5 Rhythms Dance as Natural Depression Healing



Dance therapy is based on the premise that the body and mind are interrelated. Dance Therapists believe that mental and emotional problems are often held in the body in the form of muscle tension and constrained movement patterns. Conversely, they believe that the state of the body can affect attitude and feelings, both positively and negatively.

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I went to church,
but God wasn’t there;
I said everybody’s prayers
Till something deep inside me cried,
“I need the beat to be satisfied.”
I got off my knees and on my feet
Took my rock & roll prayers
      back on the street.
I gotta dance,
Gotta dance.

Gabrielle Roth

We danced our brains out. Going dancing in a club, you have to deal with crowds, perverted boys, drunken people falling on you. But here it’s just your body and the music. Your senses are limited to what you hear.

Joanna Kim

I am basically a very skeptical person. I do not believe in magical healing. And I have distinguished dancing dyslexia. Yes, I invented the term “dancing dyslexia”, when I needed to explain to my wife, why I cannot accompany her to all the dancing classes, she was attending. So, it is hard to follow back in time how I got to my first 5 Rhythms Dance about two years ago. In any case, I got so hooked to it, that now I cannot believe how we could survive in this high-paced, high stress, and mostly motionless lifestyle environment before. This practice has definitely changed our lives, and changed for better.

It is not for everyone. Most of our friends, who attended the classes, have not stayed beyond the first or the second time. But those who stayed, those who were able to match the practice offering with their essential needs, cannot now imagine their lives without it. There is no magical cure, which fits everyone, but if you suffer from depression, give it a try, and you may find the new powerful way to combat your condition – the fully natural way – just helping your mind and your body to lose a grip of the nasty disease.

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What are the 5Rhythms?

The 5Rhythms are a simple, dynamic moving meditation practice (Dance Therapy) that anyone – of any age, size, or physical ability - can do. There are no steps to follow, no choreography to learn, no way to do it wrong. The only requirement is a body that is still breathing, a heart that is still beating, and mind that is still curious! Akin to light, sound or ocean waves, a dancing body when moving freely passes through five distinct rhythmic patterns. These patterns continuously repeat themselves in a wave of motion.

This method derived from the ideologies of transpersonal psychology and was developed as the moving meditation practice by the artist, musician, writer, musical director and philosopher, Gabrielle Roth, in the 1960s. 

The Principles and Influences of 5 Rhythms

When one moves the body and frees the mind, one links themselves to the soul, the font of inspiration. When this happens, a person becomes equipped with unlimited potentials and possibilities. Another fundamental principle evident in the 5 Rhythms is the idea that energy is the building block of life and that all movement is made in rhythms, waves and patterns. This is a key element to transpersonal psychology.

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How the 5 Rhythms are Practiced

The 5 Rhythms follow this order: Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical and Stillness.
  • Flowing. Softening, Grounding, letting your weight down. Sensing how you are feeling at the moment, and accepting yourself however you are. Noticing the places in your body that are most in movement and allowing them to lead your dance. Allow the movement to be different from how you would “normally” dance Flowing, let go of the outer form of the 5Rhythms, and let your dance arise from within.
  • Staccato. Bringing what you are feeling into expression. Whatever part of you wants to move, whatever feeling is being expressed, give it full permission, give it your full attention and get yourself completely behind it. Be completely committed to your dance whether it wants to be big or small. There may be a lot of energy or power coming through in your movement, and you may feel anger. This is really useful for putting a boundary back in place. When the body is injured there is a breach of our physical integrity, and Staccato helps us to heal that breach and come back into wholeness.
  • Chaos. Releasing down, Letting go. Shaking lose any last places that are holding tension or “holding on”. Allow yourself to surrender to your dance, follow the thread of your own movement, and let your dance be big or small, high energy or a more internal shaking and releasing. It is our intention that guides us through Chaos. You may feel sorrow, there may be tears, let them release without holding onto any story that might come with them, they are just melt water from a part of you that is thawing out.
  • Lyrical. After releasing you have more freedom in your movement, enjoy exploring new ways of dancing, let it be creative, expressive, and playful. Allow yourself to lighten up physically and also emotionally. You may notice a sense of relief, or joy, or there may be a mixture of feelings – allow it all to be there.
  • Stillness. As your dance slows down, allow your body to pause in still shapes, just as it wants to. While you rest in each shape, receive any message or insight that arises, and allow the shape to dissolve into movement until another still shape arises. This is a time of assimilation of everything that has gone before in the dance, allow any last ripples of movement to come into expression, completing your dance with kindness and gentleness to yourself. Give yourself some time to integrate and assimilate the experience.



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Trance is Good

5 Rhymes Dance moving meditation allows you to get eventually to the mental state of trance, and everybody can benefit from this mental condition.

"Trance is not just some mystical experience, which belongs to special people, it belongs to human beings who are prepared and willing to dance themselves into that state", says Ya' Acov Darling Khan, co-founder of the School of Movement Medicine in Devon.

Khan describes trance as discovering that you've got second, third, fourth, and fifth gears of perception when you've been ambling along in first. This is analogous to the science behind trance: that our conscious modus operandi is mostly beta, (cognitive, problem-solving) brain waves, but we can tune into our alpha (focused, aware) waves and delta and theta (creative, transcendent) waves.

