If You Ain’t Dancing, You Ain’t Living | 10 reasons to add dance to your workout schedule

A still from the “Move Your Body” video. NPR.org

I credit Michelle Obama and Beyoncé for changing my life—in terms of fitness, that is. I discovered dance workouts ten years ago after giving birth to my daughter. I had two children under the age of two, was breastfeeding, and working part-time. This was during the former First Lady’s “Let’s Move” initiative , when Beyoncé reworked her song “Get Me Bodied” and made it into a workout dance.

I can’t tell you how many times I worked out using that routine, because it would be a ridiculous number, and you’d probably think I was a little off. But it helped me lose about 15 pounds of baby weight and gave me a confident edge when I leaped into a modeling stint while my daughter was two months old. (I even landed a commercial! It was a short creative adventure that I embarked on to keep my sense of self in the midst of all that adulting.)

At the time, I had very little interest in and even less time for running back and forth to a gym. I also wanted to delve into workouts which were fun, wouldn’t feel like punishment, and would be even more beneficial.

Kiera LaShae of superherofitnesstv
Kukuwa, creator of Kukuwa Fitness… she’s in her 60’s, ya’ll!

“MOVE YOUR BOOMBSEY!”

Once I was hooked, I began scouring the YouTube university dance workout curriculum and found Kiera LaShae, who’s superherofitnesstv channel would become my next fitness obsession. A decade in, I’m still fit and have amassed quite a workout playlist full of dance styles from around the globe.

So, while I’m definitely not a fitness or dance expert, I’m living proof that, as they say in Kukuwa Fitness, Moving Your Boombsey for health and well-being is the way to go.

I understand that many people shy away from dancing because of body image issues. So, before I get into the shining benefits of dance fitness, I have a few sage words below to help you overcome some of those insecurities and get comfy in your skin:

Get over yourself

– This is supposed to be fun, so let go and dance like nobody’s watching. I mean, you’ll likely be doing this in the privacy of your own home, so maybe no one is. But if there’s a chance that someone may be watching in the future (like at a party or in a class), the more you practice, the fitter you’ll get, and the less likely you will be to look like an awkward fool in public.

– Speaking of awkwardness—the more you move and simply allow yourself to enjoy the moment, the less awkward you will feel, because you’ll get better (and look better in a more relaxed body).

– If you’re on the curvier or fluffier side and are overcoming a tendency to want to shrink to avoid being seen, remember that you have a right to enjoy your own body. Other people’s issues with it are their problems to fix.

– Same with you skinny minnies (a club to which I’ve always been a card-carrying member). Don’t let the big girls shame you. It matters not that you’re built like a snake, cuz you can certainly learn to move like one.

Got it?!

Have we peeled away at least one layer of fear and excuses? If you still have some doubts, I think these 10 good reasons will help sway you:

By Andrea Piacquadio, Pexels

1 The basic benefits of dance include improvement in all the following: strength, muscle tone, agility, flexibility, balance, heart health, and circulation. This is that true, balanced, all around well-being that we’re going for here in the JoyWell. Want to look strong, be strong, be flexible like Gumby, and have the reflexes of a cat (all qualities that I’ve been told I exhibit)? Dance for it.

2 You don’t need any equipment or a gym to dance. You can do it in your bedroom, in the living room, or the backyard garden after you water the greens. You can dance next to your desk in between naps—I mean tasks. If you live in a crowded house, lock a bathroom door and get moving. Any place with a few square feet of space can be your dancefloor.

3 Dance largely involves fluid movement. As opposed to several sets of repetitive motion activities that may not really mimic the movements you make in everyday life, dance is highly functional, and therefore strengthens the muscles, joints, and bones you need most. For someone like me who has arthritis, this is a real plus.  I still love a good weight-training session sometimes, but my joints love dance much more.

“Oya” (Orisha of Change) by Dr. Inetta Jenkins Cooper

4 Dance strengthens bones. We hear a lot about how important weight-training can be, especially for women as we age and risk losing bone mass. But, because dance is considered a “weight-bearing” exercise which forces your body to work against gravity, you’ll get many of the same benefits.

5 It’s a major confidence builder. It is great for helping the bashful become better acquainted with and comfortable in their bodies. I’ve never really been shy, but I came from a religious background where dancing for anything other than holy deliverance was a major no-no, where any music that didn’t include a healthy dose of the name of Jesus was off limits, and where even Jazz (with no lyrics) was considered suspect due to it’s “sensual” nature. Discovering the sheer ecstasy of dance was absolutely liberating, physically and mentally, and it definitely added a few watts to my glow.

6 It’s a wonderful outlet for sensual expression, and I don’t just mean twerking (which is plenty of fun, but only the tip of the iceberg). With so many forms of dance around the world there are hundreds of styles and cultures to choose from. They are all deliciously sensual in their own seductively subtle or fantastically flamboyant ways. They will all teach you different things about the mind-body connection and how people around the world relate.

By Jennifer Enujiugha, Pexels

7 You’ll gain an increased sense of youthfulness and vitality. I believe in aging with grace, but that doesn’t mean that one must sit down in an armchair and be content with the onset of chronic constipation. You are as old as you feel and moving like the wind can make you feel timeless.

8 Dance is creative expression that sparks more creativity. Once you’re turned on by the sound of the music, the cultural immersion, and the intense beating of your heart, you can’t help but be inspired to simply create. You may even start making up your own routines.

9 Bring on the Feminine! As the world witnesses the “return of the Divine Feminine”, the implications of getting back to a worldview that honors feminine intelligence just as much as the masculine are astounding. Dance and sensuality in general have long been considered gifts from the realm of the feminine. (Although, I love watching a man who knows how to moves his hips!) To balance your energy and get back in touch with your feminine side, dance.

Ashley, of Fit Body by Ashley

10 Joy! Dance is a high vibration activity that disperses mental and physical inertia. If I’m feeling down, dance pulls me back into the moment and charges me up. Feeling good is a major part of looking good, and nothing provides a rush like a good sweat.

And there you have it.

Over the last decade, I’ve taken a couple of classes in Salsa and Pole Fitness. I once had a surprising amount of fun trying out ballroom dancing. I’m dying to get back to Latin dance, once it’s safe again to dance chest to chest with 20 strangers in one night. Until then, I’ll keep exploring tutorials and workout routines on YouTube, and maybe making up a few of my own.

My favs include African and Caribbean styles inspired by modern Afrobeat’s, Dancehall, and Soca. I also like Punta from the Garifuna tradition, Somali Niiko, Mapouka from Côte d’Ivoire, belly dance, and Tahitian dance. The lower body has always been my challenge area, and these styles are great for core and lower body toning, among other things….

Here are links to a few of my favorite tutorials, routines and channels. Consider them all paths to the JoyWell where you can follow your bliss to your purpose, follow your Joy, and live Well. Jump in!

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