Archive for the ‘Nia Class’ Category

Why I dance for V-Day and One Billion Rising

In Emotions, music, Nia, Nia Class, Sensatioin, spirit, teaching, The Body's Way, Uncategorized on February 4, 2015 at 11:18 pm

10306232_356304124537354_4563745761935799094_nFor the past three years I have been honoured and excited to participate in the One Billion Rising dance events that celebrate V-Day. A day that symbolizes the end of violence towards women and girls across the world. The Nia community in Southern Ontario, Canada, has risen and danced with pride and passion to show their support for such an important, global issue. The horrific statistic is this: 1 in 3 women and girls will be physically abused or raped in her lifetime. Eve Ensler, author of the famous Vagina Monologues, was made aware of the pandemic proportions of this issue as women came forward and shared their traumatic onebillionrisingexperiences with her. In response, she has allowed her play (The Vagina Monologues) to be used as a tool to bring awareness and create solidarity, and support an end to violence against women. Over the years, this movement has grown exponentially and thousands of grassroots organizations around the world have begun rising together to raise awareness and funds for local shelters and services. Find out more about this movement here:

Why do I dance for OBR? Firstly, because I represent the 1 in 3 women, and it is important that we share our stories and support each other in healing and moving on. Next, dancing roots me into my body where I get centred and feel safe and calm, even when I’m surrounded by chaos. I feel immensley empowered when I move in my skin, sensing strength, speed, agility, flexibility and stability. These sensations were not always easy for me to get in touch with because I got cut off from my body, as so many women do when they experience abuse. The body can be associated with the pain, and to be aware of it is too overwhelming. Therefore, I reclaim MY BODY for MY PLEASURE, and not for the pain another inflicted on me. Nia has been instrumental in guiding me to do this. And it is now my honour and Pleasure to guide others in a Nia practice to reclaim their Body’s visceral Joy!

1613922_749596358391477_796572541_nAnother huge reason I dance for this global movement is for Freedom. I can experience freedom in my body even though I suffered abuse in it. Now I Am healing, and the dance represents that. I also experience freedom in my emotional body – joy and fun where their used to be shame and self-consciousness. I no longer feel the need to hide away because I shake and jiggle when I wiggle! I am a woman and there are parts of my body DESIGNED to wiggle with movement! I release the shame and self-consciousness! My mental body is freed because I cannot worry while I dance, and my spirit body is freed as I connect with others in my immediate space through shared music, purpose and choreography, and around the planet through our shared intention to end the injustice of gender inequality.

There is another reason I choose to dance for this cause. It is my unshakeable belief (from personal experience) that movement of any form, helps to release, shake out, and dislodge blockages of energy. These blocks can be caused by many things, and in the case of abuse or rape, the blocks are of pain, fear and anger. Some women never tell anyone about their experiences, and so the energy of the trauma gets stuck somewhere in their bodies and turns into depression, cutting, obsessive eating or starvation, and chronic disease or illness, to name but a few. By moving the physical body with dance (or yoga, massage, walking…) and infusing the space with uplifting and powerful music, the combination of personal focus to release the energy and the physical motion, gets those trapped emotions moving and releasing! It is a wonderful healing and empowering practice to dance in order to reclaim your body, your temple, your pleasure vessel!


The flashmob event is an ideal way to generate awareness because people are naturally drawn to visual spectacles of music and movement, so I very much hope you will join me as I dance and rise in the 3 locations around Kitchener-Waterloo on this coming V-Day! The details are listed below. Click HERE to learn the steps with my video! Please share!

9 am – Nia Class with a focus on One Billion Rising at the Awaken Wellness Centre. Click HERE for location details. All proceeds from this event will be donated to a local women’s shelter.

11 am – Conestoga Mall in Waterloo, near the food court.

Noon – Kitchener Farmer’s Market, at the bottom of the main stairs inside.


