The Intentional Structure of a Classic Nia Class

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Did you know there are seven cycles to every classic Nia class? If you have experienced Nia with me, you are likely aware of a few of these, but maybe not all. Let’s take a closer look at the meaning and value of these different cycles, and how they can enhance your experience of the whole. 

Cycle One: Setting the Focus and Intent for Class

We begin each class with a focus and intent. This is a way of narrowing the field of awareness to a particular area throughout the class. It helps give purpose and structure to the particular class and invites a new experience of what may be a familiar routine. I love the way the focus brings intimacy and new awareness to my movements, my listening, my experience of the whole, and what I am noticing in my students and myself. In my experience, a focus can completely transform a routine simply by shifting my awareness. 

Cycle Two: Stepping In

This is the part of class when we consciously leave behind distractions and take two (or more) steps forward (or back) to become fully body-centered and ready for class. I like to think of it as a kind of entry point into the class experience, like a portal I am stepping through, in which sensation and pleasure reign supreme and my body is Art in motion! 

Cycle Three: Warming Up

Now we begin to move. We actively seek to mobilize all thirteen major joints of the body: ankles (2), knees (2), hips (2), whole spine (1), shoulders (2), elbows (2), and wrists (2). This is done through a combination of choreography and guided FreeDance. This cycle generally continues for the first song or two of a routine. We keep our movements smaller, softer, and use this beginning time to actively check in with our bodies as we warm up. We move through the three planes of movement —low, middle, high— actively engaging with all the space, inside and out. We use awareness of breath to sense the inside of our experience. 

Cycle Four: Get Moving

We now come to the heart of the class, the main portion of movement, and, eventually, the climax of cardiovascular —even anaerobic— intensity of the workout. In this cycle we are actively checking in with our energetic levels, asking ourselves if we have reached ‘enough’ or if we have more to give. We aim to sense an energetic edge, wherever that lies for us — on any given day it will be different: level one, two, or three. We check in with our CPT, Conscious Personal Trainer, throughout this cycle, and perform regular body scans. Where is my breath? How am I feeling? Am I holding tension? Can I increase the intensity of my movement while maintaining a relaxed jaw? Are my feet relaxing and rooting on the earth when I am in stances, or am I gripping the ground with my toes? Am I getting an intense enough workout? Am I choosing pleasure? Am I listening to my body’s way and following my natural time? These are some of the questions that may guide us during cycle four, and throughout class. 

Cycle Five: FloorPlay

This cycle wins the flirty name prize! It’s one of the cycles that has grown on me over the ten years I have been practicing and teaching Nia. During this cycle, which may last anywhere from two or three songs, to half a song or less, we are moving up and down off the floor, or moving entirely on the floor. This cycle invites a new relationship with gravity simply by changing our orientation to the earth. We use our own body weight to condition our muscles by pushing, shifting, reaching, rolling, twisting, spiraling, lengthening, folding, pulling, sliding, gliding, and resting. We use pauses to listen, and we generally move seamlessly into cycle six…

Cycle Six: Cooling Down

Already on the floor, in most cases, this cycle takes us to a slower pace. We now sense our breath soften and our body welcomes the respite from the higher intensity movement. We may stretch, roll, rest, or remain still during this cycle. Sometimes the Cool Down” cycle comes before or alongside the “FloorPlay” cycle. Regardless, we relax and begin to take it easy. We intuitively begin to sense gratitude for the practice, and everything that made today’s practice  possible: our body, mind, spirit, emotions, our community, the space, our teacher, the Nia technique. We receive these gifts of awareness as the end of class approaches. 

Cycle Seven: Stepping Out

In the final cycle of class, we consciously bring our practice to a close. We pause and reflect on how we are feeling in the moment. We receive the gifts of our grounded yet energized being, an entire sense of well-being inside and out. We intentionally leave behind whatever is no longer serving our greatest good, and we take two steps out, onto the path that is ours, free and clear of obstacles…

Voilà! There you have it, all seven cycles of a classic Nia class. My hope is that this brief description of each will enhance your appreciation of the whole, and invite you to bring even more awareness to where you are in the class at any given point. Just like a human life, and all the lifeforms of the natural world, the hour-long class moves through stages of development, growing in intensity, fulfilling its potential and purpose, then reaching completion in an organic way. Allow yourself to receive the quality of Universal Joy present at each stage, honoring where you are at in the whole at any given moment. 


Nia's 5 Stages of Healing

Nia's 5 Stages of Healing

Nia’s five stages of healing is a mindful movement practice that allows you to deepen your connection to your body’s wisdom by moving organically on the floor and in space.

Winter Solstice: Embracing Darkness, Noticing What Is Present

So many of my fears stem from ideas I have made up, ungrounded in reality as I’ve experienced it. If there is an inkling of my lived experience behind it, it is only that, a filament of some thought that I have grown into a full fledged Thing on my own. 

Darkness is like that for me. I can walk in the darkness and think up all kinds of terrifying thoughts that would have me turn on my heels back to the nearest light source. I can feel that way, too, about the shadows of my inner landscape. Discomfort? Anger? Pain? No thanks! I’ll turn the other way and try to wish them away. 

It turns out that, for me, wishing doesn’t make it so. 

What do I notice when I continue my walk through darkness? Sounds. I notice sounds all around that usually go unremarked. Whether it’s the sound of my own steps, the wind rustling leaves, creatures scurrying, other humans, sounds become amplified. 

