Music for health and healing

My exercise routine includes at least one day of dancing – moving my body in rhythm with music. I experimented with many videos and my favorite is the Zumba. When I first saw Zumba dancers I wondered why people got so excited in 1950s about Elvis Presley moving his hips. In a Zumba routine you gyrate and shake every part of your body. It is liberating and also fun. It is also a great way to keep fit and lose weight, as you will see in the testimonies in the video below.

Zumba is a Colombian dance fitness program created by dancer and choreographer Alberto “Beto” Perez in the 1990s. The legend has it that Beto forgot his normal aerobics tape one day for his class and he improvised using the tapes of salsa and merengue music which he happened to have in his bag. The class was such a success that he continued using South American dance music instead of the more traditional aerobics music. After the initial success in Colombia, Beto moved to USA in 2001, and the rest is history.

Today some14 million people take weekly Zumba classes in over 140,000 locations across 150 countries. Then there are millions more like me who follow the program at home on video. Part of Zumba’s popularity is its adoption by such celebrities as Jennifer Lopez, Victoria Beckham and Jackie Chan.

Music can retrain the brain

Such music-cum-dance has benefit way beyond keeping fit and losing weight. It is being used for those who suffer from neurological disorders or have had a stroke. The thesis is that the brain has a high degree of plasticity, and even when it is damaged, music can create new pathways to the brain. There are learned scientific treatises on how music can indeed be used to retrain the brains. The knowledge in this area is evolving rapidly as new brain-imaging techniques confirm the brain’s plasticity (i.e. its ability to change) and identify networks that music activates in the brain

One man puts this knowledge into practice. Ronnie Gardiner is a jazz drummer turned healer who thought of committing suicide some 30 years ago. He changed his mind and, reinvigorated to live and looking for a new purpose, he went on to develop the Ronnie Gardiner Rhythm and Music Method. This is a way to teach people to memorize a series of coordinated movements set to music with a steady beat

Ronnie, in his mid 70s, lacks any sort of medical training but more than 200 physical and occupational therapists in his hometown in Sweden are using his method to help people with neurological disorders. The method is meant to supplement physical therapy and medical treatment, not to replace them. The results so far are reported to be encouraging. See for yourself what this method is all about in the video below.

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