“healthy bodies bleed less…”

In Nia, Nia Class, The Body's Way on September 4, 2013 at 7:45 pm


Today I have the pleasure of sharing a blog post from a fellow Nia teacher, Jule Aguirre. She has teamed up with the HFA (Hemophilia Federation of America) to write about the health benefits of Nia when applied to various bleeding disorders. Once again, Nia shows herself to be of vital help to yet another specific group of people and I am sure this will continue to grow and widen! Please click on the link below for the full article!


Nia Technique: Working IN by Working OUT



30 Years of Nia

In Aikido, Alexander Technique, belt intensives, Dojo, Duncan, Feldenkrais, jazz, mind, modern, music, Nia, Nia Class, Sensatioin, Tae Kwon-do, Tai Chi, The Body's Way on August 21, 2013 at 11:46 pm

This year is Nia’s 30th birthday, and I plan to celebrate that fact in every class.

In this inspiring video, founder Debbie Rosas and President Jeff Stewart share their thanks in celebrating Nia’s 30th anniversary. It includes a touching story from a Nia instructor who resolved tension in her legs, a white belt graduate suffering from Cerebral Palsy who can now hold herself up and walk, and an exciting story of a Zumba instructor who was amazed at the difference Nia made in her life and teaching style.

Aerobics_LivingPages It was in 1983 when Debbie and Carlos Rosas first took off their shoes and began to really move their bodies. Before then, both Debbie and Carlos (Nia co-creators) had been running a successful aerobics club called The Bod Squad in San Fransisco, California. Their motivation to create Nia was the high rate of injury and burnout they saw in their aerobics clients and instructors, as well as their own personal feelings of pain and discomfort in their bodies as they got up each morning. They truly believed fitness was to make you stronger and more supple, not to hurt or injure or cause recurring pain; so their journey began in the martial arts.

Foot In the Dojo Debbie and Carlos were asked to remove their shoes and move. They began doing leg lifts and jumping jacks, and the martial artist sadly shook his head and said, “You have forgotten how to move.” How was this possible? Leading aerobics instructors not knowing how to move? Both Debbie and Carlos left with more questions than they had arrived with!

Over the next 13 years Debbie and Carlos embraced a totally new way of exercising, one focused on pleasurable sensations in the body, throwing out that “no pain, no gain” motto that has haunted fitness institutions for decades!  From this was born the fusion fitness trend where Debbie and Carlos began incorporating first, more martial arts into their dance choreography, and later healing arts movement forms (such as yoga).

9380454919_f887d5f757_b Just as it took yoga many many years to work its way into ‘mainstream’ fitness clubs and studios, Nia too is on that same journey. I, and thousands of others who have experienced the magic and power of Nia in life and on the dance floor, am in on this special movement practice’s secret. But there really is no secret! It’s a simple truth: do what feels good, and you will heal and get stronger. Listen to what your body tells you (by way of it’s sensations) and you will grow and evolve into the most beautiful version of yourself with ease, grace and most importantly, Joy. Nia is now practiced in over 45 countries world wide and trainings are also offered all over the world for the purpose of personal growth and for teacher training.


Nia is a sensory-based movement practice that is designed to build an awareness of your own body in order to better serve it – whether you need strengthening, weight management, cardio endurance, rehabilitation from an injury or emotional or mental clarity and peace. Nia is a blend of 9 movement forms from 3 disciplines – The Martial Arts (Tae Kwon Do, Tai Chi, Aikido), the Dance Arts (Jazz, Modern, Duncan), and the Healing Arts (yoga, Alexander Technique, The Work of Moshe Feldenkrais). It is danced barefoot to soul-stirring music and can be adapted to individual needs and abilities. Each class lasts around 55 minutes and is choreographed using 52 basic moves, steps and stances that anyone can learn. All of the moves are based on the natural design of the human body, what we refer to as The Body’s Way. No prior movement or dance experience is necessary to participate. All you need is a desire to be alive and moving, and the curiosity to try something new!

Find classes at

nia-mark-medium-black.jpg Love your body, love your life!      Dance through life!

Nia isn’t just “artsy”… she can get all “martial” on your ass!

