How The Dance reverses dogs brain and physical degeneration.

How The Dance reverses dogs brain and physical degeneration.

As our dogs grow older, they suffer a decline in mental and physical fitness. Since our dogs age just like we do, we can base the way we address dogs age-related declines on human studies.

One new study, published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, shows that older people who routinely partake in physical exercise can reverse the signs of aging in the brain, and dancing has a most profound effect.

“Exercise has the beneficial effect of slowing down or even counteracting age-related decline in mental and physical capacity,” says Dr Kathrin Rehfeld, lead author of the study, based at the German center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, Magdeburg, Germany.

“In this study, we show that two different types of physical exercise (dancing and endurance training) both increase the area of the brain that declines with age. In comparison, it was only dancing that led to noticeable behavioral changes in terms of improved balance.”

Both groups showed an increase in the hippocampus region of the brain. This is an area that plays a key role in memory and learning, as well as keeping one’s balance.

Previous research has shown that physical exercise can combat age-related brain decline. We’ve known that. What was not known was if one type of exercise can be better than another. To assess this, the exercise routines given to the volunteers differed. The traditional fitness training program conducted mainly repetitive exercises, such as cycling or Nordic walking.

The people in the dance group were more physically and cognitively challenged. Every other week steps, arm-patterns, formations, speed and rhythms were changed. Their constantly changing dance routines included different genres (Jazz, Square, Latin-American and Line Dance). These extra challenges are thought to account for the noticeably better balance displayed by those participants who were the dancers.

These results can also apply in supporting our dogs in their senior moments, days, and years. For any of us, and especially our dogs, a massage is always an extraordinary event. Massage draws the dog’s attention out of his normal thought patterns; into self-awareness, self-discovery, self-induced balance. It is important to note that all these “self” actions cannot happen without the massage and its facilitation by a canine massage practitioner.

It’s important to recognize that we can offer dogs more challenge when we change up our massage patterns. We need to be continually introducing innovative variations. When the dog and I begin to anticipate repetitive patterns, the same-old same-old becomes a bore. It’s still good; and it could be better. Each session needs to be unique. Like a conversation. Like a dance. This keeps both of our minds working, which increases blood flow, and strengthens our eroding synapses.

Canine massage is more than like a dance. It is a dance form. There is a leader, a follower, an agreement, permission and cooperation. Sometimes the dog leads; showing us where to focus. Sometimes, usually, once we have a direction, the dog follows.

Here’s the form. There’s an introduction/a beginning in which intentions join together, a development/middle in which non-supportive patterns are identified and brought to a threshold where they are given an opportunity to shift, and a resolution/ an end.

I gave a presentation in which I described what it’s like to give a canine aquatic massage. Someone asked how much room I needed. I’m guessing she was envisioning working from the outside of a small raised kidney-shaped hydrotherapy tank, reaching into it to get to the dog’s body.

Au contraire, mon frère. Canine aquatic massage is a dance! I asked her to come up and join me in front of the audience. I held both her hands and whirled her around. She grinned. I grinned. The audience grinned.

We stepped toward each other. Then away. We turned, spun around in different directions and catching hands again, rocked back to a waltz position. I twirled her under my arm (of course dramatically extending my other arm) and we dropped into a sweeping 20th century dip. We had traversed the entire front of the room. Everyone could see that to accommodate the big movements used in aquatic massage we needed an entire swimming pool. In our demonstration, our cognitive patterns were fireworks. Our edorphin release made everyone in the room happy. Canine aquatic massage was truly dancing with dogs.

I do not have the accumulated data of tracking 70,000 volunteers like they did in the study. I can confidently share with you my conclusions based on decades of accumulated subjective experiences with thousands of dogs. And that is, that every massage, dry or in water, has a profound -sometimes unexpected- effect on dogs. Every massage session has an impact on that dog’s quality of life.

The all-knowing Siri defines “miracle” as “a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency.” I’ve witnessed so much, I’m not sure if I can use the word “miracle” because these amazing shifts occur so frequently. The unanticipated is now expected.

I’ve watched, after one session, the lame walk, the lathargics re-energize, the grievers move on, the non-weight-bearers toe touch, and the ancients revisit their youthful vigor. With several sessions I witness the chubby get thinner, the out-of-shape get fit, and the dogs with chronic and metastasizing conditions stabilize.

I can also report that those who do what they love, are actually youthing. I see photos of graduates of the PetMassage school, some from 20 years ago- who are doing what they love, living and practicing love with canine massage. These people are not aging. It must be all that dancing!

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