Our soul, our true self, is the most mysterious essential, and magical dimension of our being.
– Gabrielle Roth
It’s no secret that I love to dance. The more life experience I gain, the more aware I become of the importance of movement when it comes to expressing ourselves as humans. This is naturally connected with touch, and cultivating body intelligence in general. Just last night, I went for an oil massage for the first time in over a year — it was the best hour I’ve spent in a long time, allowing me to re-connect with my body after a month of being immobile, due to a recent ankle injury.
Dancing, singing, storytelling and silence are the four universal healing salves. — Gabrielle Roth
A few years ago, I was introduced to Gabrielle Roth’s 5 Rhythms. While I’ve never actually danced in an official 5 Rhythms class, we practice similar ideas in my dance meditation classes. Hearing about 5 Rhythms really peaked my interest, because it seemed to be another great way to practice the parallels between movement and life, through metaphors of both rhythm and water.
Gabrielle Roth created this dance practice around five rhythms of life: flowing; staccato; chaos; lyrical; and stillness. Within a single class, dancers will move through each of these segments, creating a wave of their physical and emotional expression ranging from chaotic to calm, and stillness to fluid movement. It is no wonder that these five states can easily translate into our everyday lives; finding ways to incorporate these 5 Rhythms into our daily routines can enhance our connection with our own inner and outer flows.
In Flowing, we physically practice the art of being fluid in our bodies. Flowing is the pipeline to our inner truth, the impulse to follow the flow of one’s own energy, to be true to oneself — listening and attending to our needs, receptive to our inner and outer worlds.
It is no coincidence that Roth uses the term ‘wave’ to describe the totality of the 5 Rhythms when danced together, in sequence: water has long been used by humans as a metaphor for achieving a heightened sense of self, purpose, and place within the grandeur universe.
Flowing movement allows us to access our fluid nature. In life, it’s easy to feel when things are flowing naturally, or when there’s an obvious block. The practice of allowing things to happen to us — to be moved by life, rather than trying forcefully to move it ourselves — can let the natural flow of the universe help manifest our dreams, instead of working against it.
In Staccato we physically practice the power of masculine energy. It is percussive and strong and promotes connection with the rest of the world. Staccato is the gateway to the heart. It shows us how to step out into the world connected to our feet and our feelings. This rhythm is the ruler of our linear world, the ruler of the warrior part of us, the part of us that shows up as truth and clarity. It is the part of us that stands up for what we care about, who we love, and what we love. Staccato is the fierce teacher of boundaries.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned over the past few years is to assert myself, and to set boundaries. The more people I share this with, the more I learn that boundary-setting is a challenge that many people have. Social expectations, paired with our natural personalities, along with our upbringing can create unhealthy mindsets about personal boundaries — or lack thereof.
Women, in particular, find ourselves bombarded with expectations of being nurturers, givers, and listeners, without necessarily having these things provided for us in return. Being able to assert our masculine energy is vital for both men and women.
In Chaos we physically practice the art of fully releasing our bodies — we let go of the head, spine, hips and feet and move faster than we can think. Chaos breaks us free of our illusions and throws us headfirst into the beat. It takes us on the journey from “I can’t” to “I will.” The simple practices of Chaos immediately bring us back to our bodies, to the moment. This rhythm liberates us from all ideas about who we are and gives us a real experience of being total, free, intuitive and creative.
Out of all the rhythms, chaos is my favorite: letting ourselves run free in the colorful land of imagination, while simultaneously coming back into the present is as enjoyable as it is fuel for personal growth. It is telling that Roth uses the phrase, “from ‘I can’t’ to ‘I will’” when describing this rhythm; releasing our fears is part and parcel with surrendering our analytic, cerebral sides — seeing our true potential, creatively solving problems, and dreaming up new, innovative ideas all start from this place of inner, chaotic freedom.
There is, indeed, a method to this madness of life, and giving over our souls to the cacophonous rhythm of spirit is essential for seeing — and living — our true potential.
In Lyrical we practice the art of coming out of Chaos. It is the physical, energetic, emotional and spiritual dancing rebirth. The practice of Lyrical teaches us how to break out of destructive patterns and surrender into the depths of the fluid, creative repetitions of our soulful self, bubbling up from the deepest parts of ourselves, to the integrity and dignity that we often forget is within us. Lyrical is expansive and connects us to our humanity, timeless rhythms, repetitions, patterns and cycles.
Changing habits, and re-framing our perspective come with letting go of old stories, and thought patterns. At the same time, we naturally crave structure as humans — as much fun as chaos is, we will always come back to needing healthy routines, and steady boundaries in order to feel safe and secure.
Growth also naturally comes from this place of stability: healthy patterns emerge when we repeat actions (healthy, positive ones), and see ourselves move forward with our personal responsibilities, such as honoring our work, relationships, and self-care.
Being Still and doing Nothing are totally different. Stillness moves, both within and all around us. The dance is our vehicle, our destination is the Rhythm of Stillness; our challenge is to be a vessel that keeps moving and changing. (…) Moving in Stillness and being still in motion fuses the accumulation of our bodies’ life experiences into our true wisdom.
While the 5 Rhythms dance practice uses slow, mindful movement to express this inner state of stillness-in-motion, we can experience similar effects through a meditation practice at home. Meditation has been proven to be a highly effective healing tool — mindful stillness is our bodies’ natural way of re-building, re-fueling, and re-harmonizing.
Through the mindful practice of meditation, our bodies, minds, and spirits gain access to intangible information that otherwise remains out of our grasp. It is in this place of stillness where acceptance is born, and from which pathways emerge.
Creating harmony within our own lives through mindful, physical practices like dance, through exercises in stillness, such as meditation, or even through simple, exultant acts like dancing to a favorite motown band, allow us to experience life more deeply. In turn, this deeper understanding enables us to contribute more meaningfully to the rest of the world during our brief time on beautiful Earth.
Imagination is powerful. Imagination is healing. All you need is the courage to visualize what should be, and the give yourself to its creation. The result may not be what you expected, but it will be right.
– Gabrielle Roth