In Aikido, chi, Nia, Nia Class, Tae Kwon-do, Tai Chi, Uncategorized on July 19, 2013 at 8:22 am

ImageSince making the connection with Black Belt School’s dojo as a place to offer Nia classes, I have found myself considering how the martial arts contribute to Nia in a deeper way. I have had a solid education of it due to my direct experience practicing Tae Kwon Do and Tai Chi. And that direct experience has also provided me with opportunities to master the physical demands of precision and safe execution of the movements.

But there is something more to it. Each of the 3 martial arts used in Nia bring a distinct energy with it. And each of those energies teaches us more ways to experience sensations of aliveness in our personal dances through life.

The first martial art to cross my own path was Tae Kwon Do. I took it up with a good friend in university. I was lucky enough that our sensei used the last 10 minutes of each class to teach all the girls basic self-defense. It was the first time anyone had made the threat of being physically assaulted feel like a real possibility for me. And I am always grateful for that. I do not fall into the “oh, that won’t happen to me” category… which is the most dangerous category, by the way!

I now know that being hyper aware of your surroundings (360 degrees!) is the best defense. If you let a potential threat get close enough to touch or grab you, you are gonna get hurt (unless you are a highly trained fighting expert with real experience under your belt)! I know how to throw a punch without hurting my shoulder, and I also know that using punching and blocking sequences is one awesome, fun and VERY effective way to tighten and tone your abdominal muscles!

Tai Chi taught me about breath and balance. Within 15 minutes of my first Tai Chi class, I was dripping with sweat. Even though it may look like a cool slow-motion version of Tae Kwon Do that is the total opposite of dangerous and threatening, it is all about WHERE we get our energy and power from. The Earth. If you want wicked-strong thighs that sweep and curve in just the right places, Tai Chi is where it’s at! The mellow speed of the movements engages your muscles at a deeper level for a longer period of time than hopping up and down in jumping jacks or burpies. The movements are also very obviously rotational (round) mixed with some linear. This ensures strength in all muscle and joint connections because the human body is designed with both. Most traditional strength and fitness training rely on linear movements because they are easy to learn. However it is a major disservice to the athlete because it’s like only cooking your (gluten-free) pancake on one side! Eww. It’s just not right!

Aikido focuses on the movement of spherical motion. When used appropriately and with skill, the circular movements deflect oncoming energy away by using the opponent’s own strength and momentum to do so. Notice that I didn’t say “against them.” Many martial arts follow the principle that the best fight is the one that is avoided, and I love how Aikido can so clearly demonstrate this. Aikido teaches us to flow along and around the attacker or aggressive energy, and if at all possible to avoid engaging directly with it. We only need to be able to guide it past and away from us to stay safe. The swirling and spinning becomes very dance-like as the participants move in and away from each other. In Nia, Aikido gives us the grounded, balanced and graceful connection to the circle and turn across the floor. The knees are bent and we step in wide stances shifting weight seamlessly as we travel. Dodging toddlers, pets and misplaced household items becomes a lot easier with a grasp of the movements of Aikido!

I am looking forward to dancing in Black Belt School’s dojo and absorbing the direct, powerful energy of the martial arts practiced there. For me, the martial arts in Nia give a steady and reliable weight to her; she isn’t a fluffy, bouncy noodle (all the time!). She is strong. Has direction. Won’t be pushed around, and is willing to fight what she believes in… as am I.

Next week we are offering 2 free classes of Nia at the dojo. Pick a time and date that fits with your schedule and join us! Classes will be starting in the Fall, so we’d love to see your support!

Let us know when you are coming by contacting me or the dojo.

Thursday, July 25th, 8pm
Saturday, July 27th, 2pm

Black Belt Schools
1555 Bishop St. East
Cambridge, Ontario,

N1R 7J4


For map, click HERE

Clarity in Progress Cont.

In Life skills, Nia Class, teaching, Uncategorized, vocalising on February 21, 2012 at 5:57 am

I want to share my experience since writing the ‘Clarity in Progress‘ post from (insert date).

