Meditation versus ballet
Dancerâ€™s do extraordinary things to achieve the control over their body that they need to progress in their field. If you want to go beyond primary school performances of the hokey-pokey and be able to perform at a serious level as a dancer, then you will have to engage in hours upon hours of training as well as sticking to a healthy diet. All of this will allow you to use your body as an instrument. What is surprising though, is that new research has found that meditation actually encourages greater connection between mind and body than learning ballet.
The whole aim of a dancer is to develop awareness of, and precise control over, their muscles. Logically, you would think this would lead to an integration of mind and body. Here however, logic falls down, and it seems that if you want to achieve synchronisation of body and mind you are far better off to meditate.
The new study was done at the University of California, Berkely and sought to establish how close the connection is between our emotions and our physical bodies since we use terms that suggest the link is strong such as â€œbursting a blood vessel in angerâ€ and â€œfeeling the heartache of sadnessâ€.
To test the link the researchers sampled dancers with at least two years of training in modern dance or ballet and compared them to people who were practitioners of Vipassana meditation with at least two years practice. There was also a control group who had no experience in dance, meditation, yoga, Pilates, or sport.
The subjects were wired to measure their bodily responses while they watched emotionally charged scenes from movies and used a rating dial to measure how they were feeling.
While everybody in the study had a similar emotional reaction to the movie scenes, the meditators showed a strong correlation between the emotions they reported and the speed of their heartbeat. There was surprisingly little difference between the dancers and the control group who both showed a lesser connection between feelings and physical response.
The theory is that while dancers learn to synchronise their bodies in time and space, they are not necessarily learning to align them with their internal state. By contrast meditators attend to what is happening within them and become attuned with their physical body.
There is no value judgement here and certainly no denigration of dance but if you want to achieve mind-body integration then, rather than spreading your legs in a jetÃ© or bending them for a pliÃ©, perhaps you should cross them and meditate.