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Cry, Shake and Dance: Why Body Mindfulness is a Key to Mental Health, and a Statement of Activism

By Jennifer Beauvais, LMHC, Body Psychotherapist


"I hate crying in front of people."

"I'm trying really hard not to shake."

"Whoa, what a weirdo-- Look at the way they are dancing."


Sound familiar? In our Western Culture, we are often socially pressured to hide what is on the inside --on the inside. We feel eyes on us should we express anything that resembles fear, sadness, or even joy. Emotions that are buried don't tend to go away, but stay burning below the surface until they create dis-ease, sometimes in the way of mental health challenges, behavioral issues, or even physical sickness.


The body is built to release emotion through movement, gestures, and expression. The circuitry through which emotional energy and sensation run are in the body and require they our mindful engagement fo their management. Emotion that is stuffed down and buried stays beneath the surface, burning away as dis-ease until released, creating mental health challenges, behavioral issues, and even physical ailments. As I will illustrate in this article, our culture has taught us to abandon ourselves, discouraging the very types of expression that help the body regulate.


I want to introduce the deeply important concepts of Sequencing and Endpoints. Susan Aposhyan galvanized these concepts in her Body-Mind Centering publications. She consolidated profound oberservations by such Dance-movement therapy legacies as Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen and Peggy Hackney, who recognized that energy in the body sequenced through particular pathways.


As Aposhyan illustrates in the diagram below, when we mindfully focus on emotional sensations in our bodies, they will either dissipate, or travel--i.e. seuqence-- through the organs and tissues as they seek to complete. Relief follows. Often, these sensations will discharge through one of six endpoints, which include the following:


  1. The head and face: Through tight jaw, clenching or biting, crying, yelling, tmperature variation, and even headache.

  2. The two hands: Through gesture, temperature variaton, shaking, punching, dancing

  3. The pelvic floor: Through sensation, temperature variation, sexual expression, balancing, bouncing

  4. The two feet: Through Stomping, temperature variation, running, jumping, dancing.

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