The week following my writing the blog, a dear friend told me about a yoga studio in her local area that would be receptive to hosting Nia classes. It was located above a health food store with a loyal clientele and, in her opinion, was a lovely space to dance. I set up a meeting with the owner and class co-ordinator for the coming Saturday morning. As I climbed the stairs to the studio, I saw a handful of young kids, around 10 to 12 years old, milling about and getting their shoes on. A tween yoga class had just ended. Nice! I am such a fan of getting kids, and especially tweens and teens, into a freeing and grounding practice like yoga. The two women I met with were very friendly, and I was shown into the studio. (Cue celestial choral music!)


There were high ceilings. There were two large windows… and wait for it! A VIEW OF MOVING WATER!!! The studio looks out onto the Grand River. It is situated in such a way as to not show the ground below us. I would have to stick my head out of the window to see the sliver of earth between the building’s foundation and the water. I think I was looking out of one of the top row windows in the photo above. It was beautiful. Needless to say I vocalized in wonderment, and this caught the attention of the yoga instructor showing me around! So I told her the story of my recent blog post basically describing this very studio, and in our conversation I went on to describe the basics of Nia, its history and its endless adaptability for all fitness levels and age groups. We settled on a date for a community class (pay what you can) to give the locals a tasty preview, and then a session of six classes if enough interest  was shown (8 people signing up minimum).

Now, I realize that my original blog on ‘CiP’ was describing a living wall and juice bar in a well-equipped centre for holistic wellness, but I also want to credit the details of part of my vision already presenting themselves to me in reality. There is no ‘living wall’ or a ‘do-it-yourself juice bar’ but there is the health food store downstairs. Images and visions we have may seem finished and ready-made in our mind’s eye, but in this world may be stepping stones to a reality we can’t fully imagine yet. I just know this meeting at the yoga studio was a large breadcrumb on my path leading me in a direction I need to follow! Dreams do come true. But the catch is having the dream and then sharing it with others. Being proactive and finding tangible, practical ways to talk about your ideas and passions is key to bringing them about. The trickiest part for me is getting clear on what it is I want… what is it that I want to envision?

It is a work in progress, and for now, I like my studio floating above moving water!

The studio in this blog is, The Paris Yoga Studio in Paris, Ontario.

Thank you for reading, and please comment below with your experiences and thoughts! There is only LOVE.

Smokers have it right… sort of.

In chi, Life skills, mind, music, Nia, Nia Class, spirit, Tai Chi on February 15, 2012 at 6:31 am

Smokers have something going for them that non-smokers don’t. It’s the required 15 minute break every few hours throughout the day. No one seems to question them. No one tells them they can’t go. After all, they are addicted. They are sick and cannot help themselves. I mean, who else do you know, who doesn’t smoke, takes a 15 minute respite away from their job, desk, daily routine, whatever! totally and completely for themselves at regular intervals through the day? Ha! Speaking from personal experience here, I have been both: a smoker and a non smoker. I am currently a non smoker, and sometimes I miss the nasty, stinky cancer stick just because it gave me a “legitimate reason” to have some me time. Because, you know, if you have been around a smoker who hasn’t had a cigarette for a while, they can match even the meanest PMSing woman! So without much ado, we let the smokers slink off to poison themselves into a stupor where brain fog is reset, disallowing clear thought and fresh emotion to rock their lives into something more creative and lively. Creativity and feeling alive can be unpredictable and a little scary from time to time; but now that I am a non smoker, I wouldn’t want my life any other way.

However, I would like to take back my regular 15 minute breaks! But, instead of huddling a minimum of 10 feet away from the building in the freezing sleet or blistering heat (depending on your time of year!), I would like to roll out my yoga mat and stretch. Or, play some music and dance.

