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Creative Movement Therapy: Exercises You Can Use

Updated: Jan 6

Creative Movement Therapy (CMT), or dance/movement therapy, is a therapeutic approach that utilises movement and dance to support individuals' emotional, cognitive, social, and physical well-being. It is based on the understanding that the mind and body are interconnected, and by engaging in purposeful movement, individuals can explore and express their thoughts and emotions. This form of therapy makes use of a variety of movement activities, dance, and expressive exercises in a guided manner by trained practitioners such that it helps build mental, emotional, and physical integration. 

The foundations of CMT can be traced back to the early 20th century when pioneers like Rudolf Laban, a movement theorist, and Marian Chace, a dance artist and therapist, started exploring the impact of movement on psychology and mental well-being. Marian Chace started using dance as a therapeutic tool with psychiatric patients in the 1940s and her practice showed that they experienced significant symptom reduction and a lot of distress relief.

Over the years, the field evolved and gained recognition, and has started being utilised globally in various settings, including mental health institutions, schools, rehabilitation centres, and community programs, addressing a wide range of physical and mental health concerns. India has also become one of the leading countries to use this approach. 

What concerns can be managed using Creative Movement Therapy?

Creative movement therapy can be employed to address a diverse range of concerns, both physical and mental. This includes stress and anxiety as CMT provides a non-verbal outlet that can help release tension stored in the body. It is also largely used to address trauma and helps individuals reconnect with their bodies, regain a sense of control, and process traumatic experiences in a safe and supportive environment.

CMT also helps build a positive relationship between individuals and their bodies and is thus helpful in addressing concerns around body image issues, eating disorders, chronic illness, and disability as well. Engaging in purposeful movement can stimulate cognitive processes, enhance memory, and improve overall cognitive function, making it beneficial for conditions like dementia. 

CMT is also used to work with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) as it can help improve social skills and communication, and address sensory processing challenges. It becomes a constructive means to explore and regulate their emotions. CMT also provides an alternative and non-verbal mode of expression, supporting communication development.

Some CMT Exercises for Stress Release that you can try

1. Melting Ice Cream Exercise

This exercise aims at releasing the tension we might be carrying in our body due to stress and aims to build relaxation. For this exercise, stand with your feet firmly planted on the ground in an area where you have enough space to lie down. In this activity, we will try to embody the qualities of an ice cream cone that has been left out into the sun and has started melting. 

Start by visualising the sun over your head and imagining its heat warming you up. As though you were ice cream melting into a puddle, very slowly start moving your body and melt into the ground.

Take your time doing this exercise and pay close attention to how each part of your body feels as you are embodying the movement of the melting ice cream. When you are finally lying on the ground like a puddle, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Stay in the position of the puddle for however long feels comfortable for you.   

2. Paint the World Exercise

This exercise aims at building mindfulness and releasing any tightness and tension we might be feeling in our body, especially around our neck, shoulders, back, and limbs. For this exercise, you need to be in a relatively clear/open area where you have enough space to fully extend your hands and legs (this could even be in your bedroom or living room but with the furniture moved back a bit).

Once you have made sure there are no objects around you and the space is clear, turn on a soft instrumental song or nature sounds and close your eyes. 

Imagine a painting you would like to create around you (360 Degrees) and use your entire body to start painting it. Each different part of your body can be a different colour or a different type of paintbrush. For example, your fingers can be thin brushes used to add details but your leg can be a thick brush used to paint base layers.

As the painting is surrounding you from all angles, do ensure that you reach out and move around with big movements. Once you are done with the activity just shake off your hands and legs, and open your eyes.     


3. Movement Metaphors

This exercise helps us explore the different movement types - bound, heavy, light, fast, slow, etc. and to build a connection with our body. As we move our body into these different movement metaphors it tightens and releases and helps relax our posture.

For this exercise, you need to be in an open and clear space where you can move freely. 

In this exercise, we will embody the different movement qualities of a variety of everyday objects. You have to move around the space exactly how the object would move.

Start by taking on the movement quality of a feather and move around the space with light, airy movements. After this take on the quality of a rock, which would have bound and heavy movement. Some of the other items you can take up the movement quality of include - river, fire, metal, snake, etc.

As you do this exercise be mindful of what you feel in your body and which parts of your body are tight as compared to loose. Pay attention to the differences you feel in your body as you shift from one metaphor to the other.  

In conclusion, creative movement therapy is a powerful and transformative approach to holistic well-being. Through the exploration of body, mind, and emotions, individuals can tap into their inner creativity, fostering self-discovery and healing. The exercises shared in this blog serve as small tasters of the long menu of creative movement therapy and are a gateway to building our mind-body connection. Whether used as a therapeutic intervention, a means of stress relief, or a pathway to self-discovery, creative movement therapy shows a lot of potential for personal growth and healing.


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