Posts Tagged ‘Nia’

Holding space through Nia

Someone asked me if I was willing to reschedule my Nia class yesterday because of Sunday’s shooting. She was going to a vigil at her church.

I understand her wanting to be able to do both, and how other events have come up in the aftermath of the tragedy, and how it has disrupted people’s lives (especially locally). Aside from the logistical aspects, like the class was in three hours and rescheduling a rental space is easier said than done, my thought was:

No. I need this. We need this.

In some ways teaching and going to a Nia class after a tragedy is a reprieve from the updates from the constant news cycle; the local press conferences; the updates from friends; even the pain of grief, shock, dismay, and other emotions. For me, it was like taking a long deep breath after a day of short, shallow breathing.

It’s also an opportunity to come together, to process emotions, to be with what has happened. Sometimes it’s direct; at other times, it’s indirect. It’s holding space for people to be where they’re at, to feel how they’re feeling, and move through it.

At the end of class, I felt calmer and clearer than I had all day. All the emotions I’d been experiencing were still there, but I felt less tense. It was a blessing to have this space, this Nia class, and to share the experience with others.

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Moving to Heal reflections

M2H-LOGO-2015

 

It’s been three months since I took the Moving to Heal training in Santa Fe. Moving to Heal is a Nia training geared towards adapting movement to enhance the healing process. This can include healing from a physical injury, moving through depression, working with aging populations, and more.

It was my first time meeting Debbie Rosas, co-founder of Nia and a force of nature in her own right. Initially, I was a little intimidated by the idea of meeting her and taking a training from her. From the weekend I spent with her, I can say that she’s an incredible source of Nia wisdom. She’s curious, loves to learn, and has great passion for what she does. I heard from others that she was softer at this training than they’d observed and experienced at other trainings. Since it is largely about self-healing, Moving to Heal requires a softer touch, and she held that type of space for the weekend beautifully.

Dancing, Studio Nia Santa Fe

Painting on one of the walls of the Nia studio

Reflections on what struck me, moved me, made me think:

The first day concentrated mainly on self-healing, on following the body. While I’ve gotten better at this, I still sometimes am more focused on the moves and having the movement help me feel a certain way. I realized during a recent bodywork session that I often want an “easy fix” when I’m experiencing physical pain or discomfort, and it doesn’t always work that way; it often takes more time. Tuning in and asking my body what it needs and following that can lead to more awareness and even a shift in sensation.

The second day, which was a little more externally focused, we did exercises where we limited at least one of our senses so we could have more of a sense of what it might be like for people who can’t hear, see, or move as well. I chose hearing and put earplugs in. It brought my attention more into my body and into each sensation; my intereoception (sense of the internal) was more activated as a result.  However, it also meant that I was straining to hear the music and Debbie’s voice. She said, “Close your eyes,” at one point. I did, and it was even harder to hear. It was as though I had been cut off from the room and the experience. Those who limited their vision (by putting Vaseline on eyeglasses) said that they felt like their hearing became more acute, but it was disorienting and even dizzying to not be able to fully see what was going on. It’s very easy to take being able-bodied and having full (or close to full) ability in the senses for granted; it was eye-opening to gain insight on what it might be like for someone with these limitations to do a chair Nia class.

Speaking of chair Nia: It’s definitely different. We first tried it at the end of the first day without much instruction, just rotated among several Nia teachers in the room, following their movements. It was playful, silly, sometimes intense, sometimes more gentle. The next morning, Debbie gave us more tips about doing Nia in a chair: first, use your core and your upper and lower extremities as much as possible. Without doing that, she said, we — and our students — would be more likely to be sore afterwards. While movement is more limited in a chair, it’s also active in a different way. It requires creativity in doing adjustments or modifications. I can, for example, do choreography/moves originally intended for the feet with my hands. Or I can modify on the ground with small foot and leg movements. Or I can stop altogether and just follow the movements with my eyes. There are so many options that I normally don’t think of when I’m dancing or teaching. With all the options, doing Nia in a chair seems less limited and more like a different experience.

The second day, we played with some of the 52 moves, and it was great to see how I could repeat one move in a variety of ways. Repetition doesn’t have to be boring or limiting, and there can be variations within it.

There were also moments that were sweet, such as connecting with a partner during an exercise and creating a deep sense of safety and security. At the beginning, each of us danced in the center of the circle when Debbie called our names, one by one, creating the space.

There was connecting with other Nia people, sharing our love of this holistic form of dance fitness, creating a strong sense of community. Spending time with dear friends and meeting new ones.

I remember the conversation during the first day’s lunch, when I shared with my assigned group about how Nia had helped me with depression and my sensory processing issues. Nia has been so healing for me, and I want to continue that process. I want to be able to share that with others.

I’m still sitting with how to take my Moving to Heal practice to the next level — I’d like to be able to teach a regular Moving to Heal class at some point soon. That requires having a space and regular students, and I’m still figuring out how to establish that. In Nia, we refer to “natural time,” doing things in the time needed, at my own pace, as they unfold. I remind myself of that when I feel time pressure, when I want to start doing things right this instant. I’m taking steps. And in the meantime, I’m learning new routines and occasionally reading the materials/guidebooks.  I can also continue my own self-healing movement practice at home.

