The Love Affair between Music & Movement and Mind & Body

Listening to music with others causes the release of oxytocin, a chemical associated with feelings of trust and bonding. … Plus the nucleus accumbens – the brain’s well-known pleasure center – modulates levels of dopamine, the so called feel-good hormone.
Daniel J. Levitin, neuroscientist 

My Dad loved music, especially Broadway tunes, Sinatra songs, and Ella Fitzgerald, plus Columbia University ditties and tunes from World War II. My Dad also loved to move – dancing to music, shuffling and running to tennis and, when younger, sprinting short distances as well as longer cross country running. In his waning years, my Dad co-existed with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. While he lost the ability to move, his love of music and his ability to mimic a tune never left him. Indeed, I believe that music and song provided sustenance for him as he navigated those last five years of his life.

My Mom also loved music, being an avid and accomplished pianist, with a Masters of Music Composition earned when she was in her forties. She composed the music for our wedding ceremony. She nourished her Steinway piano until the last months of her life, playing magnificently up till a few weeks before a stroke left her paralyzed on her right side, taking away her ability to nourish herself through piano playing.

No surprise, then, that I, too, love music and dancing and playing the piano. And perhaps no surprise that the yoga I most want to teach is yoga that incorporates music, the marrying of movement and music.

Dance for PD is based upon the premise that dancers are skilled at understanding the fluidity with which their bodies move through space, and this is exactly the issue that people with Parkinson’s are trying to deal with – maintaing their balance and coordination despite their brains lessening lack of bodily control. Let Your Yoga Dance is an approach to yoga that meshes music with movement, and when doing this form with special populations, massages the two Ms to bring smiles and sensory stimulation to folks with Parkinson’s or folks needing to participate from the vantage point of sitting in a chair.

In Happy Birthday iPod!, an article in today’s Sunday Times, Daniel Levitin speaks of the positive impact that music has on the brain. Music, like exercise, causes good things to happen in our brains, which often translates to good things happening in our bodies!

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