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Your Best Life: The healing power of dance

Studies show dancing can improve emotional health, decrease stress and lessen your chances of developing dementia.

TEMPLE, Texas — The video above was published on March 17, 2021.

Here in Texas, we love a good two-step. Line dancing is a way of life for many people. Now studies show dancing can improve emotional health, decrease stress and even lessen your chances of developing dementia.

In this week's Your Best Life, I spoke with best-selling author, DJ and podcast host Sahara Rose about the healing power of dance.

When the pandemic hit, Rose started hosting dance parties on her Instagram. Soon, thousands of her 270k-plus followers were joining in to let out their stress and anxiety. 

According to Rose, "we hold on to tension in our bodies. So when we dance, we move, we shake, we undulate, we're actually undoing the tension of the things that we are holding on to that we are not aware of and that's why you feel so much better after. Even if you didn't have a revelation of any sort in your mind, you were able to unwind whatever you were holding onto in the body."

Science now proves the healing power of dance. In a 2003 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, dance was found to lower a participant's risk of dementia. Dance for PD offers internationally acclaimed dance classes for people living with Parkinson's disease and is based on 38 peer-reviewed studies showing the effectiveness and benefits of dance. And according to the American Dance Therapy Association, movement improves our health, mood and well-being.

Rose said it's something shamanic cultures have known for generations. 

"In many shamanic cultures when someone is feeling sad or depressed, the shaman will ask them, ‘When did you stop singing? When did you stop dancing? When do you stop being enchanted by stories and when did you stop being in the sun? And when are we doing those things in our society today?," she said.

For Rose, dancing was a way to connect with her body and calm her mind when meditation wouldn't work. 

"I tried so many times to sit and meditate and just stop my thoughts and it wasn't working for me," she said. "In fact, I would get more stressed out. I would think about all the reasons why this isn't working and it just felt like this battle."

Now she uses ecstatic dance, a form of dancing with no choreography or rules, to move through stress and trauma. 

"I would naturally move through so many different blocks and stories and things that were holding me back without ever forcing myself to do it," she said.

Rose said many people feel shame around dancing, because of our culture's focus on dance as a performance or something that's sexual or dirty in nature.

"Oftentimes as kids we try to dance and if we're not getting a good response we deem ourselves 'I'm not a good dancer. That's not my thing,'" she said. "So we stopped doing it, we become embarrassed, we become ashamed of our bodies and then we lose connection."

But she says it doesn't have to be that way. It's really as easy as finding your favorite song and dancing like no one's watching, she said.

To dance along with Rose, follow her on Instagram.

For more Your Best Life videos, watch below:

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