So you think you CAN’T dance?
By: Leah Shannon, FullWell
Ah, it’s that time of year. The season of resolutions. I’m not going to talk about mine because there is mounting evidence that sharing your goals before you’ve made good inroads decreases the possibilities of you actually completing it. The reasoning behind thus is that we get our dopamine boost from the affirmations we get from friends just for having the goals. (so keep your resolutions to yourself until you’ve hit some milestone at least).
But what I am going to tell you is that as part of that resolution, I am taking hip hop classes. That’s right, maybe my resolution is to make some major dent into my bucket list goal of becoming an Usher backup dancer. Maybe I want to increase my cardio strength. Maybe I want to surprise my friends one day and rip that dance floor. Maybe I just want to feel good. I’m not telling.
But whatever it is, I know there’s enormous benefit to dancing. First, I move out of my comfort zone, challenging myself to do something I’m not good at. I’m learning a new skill. Second, I’m getting a fun cardio workout while I’m at it – this will only make me stronger – giving me power to do other physical things that I have not been able to do. Third, studies in Germany and New England have shown that dancing lowers levels of stress hormones and significantly lowers depression.
I want to focus on the third point. Aside from the endorphin hit that any form of exercise gives us and the fact that it’s pure fun, dancing – and most specially dance classes where you have to concentrate on learning steps and keeping to choreography – is a gateway to meditation. What? Really? I thought meditation was sitting down quietly and picturing an apple or something. Sure, that’s meditation too. But anything that keeps you in the present moment, anything that keeps you mindful is meditation. Dance class is one such thing. Levels of cortisol – the stress hormone – have been proven to lower while learning how to dance, in the above studies. This is great because a lot of us have trouble meditating. I know I do. My brain just keeps on going. I keep on practicing (because just like anything else you get better at it through practice). But in the meantime, dancing gives me the moment of mindfulness that my body needs.
And I have to attest all three pints are true – I got my heart going, I had tons of fun (making fun of myself) and for one hour I was completely immersed in old school hip hop and learning the “routine”. I didn’t think about bills, what to do tomorrow, which one of my chores come first. I was just dancing (and trying to keep coordinated).
For those interested – I go to Pittsburgh Dance Center’s new hip hop class on Tuesday nights at 6. It is located in Bloomfield and the fee is only $8 (and this is no way a paid plug – I just want more company!). Dance Alloy on Penn Ave. Also offers hip hop classes.
Leah Lizarondo Shannon is an Integrative Nutrition Counselor and Food Educator. She founded FullWell and works with the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine as a Food for Life instructor. More information at www.befullwell.com