Movement as Medicine?
Holistic therapy through Music and Movement. It’s part of our logo, part of our marketing message, but what does it really mean to us here at Dynamic Lynks? We talk a lot about music therapy and how we use music to work on functional skills, but today we want to talk all about movement! Did you know that in almost every culture outside of the western world music and movement go hand in hand? It is natural for our bodies to move when they hear music.
Movement is a vital component of the mind-body connection. If we can’t connect our brain with the feelings of our body, we can’t treat many symptoms of disorders or disease. We are music therapists, not dance movement therapists, so we approach movement differently. As music therapists, we tap into this brain-body connection and use music to cue specific motor responses.
Here are a few of the strategies we use to help our clients strengthen their mind-body connection:
Taking deep breaths in time with music has been proven to decrease heart rate and blood pressure which can help clients who struggle with anxiety or who are experiencing stress – which includes most living beings! We teach different breathing styles to help our clients find what works best for them.
It is suggested that normal breathing rates in adults should be 7-8 breaths per minute. Most adults are walking around taking 12 – 15 breaths per minute. These breathing rates differ in children, but we use music, such as our yoga relax, to cue the breath to lengthen both the inhale and the exhale of the breath. This helps our clients decrease the number of breaths they take per minute and strengthens the mind-body connection. We also use our deep breaths song to teach our clients to control their breath on their own through breathing in, holding, and breathing out.
Group dancing with peers is a great way to facilitate social interactions, but watching others dance also activates mirror neurons! Using songs that cue movement, while adults or peers model specific motor movements, helps strengthen neural pathways in the brain to help clients learn new motor movements. Some of our session favorites are listen and move, and our hit song – take the band – which uses motor props to help assist in group dancing.
We use a variety of musical cues to help the brain connect with the music and facilitate a motor response. Music Therapists use tempo, or the speed of music, to cue movement. For example, walking would be played at a more relaxed speed while running would be played at a quicker speed. We also use different levels of force to cue movement. We might strum our guitar very strong and short to cue stomping while we would play lightly on the highest guitar strings to cue tip-toeing. Music therapists also use pitch to cue movement such as playing a scale on the piano up high to cue reaching up high and playing the scale down low to cue touching toes.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
When our brains are racing, can’t sleep, can’t relax, sometimes we need to take ourselves out of our mind and into our body. Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) can help us calm down by providing a systematic tension and release to engage the muscles of our body and send signals of relaxation to the brain. For our older clients, we cue this tension and release with music and verbal cues. For our younger clients, we use songs like Squish the Bean Bag to help them squeeze a bean bag or other object on different body parts to simulate that tension and release.
Chanting or Mantras
Other ways you can use music to connect with the body is through simple chanting and connecting a movement with each part of the chant. We do this in our SaTaNaMa song, connecting each syllable with a simple, fine motor movement to strengthen that brain-body connection. You can also hum syllabic sounds or create a melody for a mantra in time with a steady, rhythmic beat. This can regulate heart rate and cue breathing as well, like we mentioned before.
There are so many ways to use music for movement. You can find all of the songs and activities mentioned above in our Calm Down Kit. As a special offer for our blog readers, use code Movement20 for 20% off our Calm Down Kit or any other products in our store through the end of September!