Feeling off-balance? Dance!

As much as I admire and respect dance, it makes me self-conscious, leery, and uncomfortable.

Despite this, I recently summoned up some courage. I ordered a leotard and signed my 30-year-old self up for an adult beginner ballet class. The weakest link in the group was most certainly me. Especially with the spins. Other students could turn 360s in a straight line across the room. They moved neatly like a graceful seam along silky fabric. Follow my path, and you’d think I was a toddler attempting a word search. Plus, my head reeled, and the room spun. Despite my insecurity, I kept on with Tuesday night tipsiness. I knew it was good for me (I have a theory that humans were designed to dance).

Anthropology shows that dance has been part of human existence since prehistoric times. Dance was not an elected specialty, talent, hobby, or skill, as we perceive it today. It was something all people of all ages in a group consistently did. They danced to celebrate and connect.

As an added benefit, dancing stimulates visual and vestibular systems. The vestibular system is the system of small loops in our inner ear responsible for balance. It also controls our sense of spatial orientation. To stimulate this loopy structure (see image below), we must move in non-linear patterns. When we stick to forward movement (walking, sitting, running), the small rotational muscles of our core and hips forget how to function.

Current research supports the powerful benefits of dance. It can improve balance and reduce fall risk. In one study, people aged 60-91 were randomly assigned to either a 10-week tango class or a walking program. The tango group showed improved scores on all outcome measures. Much more than the walking group. This resulted in decreased fall risk and fear of falling. Dance has also proved to:

  • Decrease depression,
  • Improve ability to perform activities of daily living
  • Improve walking speed in those affected by Parkinson’s, Stroke, and Multiple Sclerosis.

If you're feeling self-conscious about dancing, it's worthwhile to conquer this fear. Play a song that you can’t help but tap your feet to...and then add a little more oomph. Weave with your elbows. Turn circles like your dog before bedtime. Exaggerate the shy-guy head nod. Pretend you are mixing concrete with your leg. Think of your next yoga practice as choreography. Dance and dynamic movement doesn’t have to be graceful, powerful, calculated, practiced, or beautiful. It just needs to happen. A few minutes. An hour. With friends. Alone. Don’t worry about looking sexy. Think of having 0 recorded falls in your medical history as sexy instead.

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