Movement, Mindfulness and Mental health

I prefer the terms Movement Therapy and Creative Movement rather than Dance Movement Therapy (DMT),” said therapist Aniya Oberoi, as she tried to break the ice before our very first session. “The word ‘dance’ tends to rattle clients, making them question their ability to dance; altering their perception of the therapy into some sort of performance— which it isn’t.”

It’s almost as if she read my mind. The ‘dance’ in DMT was my sole inhibition— thanks to the negligible hand-eye coordination and two left feet that haunt me. DMT is defined as “the therapeutic use of movement to further the emotional, cognitive, physical and social integration of the individual, based on the empirically supported premise that the body, mind and soul are interconnected.”

It is about eliciting emotions and understanding through human gestures. “The language of the human body is a universal one,” said Oberoi as she explained the concept of being moved without actually moving. DMT aligns the mind, body and soul— which results in a state of much sought  out stability. 

Oberoi believes that one needs to befriend the safe space DMT offers and allow oneself to explore within. She added, “It can do wonders with various types of groups: special needs, students and staff at school, corporate companies, rehabilitation centers, medical settings, etc.” Creative movement is a good method to use with the differently abled. Due to the sensitive nature of this group, verbal processing can prove to be difficult. Oberoi added, “With creative movement and art therapy, processing becomes much easier for the client. They feel accepted and open to sharing.”

Psycho-oncologist Shazia Wani works with Cancer patients at Max Hospital, Saket. She said, “Alternate therapies are just as effective as counseling, provided there is some simultaneous verbal counseling.” Verbal processing is a constant within DMT. Fidel Saba, 25, has been practicing Movement Therapy for over a year. He said, “Every time an exercise is concluded, it is followed by a round of verbal processing or expression through drawing— which is then followed by verbal processing. The therapist plays the role of a stimulant in my personal quest.”

“Movement Therapy can help people solve their problems without resorting to an external source,” stated Oberoi as she explained how non-verbal expression through movement could prove to be more productive than sitting across a table from a counsellor. Oberoi elaborated, “It brings about positive results in an individual almost immediately, provided one is able to give in to themselves wholly.” 

 

This part proved to be troublesome for me. It took me all of three sessions to recognise, accept and welcome the switch of gears that is to take place as part of the process of “giving in to myself wholly.” Saba willfully agreed to this notion, “It’s annoying at first; standing there, barely moving to the music, feeling both a lot of nothing and very, very stupid.”

However, once the pathway has been established, it is unbelievably simple to revisit and not in the least bit boring, no matter how many times you do. “I probably know every exercise already, but I’m moved every single time. It spreads inside me like a warmth starting from my stomach, reaching my fingertips, toes and the very ends of my hair,” said Saba.

 

The aim is to uproot a client from their inhibitions, preoccupations and very well thought out troubles and move them to a very physically notable now.  To simplify, Oberoi added, “The movement reinforces the reality of being in the present, like a metaphor containing symbolic function.” The baggage isn’t erased but it vanishes temporarily and let’s you see yourself clearly, bringing in the acceptance of individuality. “For some, that ability in itself can prove to be monumental,” she added.

The body never lies; when you move, you are essentially communicating with yourself. Oberoi believes that movement therapy is a step towards recognising individuality, uniqueness and originality. She said, “Movement is one of the primary, most basic mediums of communication— as is apparent in the body language of someone who can’t see.” 

A nonverbal form of expression allows a client to feel, see, hear and accept. It is difficult to explain how good it feels when therapy becomes a place of goodness instead of being yet another source of anxiety. I remember stressing out over what a session would bring up when I’d visit my counsellor in the past. I remember fearing things we would discuss and where they would lead; what they might reveal. 

With creative movement, I look forward to the freedom that is part of the transparency between me and myself. Saba added agreeably, “What I enjoy most is the ability to not care. The stress pauses. The process of healing becomes a balm in itself.”