Friday, February 25, 2011

Why Contra Makes Me Feel So Good: A Post on the Vestibular Sense and Me

Contra dancing.
Can't get enough of it.

And my informal infatuation with it goes beyond just the keen music, snazzy dance moves, and sprightly, zealous company.

There is a connection between something my body craves because of SPD and contra.
(With sensory processing disorder, a lot of times our bodies are either shying away from certain inputs or experiences or seeking them out. Like you know, if you have a itch and you scratch it, you feel better. By getting my body the inputs it needs, I can function better and feel overall much more comfortable and secure. SPD pretty much means that my brain is awful at dealing with the eight senses.)

That's why, when I dance, I can't help but grin. That's why I get so excited. That's why I just want it to go on forever. When I contra dance, my body, for a few precious hours, just feels right.

This all relates to "vestibular dysfunctions." My vestibular sense (and yours too) is all about things relating to (I'm just going to quote here), "input from the inner ear about equilibrium, gravitational changes, movement experiences, and position in space." Moving around and spinning! My body seeking to get the input it needs.

Unlike with tactile where I was all over the board with hyposensitivity and hypersensitivity, with the vestibular sense I am simply hyposensitive to movement (aka under-responsive).

I'll go through the checklist again and then, in the end, connect it to contra.
  • In constant motion, can't seem to sit still
    • I don't have it so bad. Everyone is different. Sometimes I can sit still (oi, sometimes...), but normally I need something to fidget with like my Bucky Balls. I have improved a lot, I think. Sometimes it can be a pretty obvious, though.
  • Craves fast, spinning, and/or intense movement experiences
    • I love it. I adore it. I crave it.
  • Loves being tossed in the air
    • One of my favourite things when I was younger (and still, now) was to do what I called "launching." I crouch on the ground and two mates stand slightly in front of me on either side. They each grab one of my hands and fling me into the air. I can get pretty high at times. I love doing this over and over. Just the other night my two guy friends launched me - sigh, it felt so good.
  • Could spin for hours and never appear to be dizzy
  • Always jumping on furniture, trampolines, spinning in a swivel chair, or getting into upside down positions
    • This rings so many bells. I love to spin in those chairs - but it goes beyond, "Wee, this is fun." It makes me feel really good to just spin and spin. When I was little I used to lay on the chair and propel myself by using my hands to grab and pull the lower wheels of the chair. I also really enjoy going upside down to right side up. Over and over. Park benches work great. I remember one night in Switzerland where I convinced everyone to do it because it feels so good.
  • Loves to swing as high as possible and for long periods of time
    • I used to but now it's not so good for me any more.
  • Always running, jumping, hopping etc. instead of walking
    • Not so much. I like walking... but I do have many irregular tendencies. I'm learning to control.
  • Likes sudden or quick movements, such as, going over a big bump in the car or on a bike
Do I even need to spell it out for you?

Contra is spinning, fast movements, back and forth movements, skipping, hopping, and stomping all in one --- and I get to do it for three hours solid with awesome people.

That is what my body wants. It's craving those kind of motions!

How to explain this to normal folks. Pretty much, my body doesn't get the same input in normal movements like you guys do. So I need more extreme moving situations to get those inputs our bodies need. I don't have SPD nearly as severe as some people where they really really are affected, so I don't have a lot of negative effects from the lack of inputs - however I certainly feel the benefits when I undergo some contra or other wonderful activities.

Contra isn't just a wonderful thing to do, for me, it's like occupational therapy. My body is seeking out experiences like what contra has to offer. So, when my body feels that good and safe in the world, I can't help but cut loose and grin.


  1. Maggie,

    Just wanted to say I really enjoy reading your blog. I wish I had known as much about Asperger's and SPD when I was your age. (I wish *anyone* had!) At any rate, I hand't thought about it before, but what you say about contra dancing is true. I enjoy the motion, and I also enjoy the fact that it has rules. I never have liked "modern" dancing because I'm always trying to think about what I should be doing next. Sometimes I have to think about that with a new reel or quadrille, but it's not the same pressure; you don't have to continually be doing something different. You can just relax and enjoy the dance.

    Anyway, keep writing.

  2. I'd like to introduce you to Voices of Sensory Processing Disorder. This is a community website where bloggers can share their experiences, victories, tips and everyday challenges with others. And we want you! We’d love to share your writing.

    Please visit us at to learn more. I do hope you'll join us. Happy blogging!
    Regards, Jennifer


Your words make me grin.

Related Posts with Thumbnails