Flow into Freedom: Unleashing the power of Indian classical dance as therapy

Flow into Freedom: Unleashing the power of Indian classical dance as therapy

That dance has therapeutic qualities was in particular focus during the Covid-19 pandemic and dancer and wellbeing coach Vena Ramphal has been spreading that message far and wide with her ongoing dance therapy sessions entitled ‘Flow into Freedom’.

Many of us may be familiar with Ramphal from her NDTV Good times days and we have also seen her judging contestants of Channel 4’s Reality Show ‘7 Year Switch’. iGlobal caught up with the artist recently to find out more about her unique blend of Yoga, Indian classical dance, meditation, spiritual and mental wellbeing in her online sessions with The Bhavan in London.

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Hangover of fear

The pandemic came as a shock of waves, making us vulnerable to fate. We kept wondering what went wrong, what can we do about it now!

Vena says, “Regaining control over your body and fear is the best thing we can gift to ourselves at this point. It is about the shedding of old skin and emotional baggage that you no longer need.”

Her sessions are therefore targeted at easing the frustrations and rigidity that has crept into us through the one and a half year of being in lockdown.

Vena explains: “After months of lockdown, I notice people have a hangover of fear. We’re still feeling restricted in our minds while walking down the street. With such fear and restriction, there is a lot of uncertainty in the body.

“When we have uncertain movements in the body, we create a lot of confusion in mind. With this course, I’m aiming to help people to regain control and certainty in their body, movements and clarity in their mind.”

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Flow into Freedom

After all, the confidence to move forward despite obstacles is the ultimate essence of living. It is the freedom from fear to move forward that is the need of the hour. So, is this what the ‘Flow into Freedom’ programme is about?

“Most definitely, yes,” says Vena. “But also it is ‘freedom’ towards something. It is a freedom to connect with your body, to trust your intuition.”

The programme incorporates a sequence of movements based on the ancient dance forms – ‘Karanas’ and Yoga. ‘Karanas’ are traditional units of movement listed in ‘Natya Shashtra’, an ancient Sanskrit text on dance. These movements are beautiful and sculptural. They are in fact, sculpted in various ancient temples in India.

“I was very fortunate to learn the ‘Karana’ movements from Dr Padma Subhramaniyam in Chennai. Karanas are the mystical heart of Indian dance. They are like Yoga in themselves. With regards to Yoga, we will definitely bring in pranayama, and also the five elements of nature – earth, fire, water, air and space (Akasha),” said Vena.

The lessons almost take a meditative form of truly being connected with oneself, in mind and body, since Vena doesn’t use any form of music or percussion. The students are encouraged to imbibe and interpret the movements and make them their own. The predominant use of mudras and eye movements lends technical anchoring to the flows.

Also a renowned relationship coach, Vena feels these lessons can be an excellent opportunity for couples to find their own space before they can genuinely tune into each other.

“Do you see why I don’t include any external music in the course! Before you start communicating with each other, you need to come into your own silence. You need to come into your own breadth, your own sound,” she explains.

However, she points out that “not only couples, but anyone with a body and mind will benefit from these courses”.

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Stability lies in our roots

The ‘Flow into Freedom’ sessions will be live and also recorded to watch later. Students from all over the world, UK, Europe, US, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and India, take an active interest in Vena’s coaching.

She reflects: “Long before the pandemic, when I was a teenager, I kind of figured out that between meditation and the dancing, I had a very special combination which gave me the ability to be at ease with my body, emotions and thoughts.

“The adults around me I could see were struggling with these things. I realised then that dance and meditation as a combination was a very powerful thing. Over past two decades now, I have used dance in my coaching. And what I’ve noticed is that when we bring the body in, it moves people along really quickly. We can transform very fast when we use the body. No amount of speaking can unlock emotions as much as dance can.”

Born and brought up in London, Vena started learning Bharatanatyam from the age of six. Her education in Sanskrit and the Upanishads also began quite early on. Although her parents are from Guyana, South America, her roots lie in her ancestral land of Uttar Pradesh in northern India.

“Ours was a house where I’ve seen havan, chanting and meditation every week, from a very young age,”, Vena recounts.

Eventually, she completed her Bachelor’s in History and Sanskrit from SOAS University.

“In Bhavan, I got the opportunity to be completely immersed into the Indian classical traditions, dance forms and music, for which I’m truly grateful,” she concludes.

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