I didn't begin practicing meditation with the intention of applying the principles to my dancing. However, over the last year, meditation has had the greatest impact on my growth as an artist. Sounds like a bold claim -- especially since stillness is the opposite of movement -- but hear me out. The key benefits have come from...
...A focus on the breath
I take this life-giving action for granted way too often. The breath flows steadily without us paying much attention to it. Yet the moment I bring focus to it, I find the connection between the quality of my breath and my mental or physical state. While dancing, I used to hold my breath. The combination of excitement, anxiety, and inspiration overwhelmed me. I cut short my breathing, stopping the flow of oxygen to my muscles and to my brain. So not only was I making myself fatigued, I was gradually losing my ability to focus - I'm guessing when your brain is lacking oxygen it stops thinking about to look cool. In meditation, the breath becomes the focal point and the signal you return to constantly. And this simple practice while dancing has opened up my stamina and creativity.
...A focus on the present
My nerves are worst when I'm anticipating. Therefore, the moment right before hitting the stage or the cypher is the worst. I had a hard time shaking off the nerves even after I had begun dancing. In meditating regularly, I have learned to sit with whatever feelings I have at the moment without judgment. My nerves are still there, but once I start dancing I don't linger on them anymore. I can shift my focus to my movement and the music, creating effortless flow from one moment to the next.
...A focus on letting go
I hate being in a funk. I can't get clarity on ideas and muster any inspiration. And it doesn't usually last one round -- more like a day or sometimes a week. And here is where I'll say meditating has helped me eliminate these down periods. Well, it hasn't. Put that's the thing -- the practice of meditation has these same moments where it feels like you are failing - when you get distracted by your thoughts and lose focus. But the goal is not perfection, it's to be aware and conscious of where your mind and body are and be completely okay with it. The magic happens when you accept the imperfections. Then you tend to gain more proficiency in your focus.
My meditation journey has really been an understanding in how to be comfortable, aware and open in the moment. I always envisioned the thousands of hours I would need to gain a sense of zen-like control over my thoughts. But now I simply open up my Calm app every morning, find a 10-15 guided meditation and listen to it to start my day. And it continues to make a huge difference when I teach, perform, or freestyle.