By Deanna Berman, ND, CM
Ballet is a wonderful form of exercise and an opportunity to develop many skills necessary in life. For some, it may also be a part of the road back to health, both psychological and physical. These benefits may be obtained through the study of ballet whether taking a Saturday morning class for fun or training for a performance. The emotional and physical benefits that occur through the study of ballet can be utilized in many areas of one’s life. Here are some of the benefits of ballet.
The study of ballet helps in the development of self-confidence. The ballerina learns what her body and mind are capable of. At the beginning of the ballet lessons, the newcomer may feel awkward. But as she keeps coming back, she begins to see that she can do a lot more than she ever thought possible. By the end of the class, as skills are combined in a performance, the dancer realizes that what she now can perform is beautiful. The confidence developed is useful for both children and adults. When we accomplish something that previously seemed very difficult, it helps us develop the confidence that we can overcome other obstacles in our lives.
Connection to Others
Both in ballet class and while studying for a performance, one has an opportunity to develop skills in relating to others. Recent research indicates that when a person performs an action while another person is performing the same action, it activates “mirror neurons” in the brain. It is speculated that these mirror neurons may play a role in helping us understand the behaviors of others and in learning new skills by imitation. I recently spoke to a dance therapist who told me about her work with autistic children. She said that when people dance together they develop empathy. This was important for the autistic children, but learning empathy is something that can benefit everyone.
Focus and Concentration
Ballet requires a lot of concentration and focus. When taking a ballet class, the student needs to be aware of where he is in relation to others, where he is in the room and how his body is moving. There are many specific movements of the hands and feet that are learned. This requires memorization and learning how to sequence movements. These skills can help children and adults with ADD or ADHD, as well as anyone who wants to improve their memory.
Through ballet, you will learn an outlet for emotional expression. By using your body to express emotions, it helps to integrate the mind and the body. There is much being written these days on the relationship between unexpressed emotions and chronic pain. Through the integration and expression of emotions, we are able to move through emotional distress, and possibly through the causes of chronic pain and other dis-ease.
A very specific way ballet can help with depression and anxiety is by increasing the neurotransmitter serotonin. Many anti-depressant medications act specifically on serotonin. These same medications are given to people for eating disorders, PMS, menopausal symptoms, fibromyalgia and other things. In my experience with testing people’s neurotransmitters, I often find people low in serotonin. If there are natural ways to increase this neurotransmitter, it is worth trying.
Other benefits of ballet include increased flexibility, better posture, toning and strengthening of muscles, sweating out toxins, and many more.
Whether you are looking for an after-school activity for your child, or a way to get some exercise, ballet has many benefits for both children and adults. As a naturopathic doctor, I am always looking for activities that can help people integrate the mind and the body. Ballet is an activity that can benefit both mind and body, as well as help people heal from specific medical conditions.
Deanna Hope Berman, ND, CM is a Washington State-licensed Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine and a New York State Certified Midwife. She did both her training in naturopathic medicine and midwifery at Bastyr University. Her specialties include working with people with insomnia, anxiety, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia and many other issues of the mind and body. Dr. Berman’s daughter studies ballet at The Ballet Center of Ithaca. For more information about ballet classes or performances, please visit www.ithacaballet.org or call 607.277.1967. For more information about Dr. Berman, please visit www.drdeanna.com. To get a free 15-minute naturopathic consultation, please call 607.351.7808.
By Dan Segal
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