I’d like to say that the moment I discovered how to transcend pain through dance, I promptly ran off and danced myself back into the athletic shape I was in prior to the car crash. But the truth is, for a few years I continued outsourcing my healthcare to doctors and bodyworkers – even as I repeatedly experienced dramatic and immediate results with dance, and even after I successfully taught other people to dance away their pain.
The deference cost me. One of my most debilitating injuries, in fact, came at the hands of a chiropractor, just a few months after I’d taken my first healing dance steps. Even then, following that traumatic incident, I persisted in turning to doctors, physical therapists, personal trainers, and yoga teachers, in search of the person who could heal me.
“Loolwa,” my mother said repeatedly, “Dance!” But, you know, that was Mom telling me I could heal myself. As far as I was concerned, my healing would come through the hands of a formally-trained healthcare professional. Dance, though effective every single time in reducing or eliminating my pain, was too out there to be real. I chalked up the transformations to coincidence or, at best, I saw dance as a way to get myself well enough to find the real practitioner and start the real healing.
I have asked a number of holistic health practitioners why they think it took me years to trust the reality of my experience, instead of seeing it as a freak occurrence each and every single time it happened. Integrative medicine leader Andrew Weil, MD, replied that American health care “has us all dependent on high-tech solutions” and that as a result, Americans have little confidence in their body’s ability to restore health. Dr. Simon and pain specialist James Dillard, MD, DC, CAc, both responded that we are conditioned to defer to doctors as the ultimate authority figure, and that our deference is exacerbated when we are sick, frightened, and in need of help.
Fortunately my mom persisted in getting me to recognize my self-healing abilities. One day, I was sharing the frustration, the outright desperation, that I was experiencing in looking for a practitioner who could understand and hold the space for all my different needs and philosophies about healing. “Loolwa,” my mom said evenly. “You are the healer you have been seeking. Dance.” Somehow, that time, my mom’s words sank in. And so I began to dance regularly.
Over the next couple of years, a whole-body transformation snuck up on me: Suddenly I would realize I was lifting heavy bags. Or holding several things in my hands, while turning the keys in the door. Or scrubbing the tub. Basic things I had not been able to do for years.
When I first started dancing every day, I regularly woke up with pain levels somewhere between a 7-9, danced the pain down to a 2-3, went to sleep after a pretty good day, then woke up right back where I’d started – in horrific levels of pain. While I was frustrated that the dance effect didn’t seem to stick overnight, I felt grateful to have a tool to get through each day with minimal discomfort. Over the months , however, the intensity of morning pain lessened. And lessened. Until there was hardly any pain. And then no pain.
Drawing from this intuitive and transformational experience, I developed a dance method that organically blends movement, breath work, meditation, cognitive behavioral therapy, and energy work. Most of what I teach in my dance classes came to me during inspired moments of my own healing journey – particularly in my living room dance sessions. (I always dance with a notebook and pen at hand!)
Since teaching others this approach to dance, I have come to learn that it does not discriminate between causes of pain. Students with arthritis, fibromyalgia, complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), migraines, lupus, degenerative disc disease, poorly-healed injuries, and myofascial pain have reported dramatically increased mobility, significantly lowered pain, or altogether eliminated pain at the end of a one-hour dance session. It is not uncommon to see expressions of shock at the end of a dance class – the same kind of disbelief I myself felt in the early years.
I want to share the unbelievable experience of stepping through a dance portal to spontaneous healing. Not only have informal trials demonstrated that this method has a 96% rate of efficacy, but it also can be done in the comfort of one’s living room or bed. Wearing ratty-tatty PJs. On a really bad hair day. For free. That last part is especially good news for those of us who have burned a big fat hole in our pockets — front-line casualties of our crazy healthcare system.
For all these reasons, I launched Dancing with Pain®. Through this company, I am developing a line of natural pain relief products and services – including live and multimedia dance classes, lifestyle management workshops, practitioner training seminars, and inspirational merchandise. My ultimate goal is to create the Dancing with Pain® Institute, providing certification programs for dance method teachers and healthcare practitioners, as well as annual conferences for the chronic pain community – patients and practitioners together, exchanging ideas and knowledge.
I know this dream will take years to achieve. But as I say in my classes: Start where you are, do what you can, and keep on keeping on.
Want to learn how to dance with your pain? Be sure to check out the Dancing with Pain store, for the “Breakfast Mix,” the first in our series of downloadable audio classes.