Ecstatic Dance Therapy

Therapy Review – Ecstatic dance Ubud

It’s undeniable that dance is a therapy. In terms of exercise it releases a lot of tension in the body which builds up endorphins, music can also bring up your vibration frequency and, well it just makes me feel good really.

My research is set into three parts – description of the session, how I felt directly before and after the treatment, my overall review.

The session

I’ve been to the ecstatic dance at the Akasha villa in Ubud a couple of times and the crowd never ceases to surprise me, it’s always full of vibrant and colourful people. The last time I went there was a man dressed as a unicorn and almost the whole crowd was wearing glitter or a face paint of sorts.

The dance is held in the beautiful Askasa villa about a 20 minute scooter ride out of the centre of Ubud (where the palace is) and as I walk in I’m greeted with a sacred smudging ritual. Whilst I stand there the man in front of me ceremonially waves a smouldering piece of wood from my head to my feed, ask me to turn around and then do the same thing from feet to head on the back of my body.

I walk up the path and to the left is a fire, alight in a large metal bowl. Directly in front of the fire is the swimming pool, complete with flowing waterfalls and a pagoda which some artists are using as their painting studio.

I can hear the music playing loud as I enter the main dance room of the villa, that’s where the DJ is; happy, engaged and whispering the occasional motivating sentences into the microphone. The villa is huge and the music can be heard from all around. Through the dance room is an archway that leads through to another large space. On the right are some steps which lead to another dancing space where at the back a man is serving tea with a blessing of sorts. On the left of the archway is a large couch which actually sinks into the floor, so I can literally step down into it. I guess it’s for dancers to rest if they get tired feet.

As I was past the couch, the double doors open up to some stepping stones right in front of me which are set in a beautiful natural water feature. They lead down to an enclosure which keeps a monkey on the left and a bamboo dome on the right, which is an exclusive naturally build bedroom. During the dances the bamboo dome is usually occupied, and off limits to dancers, but I’m lucky enough to have been inside during the daytime and I can assure you, it’s absolutely beautiful.

Ecstatic dance is a sober affair, on sale you can find vegetarian food, coconut water and raw food chocolate but there is no alcohol, no drugs and I rarely see anyone smoking, well not smoking cigarettes. All in all it’s a very holistic affair. It’s a place where anyone and everyone can feel free who be who they want to be. Want to wear glitter and do a yoga dance on your head in the pagoda? Go for it. Want to bop around subtly to some tunes in plane shorts and a baseball cap? Feel welcomed. It really is for all and the premise is just to dance. Just feel comfortable and dance, and what a therapy it is too. I can’t say for sure what the music type is because it’s a mix and it changes, but throughout the night there’s something for everyone. Whether you’re into house music, reggae, rock, jazz or anthems. It’s a good variety of beats to dance to. Also for those who don’t want to dance, you can soak in the pool, chill on the sofas or just chat to someone whilst sipping some coconut water. However I decided to approach this as a therapy, so for me it was the dancing that I explored.

As expected I felt anxious when I arrived. There are a lot of people this time and being surrounded by a lot of people these days brings up an anxiety in me, an anxiety that actually almost caused me to leave until a friend sat me down and stayed with me through that discomfort.

This fear sets off a negative chat in my head, and the battle to overcome it cane become challenging because all I really want to do is leave. Leave because of fear. But, fear of what? It’s the ‘fear of what’ conversation that helped me shake it off. I mean, I’m at a sober ecstatic dance in Ubud, spiritual centre of the Universe and I’m here with a group of friends – really what is the worst that’s going to happen? Even if I decided to strip naked on the dance floor, loudly confess my undying love for a randomer then do a serpent dance to the exit in rage-tears I seriously think everyone around me would just carry on doing their own thing as though all of that was completely normal behaviour. Some may even join in to help me embrace my emotional state, or sincerely cheer me on from the edges of the dance floor. As I realised this with my friend, I laughed. Ecstatic dance in Ubud wasn’t the place I needed to fear judgement of others. Acknowledging that highlighted that judgement was another trigger for me, another trigger that needed to be unravelled and reframed and what better time than now?

With a little pep talk and a few tokes on a walk-by shisha I was able to suck in my inner shakes and get on the dance floor, even if for me that can sometimes mean just swaying from side to side until I get into it. It’s one of those things where I know it will do me good in the long run and although it’s scary and difficult to climb over that barrier of fear, it must be done anyway.

By the end of the evening I was in full swing dancing and managed to stay until the end of the night.

Pre-session sense check (30 May 2016, 3pm –  1 hour before leaving for ecstatic dance)

Emotionally – I feel quite anxious. I’m excited for ecstatic dance because I love the dance aspect but at the same time I know there will be some triggers for me to deal with, and with them my own judgements and fear of being judged. I also know that all of this is in my head and it’s stupid, then I need to not beat myself up for being stupid – there’s a lot to deal with today. I’m generally in high spirits and I feel quite clear headed. I also feel very motivated today too and I know that I can shake off the anxiety, I just need to get myself to the dance.

Physically – the anxiety is like a flutter in my chest and stomach. It’s not too unpleasant and it’s not that strong but it’s still there, just a general sense of discomfort really. Apart from that I’m feeling good in my body. The pain in my shoulder is pretty much none existent these days, I feel healthy and alert.

Post-session sense check (30 May 2016, 12 midnight –  1 hour after returning from ecstatic dance)

Emotionally – I feel quite drained because I think that I worked through a lot of inner judgement at the dance. I also had a lot of triggers from the attack come up – fast movements in the dark because at one point there was some very active dancing. I persisted to stay and dance, even the moments when I didn’t feel comfortable in myself and this gives me a sense of achievement but I’m also tired and ready to relax.

Physically – I feel a head cold coming on, my head is foggy and I’m sneezing. I’m not surprised at this because physically and emotionally over the last few weeks I’ve released a lot of emotion so this is probably a sign that my body is ready for a rest, hence putting me out of action. Conversely I also feel quite energised, like the way you sometimes feel after a work out, strangely tired but energised at the same time. It’s a nice feeling, and there’s some purity to it because I spent the evening drinking coconut water and dancing in a beautiful setting.

If you like this Therapy Review, please check out my Blog, my Sketches and my Therapies.