International Journal of Yoga - Philosophy, Psychology and Parapsychology

: 2020  |  Volume : 8  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 41--46

Indian classical dance aesthetics: A possible therapeutic application for caregivers' distress

Jayashre Ravi Hegde1, Srinivasan M Thaiyar2, Sridhar K Melukote1, Nagendra R Hegganahalli3,  
1 Yoga and Humanities, Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India
2 Yoga and Physical Science, Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India
3 Chancellor, Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India

Correspondence Address:
Mrs. Jayashre Ravi Hegde
Division of Yoga and Humanities, Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samasthana, 19, Eknath Bhavan, Gavipuram Circle, Kempegowdanagar, Bengaluru - 560 019, Karnataka


Emotional culture/regulation has been a center of discussions for a long time, as uncontrolled emotion may risk a person with psychosomatic ailments. In this concern, self-help techniques are in the search, which can assist in training negative emotions and achieve positive health. Study of scriptures on Indian dance classical suggests, repeated practice of ānġika (expression by physical movements), vācikā (expression, by words), and sāttvikā (expression, by intense feelings) with lyrics set to particular rāga can be a counter-measure for subjugating undesirable emotions. It may work as 'disguise bring changes in human beings,' reducing negative emotions and filling new sights. In this article, emotional brain training mediated by elements of Indian classical dance/abhinaya (expression) imbibed 'rasa' discussed as a possible emotion culture therapy procedure.

How to cite this article:
Hegde JR, Thaiyar SM, Melukote SK, Hegganahalli NR. Indian classical dance aesthetics: A possible therapeutic application for caregivers' distress.Int J Yoga - Philosop Psychol Parapsychol 2020;8:41-46

How to cite this URL:
Hegde JR, Thaiyar SM, Melukote SK, Hegganahalli NR. Indian classical dance aesthetics: A possible therapeutic application for caregivers' distress. Int J Yoga - Philosop Psychol Parapsychol [serial online] 2020 [cited 2020 Sep 23 ];8:41-46
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Emotional brain training (EBT) is the current rewarding concept for promoting positive self-health.[1] When the mind is disturbed by negative thoughts, suitable counter-measures should be adopted to keep away or remove such obstacles especially by the contemplation of contradictory, namely positive points of view as instructed by Patanjali Maharshi in Yoga Sutra (2.33).[2]


Vitarkabādhane pratipakshabhāvanam,

Pratipaksha means opposite, and bhāvana means contemplation or meditation. Vitarka bādhane is the situation of disturbance caused by destructive doubt. During the severity of emotional turbulence, self-healing works as a fortitudinous solution. This sūtra, elaborates Patanjali saying, whenever there is a destructive/distressing thought in our mind, we can negate it with its opposite feeling. It means replace anger with compassion, violent thoughts with peaceful ones, hate with love, and even general stress with a sense of relaxation and contentment. Pratipaksha bhāvana paves the way for spiritual transformation and self-realization.[3]

Informal caregivers in the family are the primary support system in the management of children with neurodevelopment disorders. Positive mental health and regulated emotion of a primary caregiver invariably influences in caring such children. Their subjective burden affects them with reduced morale, increased strain, anxiety, depression,[4] fear, sadness, anger, guilt, loss, stigma, and rejection experienced by them, which considerably affect maternal well-being.[5],[6] Further, it often instigates drug abuse, suicide threats, and violent behavior.[7]

A review study mentions that difficulties with emotion regulation are associated with mental disorders,[8] major depressive disorder,[9] bipolar disorder,[10] generalized anxiety disorder,[11] and appears to be a global risk for the psychopathology in a nonclinical population.[12] It highlights the importance of developing an effective intervention to reduce burden on the healthcare resources of that country.[13]

 Why Does Emotion Matter?

Emotion plays a crucial role in organizing our daily life. From the earliest philosophers to present-day thinkers, 'emotion' is the centre of debate and discussions concerning neuroscience and psychological aspects.[14] In human functioning, it plays a critical role in evaluating the levels of consciousness and the operation of all mental processes.[15]

Expression of emotion may be verbal or nonverbal. Verbalized words mediate the feeling and regulation of emotions. Plutchik[16] describes emotion in terms of (a) subjective medium; (b) behavioral medium; and (c) function medium. Plutchik's model is based on an emotion wheel made up of four pairs of opposites: joy and sadness, acceptance and disgust, fear and anger, and surprise and anticipation. Emotions such as love, peace, contentment, and compassion are the natural state of our soul. To move into deeper levels of consciousness and grace, alignment with these states is a must.[17]

In Indian tradition, 'emotion regulation' has been much emphasized. In furtherance of emotion regulation, the mind-body relationship is supported by more than 2000 peer-reviewed literature articles in the past 25 years. The cream of theory in mind-body therapy is, recognition of mind playing a pivotal role in the health and inseparable relationship between the mind and the body, and the need to treat the mind. In a sense, these methods empower the patients with self-help techniques, which in turn is associated with developing a sense of control in attitude and belief connected with improved health and longevity.[18] Based on the low cost and locally available resources, indigenous practices, and ancestral wisdom was found to be appropriate in the health-care arena.[20]

