Posts Tagged ‘dance’


The Fool card

The Fool card from my Oracle Card deck

The Fool: Beginner’s Mind. Stepping into the Unknown. Spontaneity. Trusting the process.

It’s challenging for me to be a beginner. To acknowledge my mistakes and use them as learning tools, instead of weapons. I’m a recovering perfectionist with high standards. While I have generally learned to adjust my standards to a more realistic level, I still sometimes find myself doubting my abilities when I’m learning something new.

I step into teaching Nia and I am determined. I practice often, I watch the DVD to review the moves and cueing. When I don’t get something the first or fourth time, I listen, watch, and try again.

I step into teaching and I am vulnerable. After class, I sometimes have this feeling like I’ve just shared an important piece of myself. It’s vulnerable to show where I am in the learning process. I’m not exactly polished; there is a rawness to some of my movements. I I stumble at times, which sometimes causes the students to stumble or pause. In those moments, I make a mental note and keep going.

I’ve been given a gift: One of my Nia teachers, who teaches three classes a week, needed a little bit of a break. She offered me one of her weekly classes for the next two months, which is most of my remaining time here before my wedding and move. Yes, I have to pay rent to the studio, but I don’t have to promote my own class. I can still dance with my regular early morning Nia community – I get to teach people I know.  While subbing for my teachers, I appreciate the experience, and it’s not consistent enough. In order to learn to teach, I need to teach regularly. For the next two months, I’ll be teaching every Monday.

Now, I have the opportunity to practice. I get to practice being a beginner. I get to practice hearing my doubts, the voices that speak to frustration. I’m learning to hear what they have to say, take any useful feedback, and keep going.

I’m learning. I’m beginning. There’s something beautiful and raw about a time where not knowing gradually becomes knowing. Where doing something new slowly becomes an intentional practice. And hopefully, where teaching Nia becomes a vital and regular part of my life.


Nia: Continuing to step in

I have now been practicing Nia for two years. As of this week, I have taught five Nia classes, filling in as needed when my teachers are on vacation.

When I’m in the middle of teaching, I am very present. I stumble at times, and I keep going.  I also find more ways to play, to be silly, to decide and say things in the moment.

Sometimes, afterwards, I feel exposed, vulnerable. Like I’ve opened myself to others and it was beautiful and heart-ful and also very deep. Sometimes, when I get home after teaching, I want to crawl underneath the covers for a few minutes and stay there. In reality, I don’t, but I acknowledge the feeling. I tell myself to keep going, that this feeling doesn’t mean that something is wrong or out of place. The truth is: as I dance more, as I teach more, the more in place I feel. There’s something about this that feels natural, and other parts of it feel uncomfortable. It is exposing. It is new. And it also feels like home.

I find myself thinking: I want to do this more. My body and spirit crave it.

On Tuesday, I found myself giving suggestions for modifications for someone with an injured hip and I realized I sound like I know what I’m talking about. I’m going to check an anatomy book out of the library so I can become more familiar with specific muscle names.

I see the ripple move throughout my life, the confidence I’m gaining, how the strength and agility of my body helps me feel like I’m more solidly here. The way I experience music continues to change, the way I sense the beat and how I move to it. I feel more connected to the energy and around me, more connected to myself.

Friday Link Roundup 5/20

How to Avoid the Trap of Self Improvement. How self-compassion and mindfulness may be more important than striving for a set goal.

There are many types of grief. This article addresses three that aren’t often discussed.

I didn’t know Emily Dickinson was an amateur botanist. Knowing this fact kind of makes me want to go back and read her poems in a new light. The Lost Gardens of Emily Dickinson.

“See what it looks like when you teach women in prison to dance.

Natural Time

As I mentioned in this post, I’m currently focusing on one Nia White Belt principle per month as part of a self-study/continuing education process.

This past month, I focused on Nia Principle #2, Natural Time and Movement Forms.

I’ll start with Natural Time.

Natural time incorporates measurement – the measurement of time and space, of movement.  It calls to attention the 13 main joints of the body and the 20 digits (fingers and toes). It involves one’s pace and staying true to what feels natural (for that particular day, period of life, etc).  We live in a world where time is often rigidly scheduled and regimented. Natural Time gives us permission to let go of that when we can.

When I think of natural time, I think of my own internal rhythm.  I think of slowing down when I need to; not rushing.  I think of being out in nature, where time is relative to the position of the sun and the amount of light.

I think of noticing my pace, how fast I am moving.  How far can I leap?  Or how little?

Rushing does not necessarily help but being conscious and present does.

Natural time helps me be more aware of my joints, how they bend and stretch.  It gives me a better since of the distance between things as I move across the dance floor and through life.  It allows me to become more aware of my own nervous system, and how it needs its own time and space to adapt.  Natural time gives me permission to move, learn, and heal at my own pace.

Stepping in: Teaching my first Nia class

I taught my first full Nia class today. One of my main teachers had a work-related training and asked me to substitute for her. Over the past week, we had gone over the steps of opening and closing the studio, how to hook up and turn on the music and the microphone. As for the content of the class…well, I’ve been learning and practicing for months.

