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  • Writer's pictureDanielleEastman

Freeing your inner dancer (pt. 1)

Hello, friends! Happy Sunday!

Our focus for the next few weeks will be all about sensing, relaxing into, and really embracing and enjoying our freedom as we dance. 💛

Once upon a time...

When I was 7, dancing freely was easy. I LOVVVVVVVED to just move, wiggle, bounce, twirl, sing, and be free. I danced alllllll the time, simply for the pure JOY of it. I didn't know any other way.

But somewhere over the years, I lost my connection with that 7-year old me. She became trapped under all sorts of layers of inhibitions and insecurities.... and with her, so did that free-spirited dancing.

Dancing for oneself vs. for others.

Over time, my dancing became more about doing "moves." I was performing for others - an audience, recital, competition, or show... At this time, my dancing became all about how the movement looked to someone else's eyes.

Eventually, I graduated from high school, moved away, began college, and stopped dancing altogether. I became even further disconnected from what I loved to do most. Further away from my joy, my body, and myself.

"Someone please tell me what to do."

Many years and two academic degrees later, feeling really lost, and seeking a way back home to myself, I was traveling through Colorado and happened upon my 1st ever mind-body dance class. Although I loved the overall experience (I was finally dancing again...YES!), there were times when I also felt incredibly insecure, lost, and frustrated with myself. When we were given time to just dance freely, I didn't know what to do. I was completely frozen, thinking someone please tell me what to do, I don't know what to do. Those moments were really difficult. I was frustrated by how incredibly inhibited and insecure I felt. I had lost my ability to just dance. I longed to be free, like the others dancing around me.  

Have you ever felt that way?

Or have you ever just wanted to feel less inhibited and more free while you dance (or in life in general)? If yes, the focus we'll be exploring over the next few weeks will be a great fit for you, friend.

A glimpse of that old joy.

During that 1 hour-long class in Colorado, I had enough of a glimpse of that 7-year old me, that I knew this - this mind-body dancing thing - was what I was missing and needing in my life. There were no classes in Iowa at the time, so I traveled to San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, etc. for trainings so that I could learn how to lead such classes. I was all in. Fast forward through 20 years of trainings, teaching, co-authoring teacher-training manuals, offering week-long teacher trainings, and eventually branching out into the founding of Aya - a unique mind-body dance practice of its own - I can share that a huge part of the magic of Aya is simply helping us find our way back to that blissful 7-year old self. The one who knew how to dance just for the pure joy of it. The one who loved that feeling of freedom. 

Aya as a path back home to joy.

Although we do incorporate simple choreography throughout portions of class, instead of focusing on learning specific dance "moves," Aya is more about unlearning all the things that hold us back from letting our bodies move freely... organically... intuitively... authentically... expressively. Dance by dance, week by week. it's really a process of disinhibition. Through movement, we peel away any heaviness, blocking, holding in, or holding back. We free our joints and feed our tissues a large variety of movements. We shake, flow, contract, expand, kick, bounce, flail, and wiggle. We connect with and express a variety of parts of ourselves. We allow our voices to be heard. We explore little bursts of letting go into blissful freedom (which gets easier and easier, each and every dance). 

Sometimes it's fast. Sometimes slow.

This process of disinhibition can come at all kinds of speeds. For some, it can happen in mere minutes. Sometimes all one needs is the simple time, space, and invitation to dance freely in a supportive, non-judgmental environment. For me, it took years. When I first started dancing again in the early 2000s, I was really inhibited and felt incredibly disconnected from my body and self. So much so, that even when I trained with videos in a small room of our home all by myself, I still couldn't let go and "just dance." When the instructor would say to dance freely, I would go grab a drink of water instead. Sometimes I would even fast forward through that portion of the video. But slowly, dance after dance, I found my way back. I desperately wanted to be free... and it simply took practice. If you find yourself somewhere on that spectrum of inhibition like me, friends... Just keep going. Trust me, dance by dance, week by week, it gets so much easier. Plus, I have awesome techniques to share that will help.

Techniques as a path to freedom? Yes.

If that joyful freedom feels far away, I've got you, babe. There are a variety of practices and techniques that can help us reconnect with, and even embrace and look forward to this freedom. We weave in and out of them all the time in class, but over the next few weeks, I'll really highlight and focus on each technique individually to help us relax into that joy of moving our bodies freely. 

Want to free your inner dancer?

You know that saying "dance like nobody's watching?" Or "just don't worry about it!" Sounds great, right? Unfortunately... it isn't always that easy to turn off our inhibitions or worries. It's kind of like saying "don't picture an elephant." 

The key instead? To direct your focus to something else other than your fears, doubts, anxieties, and insecurities.

Technique #1: Focus on sensing your body.

Rather than focusing externally on how our movements look, Aya is all about connecting with how our body feels from the inside out. To do this, simply tune into and focus on sensing your internal bodily experience.

Turn your attention inward, and scan your body.

Sense your feet...



shoulder blades...




crown of your head...


any part of your body at all.....

Now start to move something, anything. It doesn't matter what. It doesn't matter what it looks like. What's important is how the movement feels to you. As you move, keep sensing your body.

Notice the sensations you are creating right now. As you step, you are creating sensations. As you move your arm bones through space, you are creating sensations. As you shake, or wiggle, or flow, you are creating sensations. What sensations are you creating right now? 

Isn't it amazing? You're so ALIVE! There is so much available to tap into - to sense and become aware of - in this beautiful moment right here.

Out of your head and into your body.

The more we focus our attention - our bandwidth, so-to-speak - on our inner body sensations, the less bandwidth we have for fears and judgements and worries and inhibitions. By turning our attention to the present moment - these body sensations, right here, right now - we can get out of our own way, and can move more organically and freely. We can just dance and feel really alive. It's where we get to feel how amazing it is just to breathe, and be in a body, and move to music.

Want to try it? Please do!

We'll definitely do this in class, but we can also do this anytime, anywhere, all week long. It's a powerful way to shift away from the thinking/judging parts of our mind and just be present in this beautiful moment.

Simply turn your attention inward and sense your body. 

That's it! Simply embody your body.

So technique #1 is really that simple, friends. In Aya, you don't need to judge, critique, or plan your dancing. You get to move and sense - and really experience and enjoy - your body from the inside out. It's not necessarily easy at first, but it definitely gets easier with practice. It becomes easier to sense your body. Easier to focus your focus. Easier to let go and be free. Like any meditation practice, it's just about bringing your focus back again and again. Whoops, we get distracted... no problem... simply come on back to sensing your body. Whoops - distracted again... no problem... come on back & sense your body.

And moving from that place... it's sooooooooo FUN! When we strip away all the thinking and planning and moves and worrying about how it looks on the outside, we are left with the juicy bliss of authentic, joyful movement.

The more we focus on our sensations as we dance, the more we get back to what that inner 7-year old knew all along: that it's enough to dance just for you. Just for the pure JOY of it. 

And man that joy is so beautiful, and such an honor to get to witness.

As always, I can't wait to see what we discover together this week, friends.

See you soon! 

💛 Dani

P.S. Was this helpful? If so, yay! I'm so glad. More to come! Stay tuned for additional techniques over the next couple of weeks! 🫶


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