What is Vedic Dance?

by | Nov 16, 2020 | Blog, Interview

‘Take dance as an aspect of therapy — dance as a system of medicine, a system of health care.’ — Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

To the less coordinated or talented among us, dance can seem like an intimidating activity.

But according to Maharishi, dance is not only about creative expression. It is also an important aspect of a holistic and preventative approach to health care. If that is the case, then surely we can all benefit from it, even those who don’t consider themselves particularly talented in the field.

To discuss Vedic Dance and its many benefits and applications for everyone, I spoke with Rebecca Busch, a prolific dancer and one of the teachers of MERU’s online Vedic Dance workshop.

In the interview, we discuss different approaches of dance, some of the principles of Vedic dance, and practical tips everyone can take and apply to their daily routine.

Let’s dive into the discussion with Rebecca now.

MERU: What is Vedic dance?

Rebecca: We use the term ‘Vedic’ with reference to the complete Vedic Science and Technology, the Science and Technology of Consciousness brought out by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Essentially, Vedic Dance is consciousness-based dance, dance performed from the level of transcendental, bliss consciousness, where we engage the finest levels of feeling and thinking and embody wholeness and bliss through every movement and expression. Vedic Dance has its basis in transcending, and can be realised through the practice of Transcendental Meditation and its Aadvanced Techniques.

Vedic Dance is also an aspect of the Maharishi Vedic Approach to Health. The department of Dance Therapy of the Maharishi College of Perfect Health International specifically focuses on the Indian Classical dance forms Bharata Natyam, Kathak, and Odissi.

With reference to Indian classical dance, Maharishi has said that it is the most natural and complete technology for enlivening the relationship between transcendental, self-referral Being and its expression in the world of physiology. Indian classical dance engages the entire physiology in the beauty of creative expression and blissfully and efficiently integrates pure consciousness into activity for increased happiness, health, and well-being.

Maharishi has said that [Indian classical dance] is the most natural and complete technology for enlivening the relationship between transcendental, self-referral Being and its expression in the world of physiology.’

Rebecca Busch, Vedic Dance teacher

What is distinct about Indian classical dance and Vedic Dance compared to other forms of dance?

Indian classical dance blends the elements of music, movement, poetry, and expression in a complete system of embodied knowledge. Some unique features of the dance include the musical system of raga and tala (melody and rhythm); the hasta mudras (hand gestures); the abstract, geometric patterns of movement; and the expressive element of storytelling, including improvisation. The themes of the dance often illustrate the attributes and activities of the Vedic Devata. Love is the primary sentiment, and the dance is a channel for the flow of devotion. In Indian classical dance all these distinct parts come together to form a beautiful and balanced wholeness.

The different elements of Indian classical dance can be applied as therapy, and overall the dance promotes happiness and health — not only for the dancer but also for those viewing the dance. A successful performance of Indian classical dance generates the value of rasa, aesthetic bliss, to nourish and transform the dancer, audience, and environment.

A successful performance of Indian classical dance generates the value of rasa, aesthetic bliss, to nourish and transform the dancer, audience, and environment.’

There is continuity of tradition as well as flexibility and the freedom to evolve. Different regions of India have their own distinct traditions of dance. The unique climate and geography of each region shapes the cultural and artistic traditions there to maintain life in balance and harmony with the laws of nature lively in that region.

In Vedic Dance, we transcend and enliven the universal level of total natural law within pure consciousness. We nourish the root of life and grow in energy, creativity, intelligence, and bliss, and this shines through whatever form of dance we are performing.

Is Indian classical dance something anyone can learn and practise? Do people need special shoes or equipment to do it?

The dance is performed barefoot, and no equipment is needed. Anyone can learn and practise. To advance in Indian classical dance and perform takes years of dedicated practice. But anyone can connect with the artform in some way, and even beginners experience benefits.

How does Vedic dance compare with other kinds of physical exercise? Can people with sensitive joints or other health issues still do Vedic dance?

Indian classical dance is much more than physical exercise, but it does provide excellent exercise for the body and helps to make us more strong and flexible. The dance enlivens and balances our energy, and students report that instead of feeling tired or stiff after dancing they feel relaxed and energised.

Indian classical dance is much more than physical exercise, but it does provide excellent exercise for the body and helps to make us more strong and flexible. The dance enlivens and balances our energy, and students report that instead of feeling tired or stiff after dancing they feel relaxed and energised.’

In Vedic Dance the emphasis is on promoting health and well-being without straining. Certain movements in Indian classical dance are challenging, but if someone has a sensitivity or health issue they can perform the steps to whatever extent they are comfortable. I’ve had students with joint issues who cannot do all the steps but still enjoy coming to class and practising the hand gestures and elements of expression and storytelling.

What is the best time of day to practise?

Whatever works for you. The morning and afternoon (at least a few hours after lunch) are good times to practise, based on the guidelines of AyurVeda not to exercise right after a full meal or right before bedtime.

How can people incorporate Vedic dance into their existing routines — particularly if they already spend a lot of time on yoga asanas, their TM technique, and other Ayurvedic practices?

Vedic Dance is an aspect of Maharishi’s Vedic Approach to Health, which will complement all other practices. Especially for those who spend a lot of time sitting, it’s wonderful to incorporate dance into your daily routine. You’ll find that each practice enhances the others. For example, practising the yoga asanas and applying different aspects of Ayurveda contribute to a strong and healthy physiology and enhance our practice of Vedic Dance, and Vedic Dance may make it more comfortable to sit in meditation and deepen our experiences.

Each practice complements the others. Practising the yoga asanas and applying different aspects of Ayurveda contribute to a strong and healthy physiology and enhance our practice of Vedic Dance, and Vedic Dance may make it more comfortable to sit in meditation and deepen our experiences.’

Do people have to practise Vedic Dance every day to get benefits?

That’s not necessary, but it’s helpful to have a routine, and when you start to feel the benefits you may naturally want to make it part of your regular routine.

This upcoming webinar is only for women. Why is that? Can’t men also do Indian classical dance?

Yes, there are accomplished male dancers, performers and teachers in the various forms of Indian classical dance, and some forms in particular are more commonly performed by men. In different settings there are courses and classes offered for women and/or men, and this particular online session is being offered for women.

The upcoming webinar is online. How will that work?

We will have an introductory session posted online that will include the practice of hasta mudras, the hand positions that are used in the dance and are also connected with yoga and have therapeutic benefits. There will be two live sessions, one in Kathak, north Indian dance, and one in Bharata Natyam, south Indian dance. We will practise a few basic steps all together. The webinar will be a short introduction, and we hope it inspires people to take in-person courses offered through MERU in the future!

Experience Vedic dance for yourself

If you’re a woman who practises the TM technique, you have the opportunity to join our online introduction to Vedic dance, starting 21 November 2020.

This introduction will be taught by Rebecca Busch and Yagyaa Srivastava and is a preview of their longer in-residence course. Visit the event overview for all the details, and sign up by 20 November to join!

About the Author

Rebekah Mays is originally from Austin, Texas, and currently lives in the Netherlands. She is thrilled to now be working as MERU’s Content Director, and her aim is to help make Maharishi’s vast knowledge more accessible to people from all countries, ages, and backgrounds.

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