Enhancing Performance: Becoming an Embodied Athlete

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By: Erica Hornthal, LCPC, BC-DMT, CEO, Chicago Dance Therapy

The mind-body connection is a hot topic and it is more than mindfulness and meditation. Embodiment is the ability to connect to your feelings, senses, thoughts, sensations and existence, not just in your mind, but in your physical being as well. When we disconnect from our bodies, we lose the ability to relate, communicate and even empathize with those around us including ourselves.  Just because you are an athlete, physically active or are currently participating in a mind-body exercise that does not mean that you are living an embodied existence. Sometimes those practices actually create a greater disconnect because we are looking for the aesthetic or the perfection in it, not the enlightened path or awareness that is intended.

So how does living an embodied life correlate to enhanced performance?  Well when we are more aware of how our actions, physical activities, or even training regimens affect our mental health we can protect ourselves from burnout, fatigue, and stress (physical and emotional).  When asked what advice she had for a rising tennis player, Martina Navratilova said, “under train.” Although this seems counterintuitive, what it suggests is that we do not push our bodies past the point of mental and physical fatigue.  Many pro athletes will attest to a balance of mind, body, and even spirit to keep them grounded and in the game.

Looking to increase your self-awareness and performance?  Here are some tips:

Utilize your breath to its fullest potential.

Breathing not only lubricates our joints and fuels our workouts, but it can actually help manage the parasympathetic nervous system which is vital to staying calm and focused.  

Warm-up your body and mind before and after a performance, game, or practice.

Performing stretches that enhance the connections in the brain also enhance your level of performance by creating more mental acuity, focus, and resilience.  

Listen to your body.  

Your body is always talking and often times it is trying to guide, warn, or even protect you from further harm or injury.  Pain for example isn’t a punishment. It is a signal that something is out of alignment. Instead of pushing through or ignoring it, try to listen and evaluate what the pain is for and what it is trying to tell you.  Work with your PT, OT, or physician to identify the cause and create a treatment plan.

If you are looking to increase your connection to your own body and how it connects to your mind, contact Chicago Dance Therapy.

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Unlocking Your Potential through Movement: An Exploration of Dance/Movement Therapy

By Erica Hornthal, LCPC, BC-DMT

As a society we have long known the healing benefits of dance. Dance can improve cognition and memory, it can reduce stress, and it can help us get in shape. However, not many people know the emotional and psychological impact movement has on mental health.  Dance applied as an intervention within the therapeutic relationship unlocks individual potential; the potential to increase productivity, maximize performance, manage chronic pain or injury, and connect to passion and purpose.  

What is dance/movement therapy?

According to the American Dance Therapy Association, founded in 1966, “dance/movement therapy is the psychotherapeutic use of movement to promote emotional, social, cognitive and physical integration of the individual.” It is a creative arts therapy that uses movement as the means to observe, assess, and intervene in an individual’s overall health.  Movement is the most primitive instinctual form of communication and expression. It allows for a deeper level of understanding, validation and support.  Not only is no dance experience or coordination needed to reap the benefits, but also, unlike psychotropic medications, there are no negative side effects.  

What is the different between dance and dance/movement therapy?

Dance is a performance art form usually consisting of stylized or choreographed sequences of movement. It is about expression, aesthetics, and often physicality and skill. Dance/movement therapy is first and foremost a niche form of psychotherapy, facilitated by a master’s level clinician that merely uses, movement, a component of dance, to heal and integrate the mind, body, and spirit of an individual. In dance/movement therapy, the “dance” comes from the individual as an organic expression of the self.

What are the benefits of dance/movement therapy?

Dance/movement therapy can benefit people of all ages, abilities, and life circumstances because it supports the individual on a body level where they are in that specific moment in time. Dance therapy has a broad range of health benefits. It has been demonstrated to be clinically effective at improving body image, self-esteem, attentiveness, and communication skills. It can also reduce stress, fears and anxieties, as well as lessen feelings of isolation, body tension, chronic pain, and depression. In addition it can enhance the functioning of the body’s circulatory and respiratory systems.

What does a session look like?

Dance/movement therapy sessions can look much like a talk therapy session. It is often up to the participant how large the movement is or how indulgent it may be. It can incorporate breathing exercises, meditation, mindfulness, stretching, and yes, dance, in addition to verbal processing. It can be done individually, as a couple, or even in a group. Sessions take place in hospitals, nursing homes, day centers, schools, studios, homes, and offices around the world. It is a holistic body-based therapy that can be done standing up, sitting down, or even from a person’s bedside.

Anyone can participate in dance/movement therapy, regardless of age, physical or even cognitive ability.  If you are interested in deepening your mind-body connection, enhancing physical performance through awareness, or physically and emotionally becoming more efficient, consider dance/movement therapy as your approach to mental and physical integration, growth, and healing.  

For more information, go to the American Dance Therapy Association or contact Chicago Dance Therapy.

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Therapy that moves you!

By Erica Hornthal, MA, LCPC, BC-DMT, Chicago Dance Therapy

Chicago Dance Therapy is the premier dance/movement therapy practice serving Chicago and its surrounding suburbs. Offering psychotherapy with a body-centered approach focused on connecting mind, body, and spirit.


In dance/movement therapy, movement is the therapeutic tool used to process feelings and emotions. The client is encouraged to experience, observe, and process behaviors and thoughts through body sensations, non-verbal communication, and body language. We use the body to recharge, refocus, and even re-pattern the mind.


We use the body to assess, observe, and intervene in the therapeutic relationship. When words alone may not be expressing what someone is experiencing, dance/movement therapy can help to validate and support each individual.


This holistic alternative to traditional talk therapy is a wonderful way to treat mind, body, and spirit. Using movement we can connect to our subconscious, enhance our awareness, and learn to be more present.

According to the American Dance Therapy Association, dance/movement therapy is the psychotherapeutic use of movement to promote emotional, cognitive, physical and social integration of the individual. Benefits of dance/movement therapy include:

  • Facilitate self-awareness
  • Enhance self-esteem
  • Reduce anxiety
  • Encourage reminiscing
  • Maintain and/or increases mobility
  • Enhance body-mind connectivity
  • Focus on non-verbal communication
  • Enhance emotional and physical well being
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