In some large airports there are specific locations designated for smokers that don’t require them to entirely leave the terminal. This convenience allows them to smoke without the hassle of having to leave and trudge back through security again. Outside many public buildings there are large garbage receptacles with a plate of sand on the top where the smokers can easily put out their butts. And it’s only been a few years in some cities where smoking has been prohibited in most public social establishments. At least now going out dancing doesn’t include inhaling second hand smoke as necessary evil of the activity! But as evidence grows and people wake up to the devastating effects of smoking to health, these little details of convenience will also continue to disappear. Soon, even the smokers won’t have any recourse to public areas to satiate themselves and relax in this mad world!

So, what if we replaced all the little conveniences smokers have and had, with a healthy and progressive collection of spaces to put down a yoga mat to stretch or meditate or dance? Each hotel, office building, grocery store, mall and airport could afford a room for this. It could be a sanctuary to calmly and quickly recharge with short stints of one’s personal favourite centring activity, be it yoga, dance, mediation, tai chi, Qi gong or whatever! The closest I have seen to this idea is the super short massages (or massages by the minute) in airports. It’s perfect really. If you are spending lots of time cramped up without much space to move and stretch while traveling, getting someone to give your muscles a quick shake up and rub down is very helpful. So why not take it one step further and provide spaces to take on the responsibility ourselves? Wouldn’t a movement to create small oases all over the cities for the sole purpose of rejuvenation and relaxation send out ripples of peace through our civilization? I feel we desperately need more access in our day to day lives to peace and relaxation. After all, it is frequently touted that it is from a place of peaceful relaxation where most creativity stems. Being hunched and tense and stressed only makes us weak, tired and irritable. There is no room there for open and free thought or inspiration!


On an aside, I think this short, frequent practice is different from a regular exercise routine. This practice will surely enhance one’s physical body, but it should not replace longer workouts. Just think of smokers who workout! I know that many professional dancers smoke, yet they are very physically active. This 15 minute repeating interval is for our holistic sanity. Within the swirl of daily activity there needs to be accents of stillness. From the stillness we can reconnect to our inner guiding voice or higher/authentic self. The more we connect with it, the easier it will be to forgive  – being cut off while driving, waiting in line when in a hurry. It will be easier to see the beauty that surrounds us everywhere and let this Love buoy us along our path. I know that my Nia practice can only improve from these 15 minute respites. I can already sense my creativity gasping for the space to reboot and tap into the musical cosmos that sends me magical messages about new music and fun focuses to use in class!


I am starting today! I may not have a specified location to roll out my mat or play music, but I know I can find a place to stretch. I have actually done yoga in airports while waiting for the next leg of my journey to start boarding. I take a space out of the way of traffic and move through a selection of poses that call to me. And every single person who looked my way, either smiled, nodded in silent agreement, or spoke to me in passing about what a great idea that was. People are ready to embrace these places of restful rejuvenation. I just need to find a way to start them! And for the time being, I will start with myself. This is where all great change across the world starts – the self. I will take 15 minutes every 3 hours today, where I stretch through a few of my favourite yoga postures. I will focus on my  breathing to energize my cells with plenty of fresh oxygen, and I will quiet my mind, sending my clamouring thoughts to my internal answer machine to pick up once my 15 minutes are done. When I am at home I will most likely dance for 15 minutes or meditate, since I can control my personal environment more.

I would love to hear what you will do to start this movement. Comment below and share this post with others! Let the Conscious Movement begin!

Setting the Focus

In Life skills, Nia, Nia Class, teaching on November 20, 2011 at 10:28 pm

The focus that is described at the beginning of a Nia class gives the opportunity to become more aware of something. It can be physical, emotional, mental or spiritual in nature; and it could be all of these or any combination of these things, at once. At the very core of Nia, the focus is physical health. This is just the first building block. From the physical we can deepen and extend our growth towards optimal health in all areas of life.

Each Nia routine that is created comes with a prescribed focus. The focus of Sanjana is ‘dynamic ease’. R1‘s focus is ‘connection’. Earthsong’s focus is ‘the one point’ (our centre of gravity, or the hara), and so on. When I became a teacher of Nia, I learned that there was a formula of sorts, to help describe the focus for each class. In fact, teachers would use myriad foci over several weeks/months while dancing the same routine. This fascinated and intimidated me. I was confident with dancing, but not speaking about the dancing. How did they think of all these different foci? Where did they get the ideas for them? And more importantly, how was I going to come up with my own foci when I started teaching?

