There are a lot of movement meditations in our programs at the Chopra Center, and through them, I see people who are really uncomfortable moving in their bodies — mostly because they were raised to think it wasn’t appropriate or they didn’t look good doing it.
Learning to dance is like the process of learning to ride a bicycle: No parent says to his child, “Read a book on riding a bicycle,” but rather “Jump on the bike!” The parent then holds the bike, lets go, and grabs it again if the child if losing his balance.
The process doesn’t take long, but until someone you trust walks you through it, the very idea may seem daunting. Once you learn how to ride, however, it becomes easy, and you never forget again.
Similarly, I think that getting people to dance is just a matter of walking them through the first few steps:
What I do first is I get some beautiful, rhythmic music that — unless you’re dead — you have to move your body to. Next I demonstrate a movement similar to a variation of tai chi, and it progresses to a dance-type move.
So people start out with that simple move, with their eyes open, without any music on, for about 30 seconds. Once they have the movement going, I tell them to close their eyes and continue for another 15-30 seconds.
I always have them close their eyes. Sometimes we even put blindfolds on people, so they won’t feel self-conscious of others watching them dance.
Then I turn on the music and instruct people to let their bodies continue with that movement, in any way that they feel like moving, while listening to the rhythm of the music. Without even calling it dancing, I just get them started.
Within a few minutes, people who at the beginning seemed very stiff and uncomfortable are moving with beautiful fluidity and flexibility.
David Simon, M.D., is a board-certified neurologist and ayurvedic practioner; co-founder, CEO, and Medical Director of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing; and assistant clinical professor in the Department of Neurosciences at The University of California. Dr. Simon has authored popular wellness books including The Ten Commitments: Translating Good Intentions into Great Choices and Grow Younger, Live Longer: 10 Steps to Reverse Aging (co-authored with Deepak Chopra, M.D.). Dr. Simon is a keynote speaker for the March of Dimes, American Cancer Society, California Medical Association, Harvard Medical School, and other prestigious institutions.