Moving the body is so important for a healthy mind and a healthy body. For many, the repetition of going to the gym is not appealing. Running nowhere or lifting the same weights over and over don’t inspire them, and so they don’t go anymore. Consider another outlet for healthy exercise - dance. Dance opens the mind and body to endless new possibilities.
I was fortunate to sit down with Sylvie Minot during the filming phase of my documentary, . Sylvie, who is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Syzygy Dance Project, was a late bloomer to the world of dance. She didn’t start dancing until she was 29 years old.
She definitely felt out of place, at first. But then, dancing made her feel so vibrant, and she found a part of her body that didn’t exist before. Her life path turned, and she majored in dance and choreography. She encourages anyone, no matter how old or how fit, to consider dance as a way to bond without conversation. Dance is cross-cultural and gives people a way to communicate even without a shared language.
THE NEUROSCIENCE BEHIND THE MAGIC OF DANCE
Dancing is universal, and every culture has their own interpretation. The history of dance goes back tens of thousands of years and it is likely that our very distant ancestors celebrated life through dance. An imaging study from 2006 showed the many parts of the brain that we use when we dance, allowing the body and mind to synchronise.1
A more recent study examined the effects of a dance program on elderly subjects to study brain volume. The program required patients to learn new and progressively more difficult choreographies during a six-month period. The dance group was compared to patients that engaged in traditional fitness training. Each group was given a pre and then a post assessment. Patients in the dance group had an increase in gray matter volume in several areas of the brain.2
BRINGING DANCE INTO YOUR LEADERSHIP ABILITY
As the body starts to move, the body will open up, and become freer and less stiff. An open body can lead to an open mind, a mind that is creative, innovative and ready for all possibilities. The more open your mind is, the more flexible you become.
Our body holds so much more than we know, it holds stories and healing. When we start moving it, that part of us takes over and the brain can just relax.
Movement can help leaders become better leaders because they won’t be just leading from their mind. Learning how to move and release stress allows the brain to embrace new patterns, habits and ideas. Finding a novel pathway enables you to learn from your heart and belly and not only from your head.
THREE WAYS TO MAINTAIN A HEALTHY MIND AND BODY
As a leader, everyone turns to you for inspiration. What better way to inspire than to lead by example? If you have a healthier mind and body, your employees and others around you will notice and you can share this positivity with them.
- Engage in regular exercise. You can run, walk, or dance, or a hundred other things. But move your body! Dancing is a great choice, even if you have no formal training. Online videos can provide instruction, and you can often find free or inexpensive beginner classes at nearby universities or community centers. Salsa, hip-hop, jazz, hula? Anything you want to try is out there.
- Sharpen your mind whenever possible. Stop moving through each day on autopilot. Take a different route to work, write in a journal, try to solve that crossword puzzle instead of browsing on your phone, or read a few chapters of a good book while waiting for your laundry. Try using your devices less so you can use your brain more.
- Reach out to others. Another bonus about dancing is that it often takes place in groups. Even if you are a solo artist, your classes are most likely social activities. Finding people that enjoy similar activities means good conversation (even without words!) and you may be more likely to stick with it.
Sylvie is a wonderful example of someone who started something unfamiliar and awkward. But, she stuck with it and dance has become her life’s work. Opening the body and freeing the mind gives leaders the opportunity to experiment with new pathways, potentially opening the door to fresh ideas and fantastic innovations. Improving your confidence through dance will strengthen your leadership abilities, and in addition you can also expect improved mental and physical health.
1. Brown S, Martinez MJ, & Parsons LM. The Neural Basis of Human Dance. Cerebral Cortex. 2006;16(8),1157-1167. https://doi.org/10.1093/cercor/bhj057Rehfeld K,
2. Lüders A, Hökelmann A, Lessmann V, Kaufmann J, Brigadski T, et al. Dance training is superior to repetitive physical exercise in inducing brain plasticity in the elderly. PLoS ONE. 2018;13(7): e0196636. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0196636