Healing through Creative Movement Therapy

I came on to the dance floor alongwith the other 11 women. The instructor, Tripura Kashyap, co-founder of the Creative Movement Therapy Association of India (CMTAI) asked us to close our eyes and imagine our fathers. Then a few seconds later, she asked us to recall some of the core movements of our father. My mind immediately pulled out scenes of my father playing the violin in a show, getting sandwiches for us, walking down the street, he frustrated with housework and him animatedly savouring the food on his plate. The music started. We had to move across the floor enacting these various “movements”. For almost 5 to 10 minutes we were doing so. The music stopped and silence emerged as we stood still in whatever position we were in. In that silence I could feel my body breathing. I also felt several mixed feelings welling up inside of me. Then we were invited to share. One of the participants started speaking about her disconnect with her father and midway, broke down. It was then that my numbness that hid deep seated rage towards my dad emerged. It broke my walls down. I understood him, not through the mind, as I had been trying to “figure him out” for so many, many years of inner work. But actually understood him kinaesthetically – through the body.  I recognised what he was inside my own body. This sense of knowing through our body is called kinaesthetic empathy – empathizing someone through our own body. It bridged a lifelong discord with my dad. Somehow I had disconnected with him because he brought out my tender, soft, vulnerable side. I felt his fear of life itself. I had always reprimanded him quite harshly for being so fearful. By embodying him, I knew, almost first-hand, what that fear of life itself was and how his childhood stories all added up to that. This understanding created forgiveness. The discord between him and me was broken. The chasm bridged. It felt as if a burden was lifted. And at that moment it struck me that in all the years of “healing”, we never really paid attention to the body’s language. We healed in our heads, through imagination. While body is made out to be the cause of separation by traditional spirituality, through movement work, the body had become the instrument of interconnectedness. This blew my mind open. I thought I was a lover of the body through my own experiences of it through Rebirthing-Breathwork. But this was going a step beyond. This was about stepping into the realm of the body and allowing its language, movement, to guide you into healing. This riveted me to creative movement therapy.

Creative movement therapy is the use of movements to diagnose an issue as well as to overcome it. It is about enhancing one’s awareness of the self and others through the intelligence of the body’s movements.

Communicating with the whole body

Very synchronistically creative movement came into my life. Just prior to enrolling for the CMT course, I had the opportunity to conduct a dummy workshop with 3 other facilitators. One of them, who did workshops for corporates, asked us to pair up. My partner and I barely knew each other. We each had to take turns and express first through movement, what we were feeling in the moment. Our core feeling. Something which we couldn’t talk about. But we just had to express that in movement. And then add a sound to it. When it was my turn, I found myself expressing a deep sadness that I didn’t want to talk about to anyone, not even to myself. I went into a posture corresponding to that feeling, that took me by complete surprise, and then began humming that later went into a high pitched “Oooo” sound. When I felt complete, I got up and sat next to my partner. To this my partner was to respond what he felt in his body was happening, but in first person. That is, as if it were happening to him. I was shocked at the accuracy of his description. “I am feeling sad and very vulnerable…” is how he began and took me completely by surprise. But going even beyond that when he started describing the sound, he processed my sadness for me and gave me an understanding that I wouldn’t have been able to arrive to on my own. When it was his turn, I voiced his feelings as if they were mine and happening to me very accurately and it helped him get a deeper understanding of himself. At the end of our sharing, we felt a deep sense of intimacy. One that I have never experienced before with someone I had just met. It was the intimacy of two kindred beings sharing this time on this planet for a brief while. At that moment the decision to pursue movement therapy happened.

This exchange opened up a profound insight into us humans as tribes. In most indigenous cultures people moved and danced and expressed their feelings regularly through movement. It was no wonder that people in a tribe felt a deep bond with each other. Later in the creative movement therapy training when Tripura made us do similar exercises on bonding with each other through movement, it sealed this understanding – before words, we “talked” to each other through our whole bodies. Through some of these exercises I became acutely aware of how talking through words reduced the information that was being communicated. It was startling to experience how words can reduce the wholeness of our bodies.

Touch

When Preetha, a movement psychotherapist from Chennai trained in UK, came in to teach us the very roots of movement therapy, especially the work of Rudolf Laban, I was introduced to the graph of movements such as flow, staccato, etc. She took us into the very basics of movement – like moving as a baby in the womb…observing the flow of breath. It was then she led us into her stories as a therapist where she gave us examples on how different movements reveal the state of mind of a person. Where movements are perhaps the only way a person can express in the states of deep trauma.

She began introducing us to touch. We had done several exercises related to our bodies, that was a build up to this exercise on touch. She put on a very powerful track. We were to partner up and looking into each other’s eyes and begin by touching only our index fingers to each other. Our brief was that one can move with the music, starting with just the finger, in contact with our partner’s. This can move into a greater experience of touch moving into palms touching each other, the hands, and so on as we feel guided to. The touch has to be constant, unbroken and retained no matter what through the exercise.

