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the power of dance

From year eight until year ten I only ate intermittently. Of course, by year eleven it had gotten to the point where I had stopped eating all together. Needless to say I did not have a positive relationship with my body. I didn’t like it because it ran into things, couldn’t catch or throw, and was much bigger than my disordered thinking would have liked. It didn’t like me because I consistently starved it, occasionally made it throw up, and kept throwing nasty insults its way every time that I looked into the mirror. In fact, I would go so far as to say it was my arch-nemesis.

I had never felt like my body and I were working together, not even before I got sick. In primary school I was put in the special needs gym class, in high school I forged notes from parents so I didn’t have to embarrass myself at team sports, and my un-coordination even now (okay especially now) is a running joke between everyone I know.

By the time I turned eighteen I had recovered and was back to a healthy weight. I was happy, and had developed some much needed self-esteem. But I still felt so uncomfortable in my own skin. We weren’t enemies anymore, but we were certainly not friends.

And it continued that way up until I started my first dance class. It only took about five minutes for me to realise that I absolutely loved dance. And, for the first time, my body and I were working together. I appreciated moving it, I enjoyed using exercise as a way of looking after it, and I began to move it more confidently which in turn made me feel more confident in general.

Did dance give me the coordination I had always lacked? No. Did I discover that I am secretly an amazingly talented and flexible athlete? No.  But it wasn’t about succeeding or being talented. It was about realising that moving and jumping and spinning were fun; realising that my body and I were perfectly capable of working together and that is was in fact healthy to do so.

While I have tried a few dance styles, belly dancing is the one that really made the impact. It caters for all different levels and abilities, individual style is celebrated (which is perfect for me…) and, most importantly, it promotes positive body image. It is all about celebrating your body and taking pride in it, no matter what size or shape you are.

Don’t worry, I recognise that dance isn’t for everybody. I used to think that it must be, since it had such a positive impact on me, so I promptly dragged my husband to rockabilly lessons. He absolutely hated it and I don’t think he’ll ever forgive me, so yes, I understand that dance is not everybody’s ‘thing’. But I strongly believe that exercise and movement are, no matter what form they take.

No wonder we’re all sitting around at war with the muscles, bone, skin and fat that house us. We don’t use it and, in turn, we don’t appreciate it. We don’t work as a team and look after each other, choosing instead a much more self-destructive path.

When it comes down to it: we’re not plants. We’re living, breathing mammals that crave moment, however subconsciously that may be. Exercise is not about what you look like, or what weight you are, or your level of coordination. It’s about doing what we as people were made to do.

So go out there, find whatever form of movement makes you happy, and work with your body to achieve what we all want: confidence and happiness in our own skin.

(Image credit: 1.)

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