People seem somewhat amused when they find out that I, in my 60’s, have begun ‘Zumba’ lessons. At first, I thought that if I was going to do something crazy, I might as well make a total fool of myself – and I did! I tried a ‘public’ class and I seemed to be ‘doing okay’. I went careering to the left. Bang! Everyone else had turned and gone right. So, now you know why I have private (very private) tuition. I don’t think my insurance would cover me – or those whom I collided with – in a public place.
So, why am I embarking on this new exercise programme? Well, first perhaps I should tell you what Zumba dancing is? It is a popularised form of South American dancing and combines Samba, Mamba and other steps in sequences. Because ‘slave dancing’ influences some routines, it is easy to notice the similarity to certain aspects of African dancing. There is great variety and influences of dances like Charleston and ‘hip-hop’ also appear in some of the steps. You dance alone, usually with an instructor in front of you. And I’m fortunate to have found an amazing teacher, Ruth Croeser who patiently encourages and adapts to suit learner’s changing needs while ‘stretching’ them to achieve more.
What are the benefits of Zumba dancing?
- Life is full of patterns. Remembering sequences helps improve our memories.
- Following others requires concentration and the ability to ‘go with the flow’ and do what others want us to do. Of course, their intention and our ability to follow may not always be ‘in sync’, but that adds to the challenge.
- Doing something different takes us out of our comfort zones. If we don’t take risks, we become complacent. We get ‘stuck in a rut’ and that can prevent us from trying new ways of doing things.
- Leaning something new takes great concentration. Sometimes we don’t realise how bad our concentration is. This sure is a ‘wake up call’! Towards the end of the hour, my ability to follow is noticeably poorer than at the beginning. So, I’m trying hard to improve my concentration.
- Physically, it puts us more ‘in tune’ with our bodies. For example, we have to notice the difference between ‘tapping’ and ‘stepping onto’ our foot.
- At times we work left leg and left arm, whereas at other times we’ll be using left leg, right arm. So we align on one side of our bodies, but we also use our limbs diagonally (left leg, right arm). And this is really good for our brain functioning.
- Balance plays an important part. At times, our balance is in one direction. And then it swiftly changes. But we need to remain ‘grounded’. We all need to improve the balance in our lives, too. I always aim for my FLAG balance. Does the activity include Fun, Leadership And (continuous improvement) Growth?
- This dance is high energy. We work up a sweat. So, even if you are doing other forms of exercise regularly (as I am), variety is good.
- Learning a very different dance like this requires that we use our visual senses. We have to watch the instructor to see what is happening. Learning to identify the changes in movement at certain musical cues intensifies the use of our auditory senses. Incorporating music into what we are doing benefits many people. We also need to ‘feel’ the mood of the music. So, this exercise combines our visual, auditory and kinaesthetic senses. Using these three simultaneously enhances our performance.
- There is also the combination of cognitive, emotional and physical aspects of this type of dancing. As an ‘integral coach’, helping people with their ‘way of being’ I need to pick up physical cues from others. And by concentrating on my Zumba teacher, I have to be very aware of what she is doing with her body. And this helps me with my observations.
- Focussing on something very different like this takes us away from the normality of our lives. It is a break, a time when we cannot think about anything else. We focus only on following the instructor.
- It is good for us to be reminded of the transition from ‘unconscious incompetence’ to ‘unconscious competence’. (Not that I’ll never reach that stage with Zumba dancing!). Let me give you an example. You start off not realising that you can’t drive a car (unconscious incompetence). You then notice (conscious) that you can’t drive, so you go for lessons. At first you are incompetent. As you learn, you become more competent. Finally you drive without having to think about looking left, releasing the break etc. You do this unconsciously. So having started your journey towards being a driver at ‘unconsciously incompetence’, you have now reached a level of ‘unconscious competence’.
Let’s apply this to Zumba. I didn’t know about Zumba dancing so didn’t realise I wasn’t competent (‘unconscious incompetence’). I heard about it, started lessons and realised how incompetent I was (I had progressed to ‘conscious incompetence’). I’m consciously trying to become more competent. And that is great! I don’t’ care that I most probably will never progress to ‘unconscious competence’.
As long as I continuously improve on what I am achieving, that is great. So, long live Zumba! The benefits are great!