When the Body Speaks: Dance as Transformation

Shiva Nataraja, the cosmic dancer, manifests in many ways at Kripalu. He is called upon and even invited to tear down and transform our lives. When we register for a program, some part of us surrenders to an inner river, an energy geyser we both fear and trust—and, ultimately, hope and pray will shake us violently enough to wake up the parts of us that are sleeping.

When I first arrived at Kripalu 10 years ago, I put my bags down and knew this dancer had come home. It’s true, I am a practitioner of yoga but, at my deepest core, when it comes to my soul understanding, I speak dance.

I had been consistently coming to Kripalu for some time when I arrived bright-eyed and eager to assist Toni Bergins in her weeklong JourneyDance Teacher Training. Toni’s dance work is powerful and will stir up all that is inside needing to be brought into the light. Unbeknownst to me, during that sweaty, busy week in the heat of summer, I would end up standing in the right place at the right time to have something incredibly important brought into my own light.

On the second-to-last day of the training, we had an opportunity to dance to live drumming. I felt my body glide through the crowd toward one large drum in particular, and danced close by so I could feel the sound vibrations in my body.

As my dance grew fierce, a cry welled up from within, a three-year old voice that pleaded with me, asking softly, “Why are you hiding?”

In that moment, I knew something deep had torn open, like a door flying through the air in a black-and-white Wizard of Oz tornado. When the song was over, the door was simply gone.

What did this message mean for me? Although I’ve done almost two decades of work on my own healing as a survivor of childhood incest, and became a counselor and dance therapist to assist others like myself, I have known for a while that there is very important advocacy work for this population that I must do. I have talked about doing this work for years, but I always put it off. In order to do this, I knew that I had to be fully ready to out myself as a survivor.

Since that summer, my life has radically shifted. I have begun to offer my services as a speaker and advocate in a much more broad and visible way. By stepping out of my own closet, I now experience a sense of dignity and freedom I had never afforded myself before. What surfaced on the dance floor was inner work that was already moving; the dance assisted in allowing me to really hear and feel how important this next step was.

Dance is a place that helps us to be honest in the areas where we don’t even know we’re not being honest. It quickens our path to healing and wholeness, and reminds us of our deepest truths and our most rooted sources of strength.

Swami Kripalu said, “Dance purifies the body and music purifies the mind.” You can feel his spirit throughout the buildings and grounds of Kripalu. It is the spirit of a fellow dancer of life, who understood the power of dance to transform.


Rebecca Coffey, MEd, MAT, is a clinical mental health counselor, ADTA-registered Dance Movement Therapist, life coach, public speaker, activist for survivors of sexual abuse, and founder of Bravedancing, which offers classes, trainings, private consultations, and retreats in Kripalu Yoga, dance, meditation, and other healing modalities.

© Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health. All rights reserved.

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