A woman’s journey toward personal discovery is often enhanced through exercise and meditation. There are many popular methods of exercise to help women increase their physical health, but in most cases, the underlying concern goes beyond the physical body. Yoga and dance strengthens the body while improving overall emotional or spiritual wellbeing. Each technique and spiritual practice helps improve feelings of relaxation, balance and joy through the art of movement, breath and muscle work. Furthermore, according to the following yoga and dance practitioners, each form offers a powerful means for women to experience a sense of feeling whole.
Self-Devotion and Nurturing Your Spirit
Terri Kennedy, Board Chair of Yoga Alliance, Ph.D., MBA, RYT, CHHC, said she began practicing yoga when she was four years old with her mother. “Yoga gave me tools to de-stress early on,” shared Kennedy. “Yoga is suited for every stage of a woman’s life. As a woman progresses through various life stages, yoga builds self-awareness and can reduce menstrual and menopause symptoms. Yoga cultivates a sense of peace and a practice of self-love that can stay with you throughout your life even in your senior years. I have one yoga teacher who is 90 years old and she is still going strong,” shared Kennedy.
Rosemary Todd Clough, Director of Moving Spirit The Center for Yoga, Dance & Wellness in Merrimack, New Hampshire, says she enjoys teaching yoga, because it helps women focus on the inside and creates awareness for internally sensing the organs, bones, and muscles.
Clough, who has been teaching yoga for over 30 years, says practicing yoga has many magical and life changing benefits.“Women are amazing at multi-tasking and can become overly stressed. Yoga brings single focus, inviting you to follow your breath, look inside, stretch, strengthen and connect with your mind, body, and spirit. This simple invitation opens the door to looking beyond the daily stresses and find a more balanced peaceful approach in your overall well being,” Clough shared.
Clough observes that in her studio, women of all ages find an incredibly supportive community through the loving practice of yoga. “Belonging to a nurturing community helps to anchor them out in the world with family, jobs and other overwhelming demands. Thus, the benefits of yoga are better health, more energy and the best gift of all is discovering what a beautiful woman you are and loving your life,” Clough further added.
Karendayal Foster RYT, LMT, Yogini, is the founder and director of Bliss Life Yoga® in Rehoboth Massachusetts. Through her spiritual practice and inspirational classes, Karendayal teaches women to not just practice and “do” yoga, but to live and “be” yoga. “Really none of us can “do” yoga, we “are” yoga,” she says. “Yoga means union, and is love, it is our true nature. Experiencing yoga helps women of all ages embrace their natural life cycles. You learn to honor and come into harmony with your own life’s rhythm and not move or live against it. Through powerful ancient teachings such as body postures, breathing, meditation, chanting, visualization and ritual that are as relevant today as they were 5,000 years ago, we learn how to ride the waves of life. Yoga is a catalyst for transforming old patterns into creating positive change within to manifest it outwardly into the world. Yoga is a beautiful spiritual practice open to all, and has many healthy side effects. You reclaim your birthright of happiness; receive nourishment, brilliance and contentment. It deepens your devotion and connection to Self and Source,” according to Karendayal Foster.
Cleansing and Connection
Kerry Whelan, a Yoga Teacher at Synergy Power Yoga in Barrington Rhode Island, shared her powerful experiences when she first began practicing yoga. “In my quest to stay in shape, what I found, as I began moving my body through all the yoga poses, was more a sense of connection with myself. It was probably the first time that I really started paying attention to the quality of my breath as a barometer of how I was feeling and a meditative tool. Up until that point, I had never even considered meditation. This yoga, with its link between breath and movement, was like a moving meditation. By focusing on breathing and moving, it gave me a break from the incessant thoughts, planning, reactions, and emotions. Being really “in my body” rather than in my head was sort of a revelation for me,” shared Whelan.
Whelan decided she wanted to study yoga and now considers herself a student for life. Of the many types of yoga, the style that she has come to love is most widely known as Power Yoga. “In the coarse of a 90 minute class, every part of your body is addressed – including the internal parts- it is so complete. For me, it is like a total cleanse. The sweat pours, the energy shifts, and the slate is wiped clean. Practicing yoga has become an essential part of my life. Not only am I a student, but a teacher as well. I feel that it is what keeps me in balance and enhances every aspect of my life. Besides feeling physically stronger, more flexible than I ever did as a teenager and young adult, yoga makes me a better mother and wife. Yoga is an all encompassing term for a broad scope of teachings and belief systems. There is so much wisdom not only in the poses themselves, but also in the philosophies. There is always more to learn, a way to dig deeper or challenge yourself. I feel it’s a gift I’ve been given,” shared Kerry Whelan.
