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5Rhythms is a movement meditation practice devised by Gabrielle Roth in the 1960s. It draws from many indigenous and world traditions using tenets of shamanistic, ecstatic, mystical and eastern philosophy. It also draws from Gestalt, the human potential movement and transpersonal psychology.[1] Fundamental to the practice is the idea that everything is energy, and moves in waves, patterns and rhythms. Roth describes the practice as a soul journey, and says that by moving the body, releasing the heart, and freeing the mind, one can connect to the essence of the soul, the source of inspiration in which an individual has unlimited possibility and potential.

5Rhythms is a trademark owned by Gabrielle Roth, and the practice is only taught by certified teachers.


The practice focuses on putting the body in motion in order to still the mind and allow the student to connect to the spiritual. The five rhythms (in order) are:

  • flowing
  • staccato
  • chaos
  • lyrical
  • stillness

The five rhythms, when danced in sequence, are known as a "Wave." Many students practice the discipline in weekly classes, during which a typical "Wave" can take 45–90 minutes to dance, spending 10–20 minutes in each of the 5 rhythms in sequence. The dance is usually allowed to express itself with minimal instruction, with the teacher allowing the music (DJ'ed or live) to guide the pace of the class, coming in with instruction to connect the group, deepen focus and expand the range of movement. Intensive workshops are also offered for students, ranging from a single day to week long retreats, during which time teachers and students more deeply and purposefully explore each of the five rhythms, identifying how they relate to the individual (the body, the mind, the personality, the soul).

There are also untaught sessions referred to as a way for people to "Sweat Their Prayers", and for some students their weekly practice becomes their "church" or "temple",their place of spiritual expression; although the practice has no dogma and is not linked to any particular religious movement. It has been described by some as a mixture of a Friday Night Dance Club a Saturday Morning Aerobics class and a Sunday Morning Gospel Service. Elements from the following (varied) list can most likely be experienced or witnessed at any given class: traditional dance, ballet, pop, Latin, aerobics, yoga, tai chi, reiki, meditation, shamantic chanting... The practice includes a number of maps from which students can draw and use during guided meditation.

By putting the body in motion through each of the rhythms it is believed that one can deepen one's understanding of natural truth and the nature of humanity, and 'ground' the mind (and spirit) by connecting back to the body.

The Maps

The work is taught through a series of maps that explore the vast terrain of both the inner and outer worlds of individuals and their relationships to others and the space around them. The maps offer a soul journey by exploring embodiment, emotions, the life cycle, the psyche, and the archetypes. The rhythms offer understanding of our innate powers – being, loving, knowing, seeing and healing.

The first map, "Waves" teaches embodiment of the five distinct rhythms. To embody the rhythms means access to the deep internal wisdom that human bodies contain. The "Heartbeat" map teaches how people have embodied and how they express the emotions of fear, anger, sorrow, joy and compassion; while the "Cycles" map provides great insight and understanding about how one has internalized conditioning and relationships throughout the life cycle specifically in the stages of birth, childhood, puberty, maturity and death. Insight and understanding of the ego is delivered through the psyche map, "Mirrors".

While the practice is greatly transformative and can be deeply therapeutic, Gabrielle Roth does not describe it as a form of dance therapy. Many therapists have obtained a 5Rhythms certification to support their therapeutic practice.


Gabrielle’s influences in the early development of this work were psychotherapist Fritz Perls, anthropologist Gregory Bateson, the film maker Alejandro Jodorowsky and Oscar Ichazo. She spent much time in the 60’s at the Esalen Institute developing this work with the support of Michael Murphy and Dick Price.


The 5Rhythms has grown into an international movement with over 200 member teachers[2] who are mainly based in the US and Europe.

Moving Center Schools

Gabrielle conceived of the idea of offering her work through educational hubs in 1977. There are currently two Moving Center Schools. The Moving Center Schools are operated by core teachers — teachers who mostly have been with Gabrielle since the infancy of the 5Rhythms inception. The Moving Center Schools lead the development of individuals and certified teachers. The Moving Center in New York is where Gabrielle Roth and her son Jonathon Horan are based.

The Moving Center School in California is operated by Kathy Altman and Lori Saltzman. Andrea Juhan, PhD is also associated with California Moving Center School and has furthered the understanding of this work and its intersection with psychology through her work in Open Floor.


There is a limited amount of research about the 5Rhythms. The Mental Health Foundation, a UK charity published the 'Dancing for Living Report' describing a group of women's experience of 5Rhythms dance and the effects on their emotional wellbeing.[3]

The 5Rhythms Center for Therapeutic Study has collected and includes some academic articles on the 5Rhythms and its overlap with other fields on its website.

See also


  • Roth, Gabrielle; Maps to Ecstasy; 1989; Nataraj Publishing; Novato, CA
  • Roth, Gabrielle; Sweat Your Prayers; 1997; Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin; NY, NY
  • Roth, Gabrielle; Connections; 2004; Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin; NY, NY
  • Stewart, Iris; Sacred Dance;
  • North, Madelaine (February 20, 2005), "TALK OF THE TOWN: Just do it Rhythm is a dancer", Independent on Sunday, retrieved 2007-12-22 .
  1. Juhan, Andrea (2003), Open Floor: Dance, Therapy, and Transformation through the 5Rhythms. 
  2. List of teachers
  3. Cook, Sarah; Ledger, Karen; Scott, Nadine (2003), Dancing for Living Report: Women's experience of 5 Rhythms dance and the effects on their emotional wellbeing, Sheffield: U.K. Advocacy Network 

External links