at the correlation between movement and emotion. The theory is based mainly upon the belief that body and mind interact. Both conscious and unconscious movement of the person, based on the dualist mind body premise, affects total functioning … Movement is believed to have a symbolic function and as such can aid in understanding the self. Movement improvisation allows the client to experiment with new ways of being …Through the unity of the body, mind and spirit, DMT provides a sense of wholeness to all individuals … Through this form of therapy clients will gain a deeper sense of self-awareness through a meditative process that involves movement, motion, and realization of one’s body.”
Combine this with our sensory deprivation, and you’ve got some compelling reasons to make SOL a necessary part of your self-care.
Here are a few benefits of a SOL Session and some notes on my personal experiences:
1. The physical workout
On average, women clock over 5000 steps on their Fitbits in a session. And free-style dance engages muscles that you don’t normally engage – in ways that you don’t normally engage them.
It’s different for me every session, but it’s always intense. Depending on the music and how I’m feeling (both physically and emotionally), I may dance the entire hour high impact aerobic style or I might take it easy and spend some of the time stretching. Every once in a while, I’ll stop, sit and simply breathe in the darkness, relaxing my body in a way that I don’t anywhere else. I felt my muscles tone and tighten after just a few sessions. After about 2 months, my legs strengthened and slimmed in a way that I hadn’t achieved with weight lifting and running.
2. Physical freedom
With sight deprivation, comes the freedom from judgment, criticism and over-analyzing. We’re rarely in an environment so distraction free, able to access our pure instincts and emotions and act them out with abandon.
This is the most fun part for me. I can’t tell you what dance moves I do, they defy definition, but I can tell you that I’m not this free with my body in any other time or place in my life. It is exhilarating and confidence boosting.
3. Emotional freedom
It unlocks the mind/body connection: free your body, free your mind.
While I’m being whoever I want to be physically, I’m acting out my emotions as they come up. Sometimes it’s tidy: happy and joyous. Sometimes it’s messy: mad and mean. I laugh, cry and scream through the hour and it just feels good. This emotional release, connected down deep in my body, makes me stronger in the daylight. Period.
4. Musical healing
Music has the power to heal, to ease pain, to lower blood pressure and to connect us to deep and significant ritualistic traditions.
Although I have music on daily, it’s mostly a periphery soundtrack that I may or may not actually hear. An hour of music-filled darkness is a gift to me in and of itself. I actually “bliss out” when I allow myself to get completely lost in a beat and any sickness or sadness that I feel fades away.
5. The power of girlfriends
Even though we can’t see each other, there’s a sense of community.
I feel encouragement and support every time I hear an improvised whoop or clap of hands. We lift each other up and, for that hour, we’re all the same. When the lights come back on, we have a sense of accomplishment, we got through something together, and we’re all a little more confident because of it.
If you’ve danced with us before, you probably already know most of this, but perhaps only on a subconscious level. Should we stop calling it fun and call it therapy? I’m joking, sort of.
Whether it’s SOL or something else fun that strengthens your body, empowers your mind and lifts your spirit, the only reason you should feel guilty is if you don’t do it. Just remember that with this kind of fun, you’re taking care of yourself – and by doing that you’ll be better at taking care of everyone else.