05 October 2022
The Power Of Movement To Connect To Your Spiritual Self
When it comes to aligning to our spiritual selves, we cannot deny the power of movement. And yet, our bodies spend so much time being static. We sit eating our breakfast, during our commutes and at our desks, then come home to sit on the sofa in front of our TVs. Even when we do move, there’s a rigidity to it. We speed walk to catch the train, do repetitive workouts or mindlessly put one foot in front of the other on the treadmill. While this type of activity is good for our physical, cardiovascular and respiratory health, it rarely connects us to our spiritual selves. We train our bodies to see movement as a functional activity dictated by our logical thinking brain, not our spirit.
Mindful movement, on the other hand, lets the feeling body take over. It’s about surrendering and finding movements that feel good. In turn, our thoughts stop racing as our minds calm down, and we can enter into a true state of mind-body connection. When we let go of how we think we should be moving, we release our ego. We make space to connect with our spiritual selves and move without judgement, trusting our bodies to take us where we need to go.
Here are some practices you can implement into your daily routine to tap into the power of movement and connect with your body, mind and spirit.
Yoga Sun Salutations
Practised for over 2,500 years, sun salutations are an ancient ritual that honours the sun and are an incredible way to set the tone for the rest of your day. A sun salutation, otherwise known in Sanskrit as Surya Namaskara A, is a set sequence of yoga postures (Asanas) that draws on the power of movement to force you to focus on your breath and naturally empty your mind.
Beginning and ending with Tadasana (mountain pose), the sun salutation sequence motions you through a rhythmic series of postures to stretch and strengthen the body whilst building internal heat. Each movement is initiated by the breath. As you inhale and exhale, you transition from one pose to the next, creating a cadence aligned with your own breath. If you’re unsure when to breathe, a good tip to remember in yoga is that you typically inhale when you lift or expand the body, then exhale as you lower, fold or release. The sequence is as follows:
Repeat on the other side to complete the cycle. You can repeat the whole sequence as many times as you like, though three to five repetitions is a good amount to start.
As you journey through the sequence, you’ll find that your body moves through a cyclical arc. The powerful movements become a predictable flow of looping motions. When you reach this stage, the practice becomes a moving meditation.
At first, you may find it difficult to transition from one Asana to the next in a single breath. You may find you hold your breath or speed through the movements to compensate. I urge you to try not to rush! Instead, intentionally slow down your breath and, with time and practice, you will train your breath to lengthen and be able to slow down your movements, too. There’s also no rule to say that you can’t remain in a pose for longer if you find a particularly good stretch. Settle into it, listen to your body and move with intention when you’re ready to transition into the next posture.
I recently had my first experience with Qigong (pronounced chee gong) and enjoyed it so much that I knew I had to include it in this post. Hailing from ancient Chinese wisdom, Qigong first developed thousands of years ago as part of traditional Chinese medicine. At its core, it is the study and practice of using the power of movement to cultivate energy within the body, mind and spirit – known in traditional Chinese medicine as Qi.
Qi courses through our entire being, so it needs to flow freely like a river. If there are any blockages, just like with a river dam, Qi becomes stagnant, and the rest of the river bed dries up. However, rapidly flowing Qi can also cause issues as the fast pace can lead to internal exhaustion – think of the destruction of the river bank or erosion of surrounding rocks. The aim of practising Qigong is to reach equilibrium. A state where your Qi is balanced, free-flowing and steady.
Qigong is both a physical and psychological practice that combines breathing techniques, postures, meditations and guided visualisations. Beginner teachings start with physical movement coordinated with breathing exercises. It requires some discipline as teachers will not move on to the next step until each movement or posture is learned.
Once the form is perfected, it’s time to find the subtle flow of Qi within the postures, movements, breathing patterns and transitions. This is known as the dynamic Qigong technique and is part of the moving meditation. Like yoga, some postures are held for a long time to help strengthen the body and joints whilst increasing energy flow. This is known as meditative Qigong and is part of still meditation. Many people struggle to sit and meditate, so I find that this traditional practice is a great alternative with the same spiritual benefits.
A term revived by dancer and musician Gabrielle Roth back in the 1970s, ecstatic dance is exactly what it sounds like. It’s dancing without inhibition to connect with your emotional being and enter a state of ecstasy.
Roth devised a dance format called 5Rhythms that draws on indigenous, shamanistic, mystical and eastern philosophy. She identified five specific rhythms of trance music that linked to five specific emotions that, when stitched together, created a transformational flowing wave for dancers to ride. There are no moves to learn, there are no steps to master, instead, it’s all about listening to the music, allowing the power of movement to take over and surrendering so your body can respond how it needs to.
The five rhythms follow the same order, starting with Flowing – which connects dancers to their own fear, then Staccato – which connects them to anger, Chaos to sadness, Lyrical to joy and, finally, Stillness to compassion.
According to Roth, the rhythms are a map of everywhere we want to go across all planes of consciousness. This includes looking inwards to our deeper selves, outwards to our external worlds, backwards to our past traumas and forwards to our fears for the future. It connects us to ourselves on the physical, emotional and intellectual levels – all the while trusting our bodies to take us where we need to go.
Similarly, traditional Shamanism dance uses drumming, rhythm and ecstatic dance to alter consciousness and connect us to a higher power. While losing yourself to a drumbeat may sound like a simple process, it requires you to fully let go and surrender, which is harder than it sounds. Only by trusting yourself will you be able to drop in deep and move beyond self-imposed limiting beliefs, isolation and fear.
It is a transformative practice that’s best done in a group of like-minded people so you can open yourself up to their connection. However, if that sounds too daunting, then go solo. There are plenty of 5Rhythm playlists available catering to different music tastes, which you can find online. Or, if there’s a particular song you already know unlocks the power of movement and connects to your spiritual self, then turn it up loud and get moving.