I notice my thoughts too. I am so quick to make assumptions about what could be making certain sounds, so quick to see something in the shadows, to perceive a threat. 

The same is true for my inner landscape. How painful pain can be! I judge it, make assumptions about it and myself and others. I try to look away, distract myself, seek escape. By acknowledging the discomfort, asking for help, seeking and receiving sound guidance, and taking right action, I can face my deepest fears in the light of my awareness. I get to appreciate how the fears get made in me, and I get to disassemble them and look at the component parts… then practice walking through them.

This time of year reminds me of the beauty of the nocturnal. Our planet is now tilted at the maximum angle away from the home star we call Sun. As we spin and speed around our life-giving star, we are — as part of a solar system, part of a galaxy, part of a web of galaxies, and even greater web of cosmic matter infinitely unfolding and revealing itself to our curiosity— made of light and dark. That great space that we dwell in, that outlasts all that we’ve known and will ever know, that infinitely creative power that gives rise to us and all that Is… that space is dark, light travels through it, the space itself is dark. We come from the darkness and to it we return in a beautiful, unending mystery. 

To fear the darkness is to fear the air I breathe, the matter that I’m made of, the context for all that is and will ever be. Space is infinite and so is darkness. Let me hold out my hands tonight, soften my heart, quiet my thinking mind, and invite my awareness of what is present to accompany me for the walk of a lifetime. 

“What is the nearest major  galaxy  to our own  Milky Way Galaxy ? Andromeda. In fact, our Galaxy is thought to look much like  Andromeda . Together these two galaxies dominate the  Local Group  of galaxies. The diffuse light from  Andromeda  is caused by the hundreds of billions of  star s that compose it. The several distinct stars that surround  Andromeda 's image are actually stars in  our Galaxy  that are well in front of the background object. […] it takes about two million years for light to reach us from there. “ - https://apod.nasa.gov/apod

“What is the nearest major galaxy to our own Milky Way Galaxy? Andromeda. In fact, our Galaxy is thought to look much like Andromeda. Together these two galaxies dominate the Local Group of galaxies. The diffuse light from Andromeda is caused by the hundreds of billions of stars that compose it. The several distinct stars that surround Andromeda's image are actually stars in our Galaxy that are well in front of the background object. […] it takes about two million years for light to reach us from there. “ - https://apod.nasa.gov/apod

Sensing Difference, Growing Gratitude: Lessons from “Zensation”

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This week I started teaching the classic Nia routine by Debbie Rosas, Zensation

Zensation delivers classic Nia, yet feels different to me in how it’s structured and focused. 

STRUCTURE

Through each of the nine songs on the Nia Sounds album, we are invited to focus on one of Nia’s nine movement forms. My experience has been a revelation in sensing more fully what each influence brings to the whole of what I have come to know and love as Nia. 

ENERGY FLAVORS

Each movement form offers a unique energy, a flavor all its own. 

When I taste Jazz Dance, for example, it’s as if I have stepped into a sequined bodysuit, complete with top hat and cane. The fun, showmanship and expressiveness of this dance art comes through every fiber of my being. My face wakes up, my eyes engage and spark, my hands feel ten times bigger and my whole being radiates the sense of being in the spotlight.

Tae Kwon Do has a very different feel. I now imagine myself in martial arts uniform, black belt tied around my hips. I feel the power of the earth through my feet, my core alive with fire breath, yang energy channeled out through my strong and precise limb movements. The dance of precision, Tae Kwon Do gives me the feeling of power and strength in every move. 

I could go on… and what I love about Zensation is that we get to! We journey through all nine movement forms that together form the Nia Technique:

Song One: Feldenkrais, the awareness of sensation

Song Two: Tai Chi, the slow dance

Song Three: Jazz, the dance of showmanship and fun

Song Four: Modern, the dance of creative shape-making

Song Five: Duncan, the dance of free-spirited athleticism

Song Six: Tae Kwon Do, the dance of precision

Song Seven: Aikido, the dance of harmonious spherical motion

Song Eight: Yoga, the conscious alignment of bones

Song Nine: The Alexander Technique, movement from the top

I invite you to join me in December for this unique Nia routine that allows us to experience the energy allies in each movement form. Zensation teaches us to harness each in our own Body’s Way, and to play with curiosity to create something new for ourselves, together, in this dance of Life. 

Find your next Nia class with me here… Let’s step in!  

Marathon Success!

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It happened! I completed my fourth full marathon on September 30th of this year, and raised over $2300 for the Portland Community Free Clinic in the process, thanks to the generosity of community members, friends and family.

I ran dressed as the Resilient Rose, embodying the feminine spirit and the strength of perseverance! Whether it’s the fight for universal health care, equal pay, justice, or the freedom of expression… persevering pays off!

May we never give up, on each other, on ourselves, and on doing what is best for our planet.

Nia at the Common Ground Fair

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It was such a joy to share the Nia Technique with fair goers in Unity, Maine, once again this year. My Nia sister and Maine Nia Blue Belt Teacher, Anna Fiedler, joined me in offering Nia moves from the classic routine by Nia creator, Debbie Rosas, Vibe. Our focus was on the five sensations of fitness: Flexibility, Agility, Mobility, Strength, and Stability. We embodied what Nia teaches so well: personalizing the experience of fitness through awareness of sensation.

My wholehearted thanks to all who joined us for the “Taste of Nia” this year!