Much like the many benefits of yoga, the art of dance can nurture and improve health through the joy of music and movement. Three popular programs of dance movement are Nia™, JourneyDance™, and Zumba®.
Celebrate and Enjoy
Nia™ (Neuromuscular Integrative Action) includes 52 moves by combining nine movement forms from the martial arts, dance and yoga. President and Co-founder of Nia™, Debbie Rosas shared how this form of movement helps women embrace their bodies. “Nia gives women the opportunity to feel the feminine body, and the freedom to do what a female body does: change. There is a great desire in women for a space in which to have a creative voice; Nia creates this space. Moving the hips, swaying and sensing what it feels like to be a woman moving, Nia connects women to sensation, the Voice of the Body. Nia gives women the freedom to say “yes” and “no” and to affirm the meaning of both as a sensation. Nia is a ‘Love Your Body’ workout, and women are all about love.”
Another beautiful form of movement is JourneyDance™ which was developed using visual arts, theater, music, and dance to promote healing and personal growth by Toni Bergins, M.Ed. “JourneyDance is a nurturing, healing dance practice for women of all body types and all ages,” says Bergins. “We create dancing rituals to release stuffed emotion and encourage self-love, through expressive free movement. During this journey we visualize what we truly desire, and play in the expansive awareness of its manifestation. JourneyDance gives women freedom to dance when not a ‘dancer,’ to be uninhibited and free, and to connect with true source energy,” Toni Bergins further shared.
Pamela McIntyre of Divine Moves in Franklin, Massachusetts teaches both Nia and Journey Dance. A former professor of theater at Wheaton College with a Ph.D. in Theatre/Communications, McIntyre has been inspiring people through the art of dance for over twenty-five years. According to McIntyre, dance (such as Nia and JourneyDance) invites a physical, spiritual and emotional awakening.
“As a teacher, sometimes in the middle of dancing, I will look around at my students, and they are so blissful- smiling, beaming, and sometimes crying at the sheer joy of coming home to themselves through movement. When we dance, we engage the whole body- our feet are firmly planted, the core is strong, the heart is open; the palms of our hands connect to Earth, then our arms float upward to spirit, creating a flow through the whole body. As we move energy through our bodies in this way, we open the chakras and create a flow, a dynamic ease. We step into earth and spirit and experience the body as the vessel in between,” said McIntyre.
Dance is a form of personal celebration where one can experience inspiration and enjoy being in the moment. According to McIntyre, before language, dance was the first form of worship.
“So no matter what form of dance we are doing, somewhere embedded in the experience is a joyous sensation of celebration, ritual, and spiritual connection. In Nia and JourneyDance, the movement forms I teach, emphasis is on structure and body mechanics, but also on body awareness and internal sensation. It’s not about how good you look, it’s about how you feel in your body as you move. In Nia, we use a phrase- dancing through life- because when you move your body, you move your life. The creative flow that you ignite through the whole body dance experience energizes you in all other areas of your life. Your renewed connection to yourself inspires confidence and ease,” shared Pamela McIntyre.
Founded by dance trainer Alberto “Beto” Perez, Zumba® reduces stress, energizes and improves fitness through the influences of Latin and international dance. At the Yoga Room in Hampstead, New Hampshire, an enthusiastic instructor named Pam Russell teaches the art of Zumba®. Russell, a lifelong dancer since the age of 3, said she began Zumba after having her children and knee surgery. Russell said she loves how easy Zumba is on her body and how the energy makes her feel like she is a part of a beautiful celebration. “It really is about celebrating and taking the time to enjoy ourselves. This form of dance is a wonderful cardio exercise set to energetic music. The Latin based dance steps are simple and fun. Zumba gets you to let you hair down, and have fun while you sweat and dance your worries away,” shared Russell. “Zumba is truly a life and body changing experience.”