Dance as a therapeutic tool

British Complementary Medicine Association News BCMA UK May/June 2005

Dance as a therapeutic tool

© 2005 Eva Dillner

I believe God put a Dream in every human being’s Heart, and that we are here on earth to remember and manifest that dream. The trick is to let go of logical thinking and allow magical thinking in, long enough to inspire us to action. As we step onto our true path, all the baggage that stands in our way to achieve the Dream pops out like a Jack in the Box. That’s why it’s so important to do therapy because then we eliminate the obstacles that keep us from getting what we want.
There are many ways to do therapy, and even more ways to enhance our therapy of choice. You may not have thought of dance as therapy, but it is one of the most natural ways to stimulate the biofield and move the life energy in our bodies. After all, emotions are energy in motion. The following dance exercises can easily be incorporated into swap days or workshops where you are looking to stir hidden energies to life. They also work well on their own. You can dance at home alone or in a group. If you feel stuck, dance can be a way to unlock the door…
A natural way to wake the chakras is through dance, letting the body move freely in what is known as release dancing. Perhaps you are familiar with Gabrielle Roth’s work called the Five Rhythms, which is one way to work therapeutically with dance and movement. I prefer to work with the elements – earth, water, fire and air – as they correspond to the chakras and naturally tie into the rest of my work.
Dance is part of who I am. When I was quite young I danced in front of the altar at church. When my staunchly religious grandmother caught up with me and demanded to know what I was doing I replied “I’m celebrating the resurrection of Jesus”.
Warm Up Dancing connects us to who we are deep inside. You’ll need comfortable clothes that let you move freely and plenty of fresh water to drink. To warm up you can gently pat your body from top to bottom. Pat softly with the whole hand. Start with the head and face, then the neck, shoulders and arms, continue down the front of the torso and down the legs. When you get to the feet, you can massage them gently. Go back up the back of the legs and buttocks. Then pair up and do each others backs, bend forward so the back is horizontal, relax and enjoy. If you are alone, massage and pat your back lovingly where you can easily reach. Take your time and stay present in the experience, let your body wake gently to something new.
Skeleton Exercise An optional exercise that is quite fun to do is to touch the skeleton. Pair up with a partner and stand in a relaxed fashion. If you are receiving, close your eyes, breathe softly and let your awareness follow as your skeleton is palpated by your partner’s fingertips. If you are giving, start at the top of the head. Gently let your fingers probe the skeleton, all the bones throughout your partners body. Use common sense and avoid touching sensitive areas like the eyes, nipples or genitals. This exercise increases awareness of the body and helps you get familiar with landmarks, which is useful when you do any kind of bodywork. You can either dance through the whole body and all the elements, then move onto the therapy table, or you can focus on say the root and dance it, perhaps tone it and then get on the table to do root work. You can use the dance as a stand alone class, or as a lead in to painting, sharing or meditation. Vary and combine as you see fit and time allows. Allow yourself to play with the possibilities in the moment.
More Warm Up Now it’s time to gently dance through the body. Put on some gently swaying music, for example Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and let your body listen and feel. Just like with progressive relaxation, you focus on one part, then on another, until you have moved through the whole body. Let your head move in tune to the music, then let your neck and shoulders move with the music, then your arms. Stay with each body part for a while, then move on. Let your fingers feel the music, then your torso, your waist, your hips. Move into your thighs, legs, knees and feet. Connect with the cells in your body, let your mind go, your body knows what it wants to do. Let go. One of my dance teachers always starts with the instruction to remove the head and leave it at the door, at the end of the session we put our heads back on before we head out the door.
The Elements The element earth corresponds to the root and the legs. The music can be drums, didgeridoos, african rhythms etc. Anything that is earthy, lots of base and lets you stomp your feet. Focus your awareness on your feet, legs and root, let them lead you in the dance and movement. If your body doesn’t want to move, just be with it. If you want to curl up in a corner, do that. Just follow whatever your body says it wants to do. For root music I can suggest James Asher or Brent Lewis just to get you started. Be playful, chances are you already have something approriate on your shelf. The next element is water, which corresponds with the sacral chakra. The music is flowing and fluid, like a Viennese waltz. Let your hips sway, let your creative juices come alive. Oriental music that invites your hips to move sensually is a favorite of this chakra. For each chakra, dance to at least two or three songs, to get you into the element. You want to get below the surface, connect with the energy that is the dance. If emotions come up, let them. No need to analyze, simply connect with them and dance them, let the tears flow if that is what comes up, or laughter or whatever. Be the dance. Next we dance fire, the element of the solar plexus. What typifies fire better than Spanish flamenco music? Let yourself go passionately into the fire. Brazilian lambadas work well too, as do sambas and latino pop. Feel the ignition of the firey energy in your solar plexus, the life force pulsating, invigorating, stirring the excitement of life. The fourth element is air that connects us to the heart chakra. Let your heart stir with the music from an opera love story. Connect with the sound and let your body speak in movement. Celtic music, romantic music and anything that touches the heart works well. Feel your arms too, notice how they want to move and express. Let yourself be the experience, observe, no need to analyze, listen to your body, it has been waiting for a long time…
The music I’ve suggested is only intended to get you started. The possibilities are endless, let your imagination soar and play with it. Stay in the moment, you can have a play list to get you started, but pay attention to where the energy wants to go. Sometimes the focus is mostly on one element or another, stay with it until you feel it’s been properly percolated. If you are dancing all the elements, a neat way to top it off is to tone the throat chakra. If the group is very shy, put on some background music to help them break through the self-consciousness. Sit or stand in a circle and connect with whatever sound wants to come out your throat in a relaxed way. Breathe in softly, on the outbreath, eventually, you will make a sound. Soften, let go. Don’t worry, it will come, no need to force it. Remember, your body knows how to do this. The trick is to get your mind to let go of needing to mentally know how and be present, here and now. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly people loosen up and become like playful children, if you encourage them.
Photo of Eva Dillner taken by Karin Swanström in Kvillsfors, Sweden on a full moon dance evening August 2003.

