THE BLOG
08/21/2014 02:39 pm ET Updated Oct 21, 2014

How Zumba Empowered Me to Keep Moving Forward No Matter What

Gina Ryder

You find yourself in Zumba class. You've always liked to dance, and you need a workout. Plus, the guy you thought you really wanted to be with isn't interested in a relationship with you. You assume he can't love you because you're overweight. You need to change that. Fast.

The instructor is slapping the hardwood floor. Ricky Martin is playing. You haven't heard "Living La Vida Loca" since middle school. You break into a huge grin. Following the instructor's cue, you pretend the floor is a bongo. It feels good to hit the ground to beat of Latin music. Hard.

Dance fitness acts like an emotional evaporator for you. Rejection sits heavy in your chest, and shimmying loosens the weight of feeling unwanted. The harder you move, the lighter you feel.

Four years pass. You stop dancing consistently, but you find yourself in a weekly Zumba class once more. On the surface, you are there because you want to stay fit and have fun. Deeper than that, you know it's because your best friend stopped speaking to you, and you need to find yourself again.

You thought you could earn love by changing your body. If you strive to be happy and thin, you could win back a friendship and achieve romantic pursuit. Why was love such a shallow meritocracy to you? You know you wanted pure intimacy, and you felt like you got so close to having it, except you didn't acknowledge the fact that there is no place for the standard of perfection to live in a safe attachment with yourself or someone else.

Your body moves on the dance floor, and the spirit of unworthiness flees. The solid wind of security starts to take its place. Gracefully, what happened with your crush and friend were catalysts to something much bigger. Didn't getting rejected help you move to New York and pursue your writing dreams? Sure, but the lessons are still expanding. You even lost the weight too, and it's hardly the factor you previously thought it was. Didn't losing a close friend help you find your place professionally and personally? Yes, but you still grieve for both relationships sometimes. Dancing Zumba makes you feel better.

Instinctively, you know you want to become a dance fitness instructor. Zumba isn't your sole passion, but like many workouts it resets you physically and emotionally. Unlike many workouts, it's insanely fun. You want others to experience this lively affair. You find the steps so accessible. Anyone can do it. Could you be the person leading the charge? For a long time, you swallow and bury your desire to teach.

My main obstacle to living the life of my dreams (which included teaching Zumba classes) was your mind. During one workout, you leave halfway through because the tempo of the intense Latin music matches the pace of your brain. Your thoughts spiral violently out of your head: You are not a good dancer. You can't always keep up with everyone. Have you seen how your stomach looks in the mirrored wall of the studio? Zumba is a silly phase you will be embarrassed by when you're older. Why in the world would you want to teach this? Your students would just laugh at you. You have no friends and no boyfriend. It will always be like this.

The voices of condemnation paired with the hurried movement puts you in a dizzy suffocation. Out of breath, you inhale deep and consider not going to class ever again. Maybe your chaotic thoughts are true. You started doing this for an ego boost. You laugh remembering the early days of Zumba when a neighborhood passerby asks if you are Jennifer Lopez when you are walking down the street. You look nothing like J-Lo, but you feel like her in the dance studio. That delighted sentiment is good weaponry to hurl at the hateful thoughts that crop up.

You talk over the sound of insecurity. You are enjoying this class. You would make a great Zumba teacher! Maybe you don't need such deep soul connections with friends and lovers right now as much as you think you do. You are becoming more intimate with yourself and God. Maybe you just need to have some fun. You start to squat with an enormous smile. Bouncing as artistically as possibly, you spring back from pain that has kept you from what the future holds.

You sign up for your Zumba instructor training. You release the drive to lead the freedom dance that has surged and pulsed within you. You tell yourself that you are too sophisticated to don the official Zumba wear. When your package arrives in the mail with the flowy purple workout racer back tank with the words "Feel the Music" on the back and "Zumba" emblazoned in gold on the front, you are ecstatic. You get licensed to teach the fitness class marveling at why you didn't do it sooner.

It's not that you longed to do exaggerated lunges to the sound of Pitbull's sultry grunts or salsa to Gloria Estefan (okay, maybe the second one; perhaps every human soul could benefit from a little "Conga"), it's that you got in touch with a part of who you are. Even as a little girl, you made up routines to '90s rap songs on elementary school play dates. On the dance floor at a family wedding you were all hyped up on Shirley Temples, jumping around to oldies at 8 years old. Despite the sheer joy you felt as a kid, there was still fear to fight. One year after that family wedding was a family party where you sat at a table all night even though there was a DJ playing favorites like "I Like to Move it Move It" and "Aint No Mountain High Enough."

You said, "maybe later" if anyone suggested you go out on the dance floor. You felt nervous that people wouldn't think you were cool if they saw you let your guard down. You felt ashamed about your unfiltered moves at the wedding the year before. Sadly, the party was over before you danced a single step.

Zumba's slogan is "join the party." One of the best decisions I ever made was joining the party. There is rarely a "maybe later" in life or dance. Moving in the moment is the only way to heal sometimes. Dancing is possible without a boyfriend. One day you hope you have a great partner. As for friends, you need those but not just one best friend. No single earthy individual can be responsible for your happiness.

A diverse group of friends old and new are sprouting up as you groove through life, each relationship serving a different purpose on your journey. As they come and go, you opt to keep the love and compassion for others and yourself emanating along with the feel-good endorphins. And when you find yourself in a Zumba class, you don't just sweat off calories; you shake off all that holds you back and you encourage others to do the same.

This story is part of a HuffPost Healing, a Huffington Post series about physical, mental and emotional healing. Have you had an experience with healing? If so, we'd love to hear it. For Gina, it was learning from failed relationships. What was it for you? Reach out by e-mailing healing@huffingtonpost.com.

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