Expressing Myself Through Nia
- 2011 January-February
I practice the Nia Technique, a dynamic fusion of moves from dance, martial arts, and healing arts that integrates body, mind, emotions, and spirit. The workout leaves me drenched with sweat but feeling energized, deeply relaxed, and blessed with a sense of well-being. Nia, however, isn’t like a traditional group exercise class or an ecstatic dance practice; it differs in many ways. Here are just a few:
The first cycle of class — stepping into the space and releasing all distractions — allows me to tune in to where I am, physically and emotionally, in that moment. It prepares me to gently move into those places that yearn for more mobility and to adjust my movement around those places that need a little extra care. “Stepping in” sets the stage for moving with awareness.
Moving together in synchrony with others nurtures a sense of belonging. I progress through a range of feelings, that pass through my body in bursts and flows of sweat and sound, as I move to music of varying speeds, emotional tones, and intensities. The sassy, teasing, playful moves of jazz dance, for example, make me feel sexy and bold. The childlike play of Duncan dance allows me to forget about being an adult and revel in the sensual pleasure of my dance.
The awareness of line and form of modern dance allows me to connect with the other dancers and with the space, as an individual relating to the whole and maintaining an appreciation of how all the parts contribute to the beauty of the whole. It leaves me with a sense of peacefulness and completion.
The martial arts stances, blocks, and kicks build strength and stability in the base of the body, helping me to develop a sense of personal power, with which I can express my yes or an unambiguous no, and set healthy boundaries. The grounded flow from Aikido nurtures a different sense of power and grace in the body, and equanimity in the mind. The slow, balancing moves of Tai Chi build intrinsic strength and stability. Both the Aikido and Tai Chi moves connect me to the life force energy of chi, producing a feeling of aliveness, peacefulness, and connectedness, and contribute to the sense of flow of the workout.
I progress from a cardiovascular workout into floor play, which draws on movements and perceptions from yoga, Feldenkrais, and Alexander Technique. These healing methodologies are peppered throughout the class, and I notice them more when I slow down at the end of class. Slowing my breath and movement conditions my nervous system to relax and to maintain a state of relaxation as I dance through the rest of my life.
In Nia, I can express when I want, or I can cultivate a deep inner space, if that feels more appropriate at the time. And I can allow others to have their experiences, just the way they want, as there is no wrong way to do Nia. Even though Nia draws on moves and concepts from a variety of different movement forms, it is easy to learn and can be adapted to fit people who are new to exercise, as well as those who are more athletic. I can show up for Nia whether I’m feeling frisky and ready to go or fatigued from a difficult day, and I always get exactly what I need. I am encouraged to move in the ways that work for me in the moment, whether it’s big or small, extraverted or introverted — and energy, relaxation, awareness, and healing happens. I feel so grateful to have Nia in my life — I am a Nia instructor and have been a student for over 14 years — that I end each class with a healthy dose of appreciation for the way each person shows up and dances from the heart. Whether in synchrony or individually, we dance, spirit shows up, and magic happens.