A little bit about me. I started out as an engineer and worked in the corporate world for fifteen years with project management and organizational change in the USA and France. By the end of 1990, after umpteen cutbacks and efficiency improvements I was burned out. Too chicken to quit, I took a leave of absence, which ended with me getting laid off. So, too exhausted to cope with much of anything, I slowly started my quest to get my life back. I’ve trained with many of the pioneers in the personal growth and therapy movement in the United States and Europe. My training has included Kairos/Shen Therapy, Hypnotherapy, Life Energy Fundamentals, Meditation, Personal Growth, Secret of Creating Your Future, Hawaiian Huna, Gemstone Therapy, Life Mission, Sound Meditation, Personal Presence, Yoga, Hawaiian Lomi-Lomi Massage, Release Dancing and Vedic Art. Since 1998 I live in Sweden, where I was born and raised. My website is named Divine Design, inspired by the writings of Florence Scovel Shinn. I have been featured in articles in the local, national and international media and will soon be touring around Europe and the USA sharing the Eva Experience. Dance is just one of the many tools you will find in the book God put a Dream in my Heart – Handbook of Life Therapy. It’s the book I wish had been in my therapist waiting room when I began, there was so much I didn’t understand. My other books are on therapeutic storytelling, organizations and relationships. More information is available on my website
To receive a complimentary copy for your therapy waiting room of Eva Dillner’s book God put a Dream in my Heart – Handbook of Life Therapy, send an email to with your therapy business address, reference BCMA. First come, first serve – Offer limited to 25 books. In the UK, Eva Dillner’s books may be found at Watkins in London, on-line at and, through Borders and other major retailers, wholesale via major distributors like Ingram and direct from the publisher Author House.

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