The Power of Movement

By Stephanie Kilper

I googled the word “movement” as I began to write this piece. One of the first definitions that popped up was, “a change or development.” The power of movement is simply that-when we move we change, we develop. All the time. Growth. Change. Development.

It was the start of 2019, the New Year. I had the rare opportunity to work with the same group of women four times in one week at the hospital. We had group in the gym and were talking about overcoming obstacles that held us back in life. The group created an obstacle course using scarves, cones, hula hoops, yoga blocks, and a large stretch band. Each patient would start at the beginning of the obstacle course while the rest of the group held and facilitated the obstacles. Each woman shared the obstacle she was working to overcome and begin to move through the course, her peers encouraging her as she made her journey. The first patient to take her turn slowly made her way through and, upon becoming trapped in the stretch band, she pushed and fought against it, appearing tired and overwhelmed. I gently reminded her, “sometimes we forget that it’s okay to rest and be held in the midst of our pain, we don’t have to fight against it all the time.” The patient immediately stopped fighting and leaned forward into the stretch band, letting go, and allowed her peers to support her. When she was ready, she slowly and calmly came out of the stretch band. Later she shared, “I didn’t realize I had been fighting so hard to not feel this pain. I didn’t let anyone support me in my pain, I just tried to push past it but that only made it hurt worse. I keep trying to get over this on my own but I think I need to let people hold me because I can’t hold this all by myself. I don’t want to hold this all by myself”

On the dual diagnosis unit I am often met with a lot of anxiety and hesitation around the words dance and movement. Sometimes I start group with a game using yarn ball props to get us moving and into the present moment which can feel less vulnerable than movement without props. This game often brings laughter and connection into the room. One particular day we began group with this game which transitioned into another playful game and eventually into blowing bubbles while sharing memories of playing with friends in childhood, children waiting at home for mom or dad to come home, and a time when we were less serious and self-conscious. As we began to wrap up the group the patients launched into sharing deep, personal reflection and awareness, they became vulnerable and honest in sharing their struggles and insecurities as they work through recovery. One patient paused, looked around the room, and said, “this is amazing. I didn’t want anything to do with a movement group when I came in here. I don’t know how we got from playing games and blowing bubbles and laughing to this deep sharing. I had no idea just playing and laughing could help me and all of us open up so much.”

I feel humbled and grateful to have the opportunity to facilitate movement and witness change and development in this work. I am often astounded by the insights and connections the patients share at the end of group sessions. We learn early on in dance/movement therapy training how very wise the body is, but seeing it unfold in front of your eyes every day is a powerful experience that I cannot quite put into words. May we all allow ourselves to move and be moved by the power of movement.

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