'Indian dances have therapeutic value'

Dance therapist

As a regular bank manager, A V Satyanarayana pursued dance as a hobby for a long time. Later, as part of a dance program in the US, he realised that dance was more than a physical form of exercise. “I came to know that a simple namaskaram or invocation makes many organs in the body work including fists, shoulders and elbows. That is how, I have pursued dance as a form of therapy for as long as 46 years,” the 66-year-old tells Metrolife.

Dance therapy, also called as movement therapy, is the use of choreographed or improvised movement based on the premise that the body and mind are interrelated. He says, “The mental and emotional problems are often held in the body in the form of muscle tensions and constrained movement patterns. In fact, dance itself is a therapy. It is an integration of mind, body and spirit.”

With cues like ‘dance like a peacock post the rains’ or ‘snake dance’ or ‘melt like an ice-cream’, Satyanarayana mentions that “simple steps have great effects”. He describes, “Take mudras like Alapallava, for instance, (a hand movement that resembles an open lotus) that flexes the wrist, alleviating the pain that results from typing at odd angles, or imagining yourself in an avatar that you won’t otherwise believe in. In fact, any kind of Indian dances have therapeutic values.”

Satyanarayana who is considered to be India’s first dancer to get a doctorate in dance therapy believes dance touches emotions. “No exercise in the world is better than dance. To some extent, even a non dancer will feel refreshed with some sort of energy when he or she tries dancing. Dance touches your emotions which in turn, destresses you. When you destress, you are away from disease,” he says.

Emphasising that dance is more than a natural stress buster, Satyanarayana uses dance movements to target ailments like obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, joint pains including polio and paralysis. “I’ve even created a dance therapy for expecting mothers. I tell them to picture themselves as mother Yashoda churning butter or drawing water for Krishna. The moves not only evoke their motherly emotions but also strengthen their back and pelvic areas which improves breathing,” he avers, adding, “every dancer should become a dance therapist”.

As the organiser of ‘Shrishti Festival of Music and Dance’ and ‘India International Conference of Yoga, Yoga Dance and Naturopathy’ which was held in the capital recently and saw various dance, music, yoga and dance drama performances, he expresses that greater awareness about the therapy is required. “I have been conducting music, dance and yoga festivals only in Bengaluru.

This time, I organised this festival in Delhi because I wanted to explore the blend of these three. Music, dance and yoga are a wheel and are interconnected. But what I feel is that greater awareness is needed about classical and improvised dance forms and they should be promoted,” says Satyanarayana who intends to start an international level institute to train people across ages in this kind of therapy and start a residential retreat centre.

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