Dancing, ‘the hidden language of the soul’, is uplifting and health-giving, but can you engage with spiritual forces to heal psychological pain? Lilian Kannemeyer, a Chakradance virgin, discovers…
A wise woman stands wide-legged, rooted on the edge of a cliff in billowing robes, her arms are outstretched to full aching capacity as she fearlessly challenges an unknown future, represented by the night sky, stars, moon, infinity… She howls savagely with pent-up rage at the injustice that she has witnessed.
Her tribespeople chant with heartrending melancholy, purest joy and empowering, furious energy, and pound booming drums that vibrate through her heart, essence and bones. She is me, transported to another existence, perhaps prehistoric, another life and embodiment, or maybe it’s a dream…
I am actually standing on a yoga mat in threadbare leggings and a T-shirt. The resonant music is all-consuming, deep, tribal and emotive, and I have danced myself into a sweaty frenzy with my eyes closed, except for moments that I am peeking at the other dancers, who inspire me to lose myself and give it unadulterated welly because no one seems to give a fig about appearances.
The stars are soft electric lightbulbs, punctuating the blackness of the hall, and the moon is a dangling giant glitter ball. I catch a glimpse of my gyrating self in a mirror, arms akimbo, but turn away because I don’t want misplaced embarrassment to intrude on my inner journey. I need to be alone with my raw and neglected self.
Jan Coulson, a flower essence therapist and Chakradance facilitator, surreptitiously squirts a halo of blue iris to balance the energies in my throat chakra, a pleasant mist that lands coolly on my skin as I roar into the room, as do others, and the emotions are nakedly real. Coulson’s daughter and fellow facilitator, Leanne Bracey, is a clinical aromatherapist and holistic therapist with a warmly reassuring voice and unmistaken cool. Passionate about music and DJing, she guides the group through the powerful movement therapy and accompanying meditations and visualisations of the dances. Mother and daughter dance with us, creating and then holding our pulsating haven and encouraging us to physical and emotional liberation.
Don’t get me wrong, I never get down and boogie and the reported joy of Kitchen Disco during lockdowns passed me by. I have not danced with any enthusiasm since the wee hours of a house party I would rather forget a decade ago, and stilted ballet classes as a girl were the last time I moved to music with any intention.
My inhibited nature does not allow me to express myself through dance, although I love music and have always found release through it. When I weep in films, it’s usually because the soundtrack, as well as the story, has touched my soul. I embrace it all, from the searing poignancy of opera to the edginess of funk – while stationary. Chakradance dispels my self-consciousness, as it brings greater consciousness, and I am dancing like there is no tomorrow.
During the course of the three-hour workshop, we move through the seven chakras: base, sacral, solar plexus, heart, throat, third eye and crown. We take time on each chakra, dancing as frenetically or languidly as we choose, feeling into each deeply through spontaneous movement and freely expressed rhythm, or not.
Occasionally, I settle into child’s pose for a break as I run out of puff and before the beat calls me again. It is demanding going full throttle for the whole session, and we rest at junctures to create art and journal around the release we might have experienced in each chakra. It is during this exercise, after focusing on the throat chakra, that I sketch my ferociously vocal sage on the cliffside in crayon. I have a vivid image of her and I can feel her rage at being muzzled. Bracey warns that such visions might arise and my mind opens when I see that this is indeed the case.
As we concentrate on the sacral chakra, I hip-sway into my feminine energy, a sensual, oscillating movement, and I embrace the sensuality that retreats with my untended fertile goddess amid the banality of everyday life. I can’t help but smile as I wonder if the lone man in the room is embracing his feminine power, but I understand more fully as the solar plexus dance unleashes my masculine energy and the indomitable warrior inside. We are not gendered, we are beings.
The aim of Chakradance is to free energetic blockages in the system that can bring obstructions in your life, physical and emotional. Everything we block can cause an imbalance in the system, says Bracey, and physical pain can be a sign of a feeling being held. ‘Chakradance is a way to de-stress and rebalance your inner energies,’ she adds. ‘And anyone can do it.’
She explains that the practice has helped people free themselves from addiction and heal relationships that are hampered by forgiveness or intimacy issues. It helps indecisive and meek people find the bravery and strength to leave toxic situations and it can alleviate depression and anxiety. I am to prepare for energetic shifts, meaningful insights and moments of pure freedom. The physical liberation as a starter is real and immediate.
The word chakra means ‘wheel’ in Sanskrit, and in yoga, acupuncture, meditation and Ayurvedic medicine, the chakras are identified as areas of the body through which energy flows along the spine. The psychiatrist Carl Jung, who founded analytical psychology, examined the symbolism of the chakra system and compared it with the stages of psychological and spiritual development in his work. The practice of Chakradance has been well received by seminars all over the world, including at the Chopra Center in California. Deepak Chopra, of course, is a medical doctor and pioneer in integrated medicine and personal transformation. And transformation is the name of the game.
Bracey explains that deep transformation can take place even in one session. ‘Little shifts can happen throughout the practice but the more you do it the deeper you go,’ she says. The theory is that when you do the inner work there is a reconnection with the outer world and you may find that change appears. Chakradance, she tells me, brings energetic health, and we can attract new and diverse people, opportunities and chance encounters, as well as see a beautiful synchronicity that we may have missed before.
Unbeknown to me, Kerry Hayes, a transformational life coach and author, is the wild woman dancing opposite me. We have never met before and she is also a first-timer. I feel drawn to her warmth and openness and remember Bracey’s ‘chance encounters’ comment as we decide to share our thoughts about our session on a video call later.
‘I did not know what to expect,’ says Hayes, ‘but I loved it! I am the girl who dances in her kitchen to music so loud my boys ask if I can turn it down! As soon as the drumming started, I knew I would love it. It was so cathartic. The only thing I was disappointed at was my lack of ability to dance for three hours – gone are the days!’ she laughs.
‘It very much reminded me of the trance-like dancing of my yesteryears and dancing until the early hours. I also enjoyed letting go of the illusion of what I might look like… The only person I was there to serve was myself. It has been a long time since I felt so free in my body, without a care about who was watching. It embodies the “dance as if no one is watching” calling, and I know I did.
I am bringing my old dance buddy with me next time!’ Hayes intends to recommend Chakradance to clients who feel stuck in their lives and seek change. ‘This practice may be a wonderful source of transformation,’ she adds.
I feel elated after the session and the first thing I do when I get home is perform a dance to show the curious family what I have been doing. As wholly practical and science-driven souls, they chuckle at my passion for the spiritual and quest for creative expression, but we share music we think lends itself to releasing energies from our chakras.
In the evening, my tired body needs rest and I feel quiet, not withdrawn but pensive. The anger that has dogged my spirit is no longer an unfairly silenced creature hell-bent on shrieking from a mountain top. It has been expressed through movement, rousing sound and visual art, and the punishing intensity of the emotion has subsided. I believe they call it healing.
Bracey advises us to take it easy for a few days if possible, focus on self-care and notice any fluctuations that occur emotionally. ‘When we do healing work and deal with our issues and wounding, we become the person we are meant to be, live the life we love and the one we are meant to live – which is with passion, purpose and authenticity,’ she says. ‘And as we begin to heal, it trickles out to those around us.’
A few days later I am watching Vikings, the theme tune of which, If I Had A Heart by Fever Ray, has always stirred something primal in me, right there in the pulsing centre of my chest, as I sit docile, curled in on myself on the sofa. But I, I am the mother, the maiden, the queen, the huntress, the sage, the mystic and the lover, and I will not be subdued. I stand up, my blanket falls to my feet and I begin to dance…
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