Bhagavadgīta explains attachment is the cause of all misery, and detached action without hankering for the fruit of action is the superior one.[21] While the consistent practice of pratipakça bhāvana allows us to release our painful and destructive emotions bringing a higher level of awareness. In this concern, dance, with musical background, creates enriched environmental conditions by combining emotions, social interaction, sensory stimulation, and motor coordination.[20]

 Elements of Indian Classical Dance: A Tool for Emotional Well-Being

Indian dramaturgical text 'Natya-Sastra' ( a magnum opus, dated back to 1500 BC) put forth not only a wide variety of physical movements but emotions based on the core of 'rasa theory.'[22] [Table 1] explains the names of rasa, their meaning, and related emotions.[23] Renee Emunah, while elaborating about Drama Therapy, explains in her book, “Disguise brings a change in the person.” The drama, having nearest experiences to our daily interaction, even with the fictitious roles played, paves the way for more profound compassion, connectivity, and consciousness within 'oneself' and with others as well.[24] The dramatization is nothing but the depiction of life experience by various role plays. Drama Therapy expresses that the role play is “the place where we get out of ourselves,” which implies discovering ourselves through observing and expanding our behavioral responses.[24]

As Girishwar Mishra[17] intones, Indian classical dance marked with expressed gestures, glance, footwork, body movements with an emotion assigned musical notes (svarās, jatis) can become the vehicle of a mood and rasa. Emotions are an expression or criterion of rasa. In music, musical notes/sounds can boost rasa. In dance, rasa is the meta-emotion or refined mental state, wherein both the dancer and the spectator travel through the medium of abhinaya or expression. The core of this blissful consciousness is 'bhāva', which means existence, mental state, and ultimate meaning to life itself.{Table 1}

Maharshi Patanjali says in Raja yoga aphorisms (1.14) that,


Sa tu dirghakälanairantaryasatkärasevito dåòhabhūmiù|

It means, practice becomes rooted when it is ceaselessly carried out with reverence and zeal for a long time.[3] EBT is based on repeated use of a technique that amplifies secured attachment and optimal self-regulatory and consolidating processes to alter allostatic (non-homeostatic) circuits, reducing its load and improving the state of well-being.[1] The elements of 'rasa theory,' namely bhāva, rasa, and abhinaya, could be a tool to achieve this well-being.


Bhāva means feeling. bhāvita, vāsita, kåta are synonyms. It is so-called because, through gestures, word, and depiction of sattva, 'that' feeling is infused into the heart of the spectator. Bhāva are of three types, vibhāva, anubhāva, and vyabhicāri bhāva. The root cause that creates a particular emotion is called vibhāva or determinant, which in turn creates bhāva. The voluntary expression following the emotion created is called anubhāva or consequent. The accompanying mental state creates a passing emotion called vyabhicāri bhāva. Vibhāva, anubhāva, and vyabhichāri bhāva altogether establish a particular bhāva called sthāyi, whereby a sympathetic audience/spectator experiences a unique delight called rasa.[25]


Sage Bharata elaborately explains rasa as follows:


Vibhänubhäva vyabhicäri saàyogät rasaniñpattiù|

It means, the realization of rasa results from the union of vibhāva (determinant), anubhāva (consequent) and vyabhicāri bhāva (transitory/complementary psychological states), and its alignment with the permanent mood known as sthāyi bhāva that creates rasa.[26]

Rasa is a kind of energy being partly physical and partly mental and is an essential link between body and mind, which affects our thought and emotions. It is a feeling with the nature of both, the 'self' and the universe, both inside and outside.[27]

According to Paranjpe, an Indian philosopher, a holistic view of the rasa theory is all about emotional experience associated with human conditions and coping with its problems.[28] [Table 2] depicts negative emotions, subjugated rasa, corresponding health problems, and emotions to be cultured to overcome those negative emotions.[20],[27]Bhāva is the emotion that creates a sense of enjoyment, which in itself is an entity, and that enjoyment experience is rasa.[25] Abhinava Gupta has spiritualized rasa, claiming it to be an experience of pure bliss.[29]{Table 2}

Drama is an imitative art wherein the inherent nature of the individual (actor) is controlled by that thought process concerning the character. A similar episode of pain turned depression in humans, presented on the stage or in works of visual arts, derives an inexplicable pleasure called rasa.[25]

 Canons (Standard Elements) of Abhinaya

Reactions of the mind driven into human behavior and expressed through face, word, and the body, are recognized in three abhinayas sāttvika, vācika, and ānġika in drama. The basis of performing and visual arts are an imitation, and drama is predominantly so. In the role-play, the inherent nature of the actor is controlled by the character with the physical movements and gestures, termed, ānġikābhinaya; subjugation in terms of voice and speech termed, vācikābhinaya; presentation of emotional responses of the mind termed, sāttvikābhinaya; and, relevant costumes and makeup are termed āhāryābhinaya. A homogeneous blend of all these four aspects are termed 'nātya' or drama.[30]

