Dances of India - 2020


Health Benefits of Classical Dances During This Pandemic

By Dr. Maha Gingrich

As we all manage the stress of COVID-19 Pandemic along with the new norms that are imposed on us to stay safe, I had to reflect on how to stay positive and healthy. The greatest gift that was ever given to me by my father and the great gurus is the gift of classical dances. As I pondered on this subject, so many thoughts and benefits of these classical dance forms came to my mind. They were invented thousands of years ago with our body, mind and soul as the central focus. I want to share a few of the psychosomatic benefits.

Spiritual Benefit: As I always say, “Dance is a prayer in motion". I realized that it was my dancing that is giving me the sense of stability and peace. For thousands of years, the performing arts in India have been a form of religious expression. It is an expression of spiritual energy. This blend of religion with classical dances has continued to exist through the centuries. That is how the Devadasi system came into existence. These were dancers who dedicated their life to serve God in temples. As we all are confined to our homes, I strongly urge all students of these dances to practice at home and make it their temple/church. Let the family be the audience, which is a rare opportunity for the family to enjoy the growth of their children.

Benefits of Hand Movements: As many of us may have to work from home, we are certainly using our computers and laptops all day. This repetitive movement can cause harm to our fingers in the long run. You may end up with inflammation in your joints or even arthritis. How often do we take a break and stretch our hands and fingers? I am guilty for sure. Thank goodness I still teach online.

I want everyone of all ages and genders to try classical dance Hastas or hand gestures. These are like alphabets that form words. There are single hand gestures known as Asamyuta Hastas and combined hand gestures using both hands known as Samyuta Hastas. Here, every finger is used to create the required position while using the subtle movements of wrists and arms. While I am working at the computer, I do these hand gestures and the stress is removed instantly.

Why not learn something new and have fun with it? If you are interested in learning, email me directly. I will be glad to share my videos with you for free.

Benefits of Eye Movements: As we all know staring at a computer screen all day or watching TV for extended periods of time can cause eye strain and may create vision issues. In classical dances we have Drishti-Bhedas, which means different ways of glancing. We have eight classifications of glances. However, for everyone including non-dancers, I suggest the following: 1. Alokitam: Swiftly turning the eyes round. 2. Sachi: Looking out of the corners of the eyes obliquely without moving the head. 3. Pralokitam: When the glance turns from side to side. 4. Ullokitam: Looking up. 5. Anuvruttam: Glancing quickly up and down. 6. Avalokitam: Looking downwards. I suggest you repeat these eye movements 4 to 5 times a day.

Neck Benefits: I don't know about you but I carry all my stress in my neck and shoulders. Griva-Bhedas that is neck movements are extremely beneficial in relieving tensions in neck and shoulders. The four major neck movements to try are: 1. Sundari: Moving the head to and fro horizontally. 2. Tiraschina: An upward movement of the neck on both sides as though the face was forming the figure of horizontal eight. 3. Parivartita: Neck moving from right to left suggesting the half moon. 4. Prakampita: When the neck moves forward and backward in a thrusting motion like that of a pigeon. I strongly suggest that these neck movements must be done very slowly and intentionally to avoid pain or strain.

Physical Benefits: Whether you're 70 years young or 7 years old, engaging in physical activities that involve dancing boosts your energy, and improves your cardiovascular health.

The heart-pumping health benefits of dance cannot be ignored. It also helps our mental and emotional health by reducing stress, decreasing the symptoms of anxiety and loneliness of being stuck in our homes during this health crisis. Learning something new like this is an excellent form of mental exercise that may also reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease. Dancing increases your balance, strengthens your muscles, and increases flexibility reducing injuries, pain, and falls. However, you must check with your doctor before starting such physical activities

I hope you will have some fun with these dance moves and at the same time reap its benefits during this pandemic. I pray for you and your families to stay healthy using dance as a prayer in motion.

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For questions or comments contact Maha via e-mail at: Gingrichmaha@gmail.com