The music started. But instead of moving, my finger froze in contact with my partner’s. I simply stared in her eyes, listening to my body which was relaying all my memories from my childhood abuse, the resultant shame I felt having this body for many years after, the episodes of attraction with the opposite sex and how it was experienced in the body, the joy of being in the body. All of these memories came flooding out as I experienced having them through the tip of my finger. I felt raw and real at the same time. With tears flowing down, I felt broken and beautiful at the same time. All this while, my partner patiently stood and kept a steady eye contact with me. She became the silent witness I had craved for in my weakest times of abuse and shame. She was in these experiences with me, it seemed. And she just stood. There was no judgement, no analysis. There was just presence. I felt seen. I felt observed. At one point the memory of feeling trapped in the body showed up and my finger turned into a fist. To this my partner responded by opening her hand into an open palm facing me. Suddenly I felt like I was expressing the rebellion in me, rebelling against the world wanting to regain my dignity from the abuse. The fist pressed against an open palm for a good 2-3 minutes. When slowly it began fading, after almost 7-8 minutes, my fist eased into an open palm, making full contact with my partner’s palm. On the last few bars, my fingers interlaced with hers. This was as if a closure to the bodily experience of abuse. The body was at peace. I understood that the body carried no regret, no ill-feelings, and doesn’t even carry the notion of “being used”. The entire story of abuse was a mind-game. At the body, there was an unmatched stillness. At the level of touch, there was either connectedness or neutrality. This movement showed me how the body can be used to strengthen the witnessing consciousness within us. There was no narrative. It was for me the most beautiful and non-dramatic way of reaching closure. I was floored by the art of movement work.

Journey into the body

My journey into the body began almost 6 years back when I was drawn to Rebirthing-Breathwork. Prior to this workshop, most of my spiritual experiences were characterized by perceiving myself as an “airy” being – feeling at home with the super-natural, beyond the limits of the body, feeling “astral”, not having a sense of being really tethered to the body. In fact I literally remember looking down at the body from a soul level, a characteristic of out of body experiences. This was until the first session of Rebirthing-Breathwork in a swimming pool where I was breathing with several others and a switch flipped in my head that led me to experientially recall vivid details of trying to come out of the womb in my body through all the flinching, contracting, expanding, sudden twitching et al. Towards the end I had wailed in a tone that only newborn babies have because they have to clear their lungs of birth fluid. After coming out of the swimming pool, for hours I just lay wrapped in a towel in my hotel room just feeling my breath move freely, uninhibited through my body. It was hours of thoughtless silence of just pure witnessing the body. It was the first time I felt at home in this body. Not just a sense of home, but the sense that I am fully present in every cell, that I am acquainted with every cell.

This spiralled into a lifelong love for being in the body. I recognised that while our spiritual journey is to remember our spiritual essence, we came to earth to embody this essence. This embodiment is really about coming home into earth completely. At the end of my breathwork experience, I had a visceral recognition that I am a part of and made of the earth itself. We are nothing but the 5 elements put together in different combinations. It made me feel deeply connected to Earth, to nature, to animals and to plants. Connecting to the natural world is something I resisted as a child because of the “icky” factor. But this session made me drop this separation. I began trekking, planting, went on to have pets, felt deeply connected to animals of all kinds.

After my creative movement therapy training I have begun integrating movement therapy work with Rebirthing-Breathwork and inner child healing. I also discovered that movement therapy is very powerful in breaking the victim pattern. It was extremely difficult for me to meditate when my mind was locked in a spiral of victim-hood, leading to lethargy, restlessness and constant anxiety. But when I moved, my body broke this spell of the mind. Movement stilled the movement of my mind.

Through movement work, I also found my writing and my singing open up. I was aware of a volume of experience through my embodiment that had completely escaped my attention before.

Through the personal sessions I hold, I lead people to experiencing healing through the language of their bodies. There is an entire “healing technology” waiting to be unleashed in our bodies. It seems we are evolving “back” to our tribal, earth-intimate roots, where we experience the world through the totality of our bodies.

Workshop Coming Up

In the light of this awareness, I am starting workshops on body awareness called “Embodying the Body”. This would be a Space for us to explore listening through our bodies, raising awareness of us and our world through the body.

The first such workshop will be taking place in Vimannagar, Pune, on 16th April 2016. If you feel the resonance, do write to me at [email protected]

The Facebook link to the event is – Embody Your Body

If you feel called to explore pure creative movement therapy, you can opt for personal sessions with me. Through a set of regular sessions we explore the language of movement to listen and heal and come into the wholeness of who we are.

Gratitude

Through this post I also express my deepest gratitude to the various members of CMTAI for bringing to India this as-yet hidden treasure of movement therapy and spreading healing with so much dedication.

Do write to me your reflections after reading this article in the comments below. I would love to hear from you and dive into this exploration further with you.

Ubuntu – I Am because You Are. Namaste.

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