 Sāttvika Abhinaya

'Sattva' means mind, so sāttvika means 'that created by mind'. Sattva is the mental capacity of the actor to identify him/herself with the character and its feelings. The actor enters deep into the mind of the character, and being into the pleasure and pain experienced by the character, feels them his own. This is known as sāttvika abhinaya. At the same time, a sympathetic spectator travels along with the thought process of the actor,[30] and experiences the self-forgetfulness. This contemplation of the visual arts is sattva, and attaining rasa itself is an aesthetic delight, which in turn brings spontaneous contentment.[31]

Painful incidents of real-life cause depression but, when enacted on stage, derive immense pleasure, which is called 'rasa' or sentiment.[25] The joy of art experience, emerging out of the fictitious or imaginative situation induced from outside, but natural ideal state springs from inside, which is superior to common experience, is called 'rasa.' The aesthetic experience can lead to the superior experience by raising above imperfections through imitation.[31] There are nine rasa/sentiments. They are srṇgāra, hāsya, karuṇa, roudra, vīra, bhayānaka, bhībhatsya, adbhuta and śānta.

Among nine rasa, srṇgāra, hāsya, karuṇa, vīra, adbhuta, and śānta are classified as desirable rasa and bhībhatsya, bhayānaka, and roudra as undesirable.[27]

 The Methodology Proposed for Emotional Brain Training among Caregivers

Informal caregivers/parents from various schools, hospitals can be invited to participate or recruited through advertisement. The intervention protocol on Indian classical/aesthetic dance shall include movements with hands, neck, head, eyebrows, eyes, shoulders, chest, waist, thighs, shanks, and feet. The application of those movements shall flow by way of abhinaya set to songs and lyrics. Songs shall include various atmospheric splendors set to rāgās highlighting desirable rasa such as beauty, astonishment, calmness, courage, and comics. A short discussion on non-agreeable rasäs, their dimensions, and the consistent practice of dance on positive rasäs would help the caregivers to master over desirable rasas. [Table 3] depicts a specimen of rāgās, related rasa,[32] examples of lyrics used, emotions, and atmosphere to be described to create that emotion in the dance. It may help the caregivers to realize pratipakça bhāvanam and train themselves accept their disabled/disordered child or elder.{Table 3}

 Future Implications

According to the report of World Health Organization 2018, millions worldwide suffer from psychiatric or behavioral disorders, of which 8,00,000 committed suicide in 2015.[33] In this concern, this study addressing emotional aspects of caregivers has a good future implication for the following reasons:

Those women, need to coordinate most of the household responsibilities and also play the role of caregivers would be benefited from this therapy across the world. Life lessons and values embedded in songs and lyrics could help caregivers shed negative thoughts and polish positives. Indian classical dance set to Indian classical räga, which also carries all desirable rasa can enhance the positive effect in caregivers and facilitate neuroplasticity in the brain. Improved physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health can contributes to a healthy society. Performing artistes may be encouraged to explore the therapeutic application of Nätyaçästra in untouched areas. Other ancient scriptures of India could be unveiled for possible therapeutic applications.


Negative emotions can transform human personality to be unhealthy. Understanding the negative emotions, gradual neutralization, and replacing them with positive emotions can transform human personality into positive health. Though many therapies such as play therapy,[34] music therapy,[35],[36] and movement therapy[37],[38] are available, the elements of Indian classical dance integrate all the aspects of the above therapies.

Compared to play therapy, a variety of movements in Indian classical dances bring joy, following musical beats and notations. Ānġikā helps oneself to identify the beauty in the limbs and creative actions and can also be a good physical exercise. It tends to provide cultural meaning,[39] increased motor functioning, posture, and balance[40] as well.

Music listening is a passive activity while dancing is active. Dance is like a blossomed lotus in the pond of music. Though musical notes carry feelings by itself and convey the mood of the songs to the listeners, dance, supported by canons of expression communicate the meaning of each word of the song, that yield great bliss or rasa.[28]

Vācikā helps to go deep into the emotion of songs and dialogues word by word, facilitates the devotee to experience 'rasa' of the literature. Further, vācikābhinaya paves the way to the sāttvika abhinaya.

Sāttvika abhinaya makes the actor enter deep into the character to express and experience the connectedness with the character, that makes him experience spiritualization of rasa, to attains pure bliss. The persistent experience of this bliss tends to reverse the unhealthy psychological states into positive health.

This paper describes the underlying emotional aspects of dance to support patients in need of constant attention and caregivers in distress who have their life-long commitments to children and elders. It is a therapeutic postulate, waiting for clinical application.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.


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