I asked a few of my Nia mentors for guidance in this area and, then, as a white belt teacher, I was told to connect with the 13 white belt principles. I thought about going in order and doing one a week. But that would only get me through 3 months. What would happen after that? Well, I thought to myself, I would just cross that bridge when I got to it, since my mentors only said, “Connect with the white belt principles, and you’ll be fine.”  So I did. I wondered whether I should go in order from 1 to 13, and figured I might as well. There’s no point in re-inventing the wheel.

Now, I have been teaching Nia for nearly 2 years and giving focuses for every class. And you know what? I still use the 13 white belt principles… but I use other stuff too! I now have my blue belt training in Nia and I have more Nia family members to call upon for guidance and inspiration. Our community is strong, creative and very supportive. We come together at Jams (movement based fundraisers for various causes), playshops, paloozas, trainings and regular classes when we can, and as a result of this contact I was inspired to do the following: Over the last year I allowed myself to explore my intuition as it effected my Nia practice. This meant that I would not only come to class fully prepared with a particular routine, but I would leave room for spontaneous changes that came to me. These changes could take the form of changing the direction the class usually faces, or making a choreographed tune a free dance, or changing the prepared focus at the last minute! For the most part, this exploration, this PLAYfulness, has been very rewarding and enjoyable.

So, back to the focus. I suppose that over the months I taught my own classes, I was able to glean snippets from speech on the Nia teacher’s DVD for learning routines, and turn the snippet into a focus. Debbie Sterwart-Rosas and Carlos Aya-Rosas speak so beautifully and clearly about movement and sensation, that their narration through a class is almost like an essay on Nia. As I said, I also revisited the 13 white belt principles regularly, and found I had favourite ones. I also played with ways to combine several principles into one focus. With each Nia training intensive, playshop and Jam I participated in, I was introduced to more and more information to educate myself with. Each belt intensive provides us with a 2 inch-thick manual as well as a few pages of suggested reading. Each gathering of Nia-phites leads to conversations about personal discoveries and reflections on journeys and lessons learned. These experiences all create a web involving Nia, and how Nia has changed, healed and uplifted our lives. I take all these elements now and use them to create my foci for class. I listen to my intuition for guidance into a general subject area, and then whittle something down with my rational brain to make it simple enough and memorable enough to apply in class.

And then one day, a client of mine asked me, “How do you choose a focus for the Nia class?” At the time I didn’t answer as we were just stepping into class, so I resolved to answer her later. And this is why I now have a blog about it! To be honest, creating the focus for the past few months has not been the most intimidating thing for me anymore! I feel confident when thinking about what it will be, and sometimes I even leave the planning of it to the day of the class!

There is one more part of this journey I want to share. As I began to think of how I create the focus for each class as an answer for my curious client, my thoughts strayed to a woman and Nia sister, who I hold in very high regard. She has taught me Nia (before I got any belts), she has loved and supported me before and after I got trained, and she totally inspires me to be the best Nia instructor I can be; and I don’t think she realizes quite how much she does for me! Anna Schantz teaches in Burlington, Ontario and has her black belt training and has been teaching for over 10 years. Check out her website: Zensation Fitness. I asked her about creating foci and she said, “I like to play the ‘What if?’ game.”  What if I was to challenge myself today? What if I were to use the same focus as last week? What if I wasn’t going to talk during class? What if…? This game opens up so many doors and it tests my creative muscles about how to describe such focuses in class! This part of Nia is my favourite! The part where my brain is forced to create new neural pathways. These feel difficult and sometimes uncomfortable in process, but in the end my 2 brain hemispheres are more integrated and I feel wiser! It’s REALLY awesome!