Sometimes, it can be fun to “turn up” the Nia moves to the highest level, full expression, more of a cardio workout. There is also a lot of value and beauty in slowing and scaling the movements way down. When I slow down, I can sense better into where I’m at, how I’m feeling, and what my body needs. While I can certainly turn to the external and explore how I can give that experience to others, I move first for myself, for my own self-healing. And that is what I learned and received from the Moving to Heal training.

Trying out the movement forms: Contemporary Dance.

Nia is based on the energies and movement forms of the dance arts, healing arts, and martial arts.
I have been curious if trying out some of these movement forms individually would help me gain insight and more body awareness in my Nia practice, and possibly help me on the whole. The dance arts include modern dance, jazz dance, and Duncan dance. In January, I tried a contemporary dance class.

I had taken a few modern dance classes before, but it was more of a sampling: a few in sixth grade, a lesson as part of my Dance History course in college, and a class with my expressive arts movement teacher.

The contemporary dance class I took over a month ago was the first I’d taken since before I started taking Nia classes. I vaguely remembered my experiences before: it was sometimes challenging for me to feel fluid and present in the moves. I remember feeling self-conscious as I moved across the floor.
This time around, I was in better physical shape and could keep up better. When the teacher talked about the 8-count, I could hear it in the music. I have more body awareness.

We started with a 20-minute warm-up. I realized then that while I could keep up to a certain extent, I wasn’t in that kind of shape. I haven’t done that kind of intense conditioning, at least not consistently. Also, a big part of the class was learning a section of a routine. Since it was a mixed-level class, there were varying degrees of skill and experience. I felt like I was straining to keep up.  Also, I’m still not that familiar with modern dance/ballet terms.

Nia allows more freedom; this dance class required more precision. Having to learn parts of a routine within a short period of time also makes it feel more performance-based. Nia involves more simultaneous leading and following; this class involved a demonstration, trying it out, more demonstrating, and trying it out again.

Overall, I care less than I did before about whether I do things right or wrong. I know from my experience in learning Nia routines that repetition is key, and sometimes I will repeat movements again and again and again until I get it, and sometimes that’s after many times of fumbling. I have to throw away thoughts of good or bad and be with what is. My perfectionist tendencies can get in the way of moving freely, so I often acknowledge the thoughts and then push them to the side and continue moving. Overall, this meant that I was less hesitant about trying the movements. I was still somewhat self-conscious, but I went into it and did the best that I could.

I would say that that particular class wasn’t the best fit for me. If I could find a beginning contemporary/modern dance class, that might be more my style. It would be ideal for me begin closer to the beginning, to be able to keep up more easily with others in the class. What I did take away was that more warm-up and conditioning could be helpful for me in my regular movement practice.

Stepping through and past stuck-ness.

I remember taking Intro to Drawing in college. I went to a college with a block plan, which meant I took one class intensively for three and a half weeks. That meant my mornings were filled with instruction and demonstrations, and I spent my afternoons and evenings doing homework.

At some point in the middle of the course, as we were working on drawing boxes with dimensions, shading, and foreshortening, I began to feel stuck. I wasn’t the only one; the professor commented that many of us seemed stuck within the technique. We weren’t necessarily having fun. I know that I was focused on getting it “right,” and there wasn’t a lot of joy in it.

So my professor gave us a creative assignment, to draw whatever we liked, to draw without a subject, be abstract, whatever we needed to be. For me, it had the effect of shaking off the previous weight and allowing me learn the techniques while being a little less attached to the final result, and most of all, enjoying the process of working with the materials, such as ink and charcoal.

Sometimes, as I continue to deepen my practice of Nia and learn how to teach, I get caught in getting in wanting to be accurate, precise. I’ll get some feedback, I’ll think about it, I’ll take it into my movements. And maybe, as I practice, my movements will become more precise. But sometimes in this process, I lose the sense of pleasure in my movement. And since White Belt Principle #1 in Nia is the Joy of Movement, and Nia is something I genuinely enjoy, this feels problematic and counterproductive. During these times, I feel stuck in a similar way that I did in my college drawing class — in short, creatively stymied.

The other night, I went searching through emails from Nia Headquarters, trying to find a specific phrase that another teacher had referenced. Instead, I found this, a section from a newsletter written by Debbie Rosas, co-founder of Nia:

“If you’re feeling overwhelmed, know this – feeling overwhelmed comes from believing that you have to perform a certain way and at a certain time….Learning Nia has never been about performing. It is about connecting, relationships, joy, meaning, purpose, health, and well-being. And about saying what you sense and know. The result of doing Nia has always been the gift of self-healing and conditioning.

“I’m here to tell you: I don’t care if you miss the music cue or you cue between the three and the six. It is okay if you can’t do all the moves perfectly. It is okay if you can’t find the beat. What is not okay is if you deny what you know and don’t know. That keeps you down and stops you from getting where you want to go and be…”

I read this and felt relieved almost instantly. Yes, it’s important that I continue to learn and improve. It is absolutely essential that I continue to play, be creative, and enjoy what I do. Yesterday, I danced through a routine and focused only on finding and sharing what I sense. I gave myself permission to Free Dance through parts of it, too.  Afterward, I felt both more grounded and more joyful. It was good reminder for myself that I don’t have to tackle a bunch of approaches at once; one or two at a time can be more than enough, and that it doesn’t necessarily have to look a certain way.

And some more encouragement for me: Today, I talked to a studio owner about teaching Nia there, and I’m planning to teach a series (likely in April!) to try it out. So here’s to taking steps towards what I want to do.

 

Beginning.

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.

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.