And so this morning, as a hint of snow fell from the sky, I walked into the studio. I was fairly calm as I set things up. There was time to breathe and wait for people to come. Four students came. It was a small class, and enough. 

We stepped in; my focus was play. I asked them shake off anything they didn’t need to keep with them during class. I switched on the music and began. 

Sometimes I felt out of sync, leading with imperfect steps, and I kept going. I know my enthusiasm, my playfulness, my love of Nia came through. Sometimes, I felt so incredibly present – the steps were there and they mattered, but the experience was about so much more than the steps of the choreography. It was about being with myself, being with others, being in the moment,

The body and movement are sources of inspiration, wellness, vitality, vibration, connection. I know that doing Nia as a student helps regulate me; as a teacher, it stretches me to the edge of my capacity and allows me to hold more, even if just for the duration of a class. 

There’s a spiritual element in teaching, too, that feels somewhat akin to leading a centering exercise or a blessing/prayer. I remember being in my White Belt training and realizing that the best way to feel grounded and safe was to be fully in my body; that  through being connected to my body, I could also be more spiritual, emotional, and connected with the energy around me. This connection feels stronger to me when I teach. 

Today, I found my breath at points where it became ragged. I found spaces to step to the side and take sips of water. I found spaces to soften when I needed to. Still, it is a different kind of workout to move while using my voice while my heart is beating quickly, and I have to be very conscious of my breath. I now feel a little stiff, a little more winded than usual. I also feel strong. 

After we were done, after we stepped out, one of my friends – another Nia morning class regular – came up to me and gave me a hug, telling me I did a good job. “I remember when you first taught a song; you seemed unsure and a little unsteady. And now…what a difference.”

I felt exhilarated afterward, and that energy carried me for at least an hour more until I felt the waves of tiredness hit me. This was a big step for me. It is the first full movement class I have ever taught. And it is the first full class of any kind I have taught since I last co-facilitated a class in San Diego nearly two years ago. 

Although I am tired now, I can still feel the sensations of the experience in my body and spirit. I know I want to teach again. I want to continue strengthening my Nia practice as a student and teacher. This practice feeds me, brings me a joy beyond words. 

This language of dance

My breath: ragged. Heart beating quickly. Navigating a new city is a question mark. I try to plan ahead: which lanes turn into right turn only lanes? I ask. My love writes out the route on a piece of lined paper.  As I drive, I realize I can only anticipate so much.

Despite my thoughts, in the midst of my nervous system crying out at the newness of it all, I get there. From the outside, it might even have looked relatively smooth.

I take a deep breath and walk across the parking lot, up the stairs, and I open the door to the yoga studio where the Nia class is held. Breathe. Open. Introduce myself, allow it just to be a simple greeting, allow myself to answer the teacher’s questions.

When I step in, I still feel my system on alert. In time, as I dance, I find my feet and calm my thoughts. I remind myself that while I may have a a future in this city that involves teaching Nia, in this moment, I am mostly here as a student and dancer. I am here with my feet on the ground, and I want to allow myself to be. And in time, I do: finding the rhythm, the movement, my voice.

It’s like finding a piece of home in this city, where the familiar steps of Nia bring me back to myself. I know, even if I feel anxious about putting myself out there, that there is a community waiting for me in the people who speak this language of movement, this language of dance.

Dancer, teacher, energy holder


The Nia Technique logo – this necklace was a birthday gift

Another milestone: Last Sunday, I taught at my first Nia dance jam.

The energy at these jams is always high.  Since there are several teachers (6 at this one, including me), there are students from many of the classes, so it’s a greater reflection of the local Nia community.  Although I somtimes attend larger classes, I’m used to my small morning classes, which maybe stretch to 8 people at most.  Larger classes require more body and spatial awareness: how close am I to the person next to me, if I turn or take a step back, how close will I be to them, and will I run into them.  Smaller classes allow more freedom of movement, stretching, taking up space.

Also, each teacher has a different energy and teaching style.  In this case, one teacher is fiery and athletic; another is soft and playful; another is energetic and empathetic, and so on.  We each bring ourselves to the dance floor, and the combination raises the energy of each teacher’s personal style and weaves them together.

When I teach, I have to be aware of the people around me and also give myself permission to take up space.  Put on the headset, use my voice, calm and steady.  Notice if the volume of the microphone on the headset is loud enough in contrast to the music, or if I need to make any adjustments.  Be present, be in the movement, and be with everyone else.

I made a request before the jam: that we, the teachers, connect and set intentions beforehand. We did, and I think that moment helped us move and teach together with more ease.

I was slightly out of breath when it was time for me to teach the cool down songs.  I gradually found my breath, slowed myself down; encouraged everyone to pause, to sense.  The cool down songs in Nia often have more free and softer choreography; there’s an open invitation to rest, to give your body what it needs as the routine winds down.

I had a moment where I made a joke and was able to laugh, where I followed the energy as I led the class from one yoga pose to another. I ended with sending gratitude to the pulse of each person’s heart, to the pulse of community, and to the pulse of life all around us.

I had this great sense of relief and accomplishment after, and a sense of sinking deeper into my Nia teaching practice. I was tired but also high from the energy of dancing in community, and from being an active holder of that energy.