Communities have danced ritual celebrations since time immemorial, but in the west we have made dance into a form of entertainment. However, in recent times "psycho-therapeutic" dance therapy has been made available on the NHS, depending on your primary care trust, as part of art therapy for people with mental health problems, particularly schizophrenia. A study sponsored by the American Cancer Society website infers that dance and movement therapy can help with all kinds of emotional problems, especially boosting body image and self-esteem while reducing anxiety, isolation and depression. Moving meditation practices have similar therapeutic effects, although often couched in more spiritual terms.

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The Benefits of 5 Rhythms

The mind and body are inseparable; thus, the condition of one always affects the other. Practicing the 5 Rhythms can help promote the well-being of both. Humans are known to adapt easily to either a changing environment or prolonged stagnation. Any lack of activity should be a cause of concern. It can impair one’s mental and physical capacity and cause many health problems like obesity or depression.

The practice of the 5 Rhythms aims to counteract inactivity. It provides students a way to move and express themselves. The movements can develop the person’s coordination, concentration, willpower and endurance. Additionally, the 5 Rhythms can be an excellent means of releasing emotional and physical stress. Many of the exercises involve complex movements that promote activity and coordination between the body and the brain.

As we practice the 5Rhythms moving meditation over time, the effects spiral into our lives.
  • We feel radiantly alive and calm at the same time.
  • We move from thinking about life to intimately feeling life with our bones, our feet, our muscles, our blood.
  • We enjoy the miraculous bodies we have rather than lamenting their limitations.
  • The tight spots in our hearts soften until without hesitation we cry when we’re sad, jump when we’re joyful, reach out when we’re touched.
  • Our minds settle, and the jagged world of thinking, planning and strategizing fades into a sense of peaceful silence.

It can be really unnerving/exciting when you first begin coming. Despite how it looks, not everybody knows everybody - though as time goes by this practice does catalyze our ability to be open and honest with ourselves and one another. There’s no rush for anything. Take your time; go with what works for you.  People may be experimenting with being loud, big, bold, timid, intimate, self-contained. It’s fine to move away from or towards someone - give yourself permission to experiment too - in your own way. Use your respect for other people and their process and expect respect for yours. Everybody came for a first time. If you can, speak to someone (or two or three) at the end of the session, especially if you notice that you’re feeling anything (shy, weird, exhilarated, etc). Ask questions, tell them how you are.

Alternative Treatment for Depression – Does it Exit?

It has been a long held belief (by the medical profession) that mental distress is an illness and mainly requires treatment with drugs. Other opinions are that this is not necessarily the case. Dobson challenged the normal procedure of treating people with mental health problems exclusively with drugs: “Patients were expected to sit back and allow medicine to make them better”.

An alternative view is described using the example of the Mind Art Project Stockport (MAPS). This project promotes the idea that the use of creative arts as a means of therapy can prove to be beneficial to people. There is now more evidence to suggest that the arts can be beneficial.  Using the arts as a means of being therapeutic to people with mental health problems does not necessarily diminish the role of medication or talking therapies, but can enhance them. Every human being with mental health problems is unique and the greater the variety of possible therapies the more chance the person has of finding the right combination that suits them.

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Summary

While there is a strong holistic theory behind the 5 Rhythms Dance practice, I personally have difficult time to accept all its postulates. However, it works for me nevertheless. That is a point. 5 Rhythms is a whole new world, where anyone can find something useful to brighten the life, balancing life-work stressors, and driving away mental blues.

Some people come here to get full scale distraction from the life difficulties. No, your problems are not resolved, but you may see them from different perspectives, you may find a wholly new way of dealing with them. Other people come to release their touch deprivation. Individualistic Western society and sexual harassment laws are leaving people skin hungry. People may not be experiencing feel of touch by other person by years. And that is claimed by professionals to be one of the potential sources of major clinical depression. There are people, who just love dancing and who come there for excellent physical exercise. When you let your brain and your body to go, the benefits are tremendous, both for body and for soul.

By the way, meeting new people, new soul mates might be another valid reason for joining the group.

My recommendations for newcomers:
  • Give it a try. It might be what you were looking all your life, it might be not for you. Give it a try.
  • Come with open mind. Most likely, you will be surprised by what you will see.
  • Come in time. Start slowly. Follow the rhymes of the music.
  • Do not feel uncomfortable. You can do whatever you want. There are very few rules to follow up. Other than that, you may be on your own orbit, and no one will object to that. The basic rules are: keep silence and do not intimidate other people. Easy, isn't?
  • Try to relax, and let you mind go, giving your body permission to follow the music. Do not expect to be in some kind of trance all the time, there will be moments in and moments out, and that is normal.
  • If you need to lay dawn – go ahead, if you have urge to stream – go ahead, if you need to cry – you are welcome.
  • Keep your eyes open to stay aware of others. Safety first.  Dance barefoot or in dance shoes only - no socks on the floor. Bring a water bottle.
  • Please no drugs or stimulants. You do not need them on a 5 Rhythms dancing floor.
  • Enjoy yourself! - Excessive seriousness may slow you down.




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