Finding Our Way Home Through Trauma Informed Dance

By Payton Kennedy, SHE RECOVERS Dance Creator | SHE RECOVERS® Foundation

National Dance Day is an annual celebration dedicated to dance, that encourages individuals of all ages to incorporate dance into their lives. By creating a focused day of celebration to show support for dance as a valuable form of exercise and of artistic expression, American Dance Movement aims to educate the public about dance and its many benefits, as well as make dance accessible and inclusive to everyone. American Dance Movement (ADM) believes that participation in dance (such as trauma informed dance) connects the mind and body, promotes health and wellbeing, connects us with others, and enables us to find joy through dance and movement – and so does SHE RECOVERS!

National Dance Day Trauma Informed Dance
There are many published studies that show conscious movement modalities like SHE RECOVERS Trauma Informed Dance can improve mental health and help to relieve a myriad of physical symptoms: everything from low energy levels and fatigue, pain, tension, and stiffness in our joints; to numb body parts, stuck emotions, and brain fog. I believe the most convincing evidence is the benefits observed through lived experience of a regular movement practice. Along with my personal regular practice of movement, I also facilitate trauma-informed movement and have been witness to some powerful transformations. The experience can be subtle and slow, requiring us to meet and move through some heavy resistance…or it can be more like a switch being flicked; an immediate rush of clarity and flow in both body and mind. Whatever the experience, the case for movement as a recovery tool has never been stronger.
 
My journey as a dancer has been long and varied and movement has always been a go-to healing tool for me. It has helped me to process my big, raw, and seemingly always raging emotions and the potency of a regular movement practice is even greater now. It was in recovery that I fully realized the magic and the heart-medicine that exist within in my own creative movement. This movement is solely for me and honors every part of me. The shifting of time, space, and energy is palpable when I immerse myself in music and dance; when I let go of resistance and allow infinite possibility to come through. A regular trauma informed dance practice quickly became a tool that I wanted to share with others.
 
My participation in a recovery community where ‘we are all recovering from something’, along with my trauma-informed SHE RECOVERS Yoga Teacher certification and Dancing Mindfulness Facilitator training, has greatly influenced how I cultivate a healing practice for myself and others. We all have a unique body. And every body has its unique way of moving. Dance should not be limited to those who are deemed “good dancers” or able-bodied– where is the magic in that?

The Pillars of SHE RECOVERS Dance

1. Acceptance

We are always encouraged to practice radical acceptance, celebrate the wonders of our physical body, and acknowledge and honor any limitations we may have. I am delighted to say that many who join the SHE RECOVERS Dance online every Sunday participate in a variety of ways: on their feet, chair-dancing, walking/dancing in nature or creating art; even simply sitting or lying down in stillness, receiving the music, sound, rhythm, and vibes. Acceptance allows for participation in a way that is uniquely supportive in the now-moment… and therefore holds potential for deep healing.

2. Curiosity

A sense of curiosity is part of what makes the ‘conscious’ in a conscious dance practice. We lay our body down, we sit in a variety of shapes and forms, we stand, we sway and jump, shake and wiggle. Why do embodied shapes, flowing transitions and vigorous movements produce such an emotional wellspring in us? It’s a fascinating journey and proof that our mind, body, emotions, and spirit are intrinsically connected! Tapping into the right hemisphere of our brain to access creative exploration brings a deeper sense of embodiment. It may take some time to create the space we need to let ourselves truly feel into how we want and need to move in our practice. With curiosity as a guide we keep at it and we keep dancing!

3. Willingness

There is saying that it is no coincidence ‘dance’ is found in the word ‘avoidance’. The experience of dancing for many can be frightening; there may be shyness and shame around it. Fear of exposure or even connection with our physical body in a public setting is enough to send people running. I often say that on the other side of all those feelings is a spaciousness where one may begin to find some freedom. If we approach dance with the same kind of willingness we bring to our recovery, we may be surprised at what we can create for ourselves. When we find freedom on the dance floor, we find freedom in all areas of our life!

4. Joy

I have been recovering since 2012. I will be celebrating seven years of continuous sobriety this fall and know that my practice of recovery will never end. Thank Goddess for joy! Joy is paramount to our well-being and our resilience to meet life exactly how it presents. Joy is a delightful layer we may not even know exists in early recovery. In a conscious dance practice, it is the arms-up-in-the-air-and-hearts-open feeling; the feeling that everything in that moment is perfect as it is. We may feel the soles of our feet alive and grounded, endorphins dancing through our body, nourishing breath flowing in all directions unimpeded, cells smiling brightly, and our hearts perfectly synced, pumping in rhythm. This is joy manifested in the body, brought about by connection and movement in a space that honors individuality and a shared human experience.
 

Recently I was asked to choose three words to communicate the experience I want to share when teaching and facilitating. It took me no time to come up with AUTHENTIC, EMBODIED, and AGELESS. In my 50’s, I dance my way into this vision of what ultimately feels like home, like the place I started when I came into this world. I invite you today to create your own vision and explore how your physical body and movement can help take you home. Rumi, a 13th-century poet, scholar, theologian, and Sufi mystic, believed passionately in the use of poetry, music, and dance as the sacred path and I believe it truly is. I end this bit of writing today with his timeless poem:

“Dance, when you’re broken open. Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of the fighting. Dance in your blood. Dance when you’re perfectly free.”

SHE RECOVERS Dance promotes the exploration and embodiment of willingness, curiosity, acceptance, joy, and freedom. Join us on Sundays via Zoom at 11:00 am Pacific, 2:00 pm Eastern, in the SHE RECOVERS Dance Group, or in-person at a SHE RECOVERS retreat/event coming soon!

If you aren’t ready to dance, that’s ok too.

Connecting one-on-one with a therapist may be a great place to start. SHE RECOVERS Partner BetterHelp provides a network of licensed, accredited, and experienced therapists who can help you with a range of issues including substance use, depression, anxiety, relationships, trauma, grief, loss, and more. Until December 31, 2021, BetterHelp is providing the SHE RECOVERS Community with a 35% discount on the first month of therapy. SHE RECOVERS is grateful to BetterHelp for making a $100,000 donation in support of our mission in 2021.

BetterHelp.com: The World’s Largest Online Therapy Service

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