So that concludes my ‘How I choose a focus’ blog. I use the 13 white belt principles, Debbie and Carlos’s wisdom, my Nia education manuals, the Nia community’s wisdom, and my own intuition. I hope you have more clarity around the subject, and I hope you can understand that this idea of having a focus can be applied to anyone in any situation. Choose a focus for yourself each day… or maybe just each week… or month – time just flies by these days! And see what happens when you bring consistent awareness to a specific focus in your life. Some focuses I have used in the past which are easily adaptable to anyone’s life, are listed below:

Calm simplicity Anything goes – do not judge
Always do your best The Joy of movement/life/love/shopping
Tai-Chi – slow motion to de-stress We are all connected

The No-Show Class

In Duncan, jazz, katas, music, Nia, Nia Class, teaching, Uncategorized on July 20, 2011 at 5:06 am

There are times in the Nia teacher’s early career (the first 5 years – like any new business) where she is faced with the empty class. The prep work is taken care of: the routine is learned and solid (usually!), the advertising has been thorough – posters, cards, Facebook and Twitter announcements, word of mouth, begging friends – and the free classes have been offered weeks before hand. Basically, all the grunt work has been accomplished with flying colours and a fantastic smile! But for whatever reason, the Universe, one’s subconscious, The Powers That Be… seem to conspire against the new Nia teacher, and she comes ready to dance and share herself, and no on else shows up. She stands alone in the studio space.

To dance, or not to dance; that is the question. The options for not dancing are endless and very reasonable. There is always more laundry to do, not to mention getting groceries at this time would free up time tomorrow, and be less busy at the store. Depending on the teacher, he may or may not choose to dance in the space alone. I almost always dance whether or not students show up. I enjoy dancing all the time, and it’s a good time to practice. Especially when there is a beautiful studio just sitting there, empty.

I had a no-show class today. I usually don’t take these occurrences personally, but today was hot and really humid. It made me feel tired and heavy and lethargic, and I had quietly been hoping that the energy and enthusiasm I usually have for Nia would ooze from some of the students in class… but students there were NONE! Oh woe! I thought. How beastly and lonely I feel! It is an insult to SUCH a gorgeous studio (The Art of Fitness) NOT to dance in it! Fine! I will dance anyway – to hell with the heat and my lethargy. No one is here to judge me. I will dance at level 0.5 if I have to!

So, I proceeded to creep and slither across the floor, digging into the depths of my body and spirit to find some energy to dance. I chose not to play the traditional routine’s music for Butterfly, but a playlist I found on my iPod called ‘Butterfly-Rock’. I didn’t quite remember the songs I’d chosen, but it sounded more exciting and the surprise would keep me on my toes. Nia teachers will often fiddle with music once they are comfortable with the original routine. It allows for our personal flare and creativity to be expressed in the class, and it’s just plain fun! The routine started off the same as it always did, and by the third song in, The Way of the Priest by Purekane, I was losing hope about it being the uplifting and surprising boost I felt I needed. Sometimes I just add one song at the end or in the middle of a routine, and that’s not very exciting – well at least, this sticky and hot afternoon it wasn’t! So I muscled on. I got into Butterfly Heart by Chris Coco, and experimented with different arm swinging movements to entertain myself. Truth be told (ssshhhh) I can get bored with some of the movements, so here I played around with different ideas – some of which I plan to use! Then there’s the free dance portion. Those of you who know me will know that I LOVE free dance. But today, I wasn’t feeling it! Crazy, I know! But on the second round of free dance, I kicked myself in the arse and forced myself to skip like a kid through the park. I waved my arms around (very Duncan dance), and got myself to feel the “wind” in my face from my speed. The end of the piece uses the skipping forward while lifting the arms slowly upwards, and then running backwards in repeating sets. This worked up my heart rate and I was panting and smiling by the end – my running backwards at the end usually turns into a silly, “Aaaah! Run from the crazy dog!” sprint! So I was climbing out of my sticky hot hole of alone-ness… and then…

NA NA NA COME ON!!! Yells Rihanna from the stereo!

WOO-HOO! This is what I had been yearning for! I had reached the ROCK part of my ‘Butterfly-rock’ playlist. I had risen out of my doldrums with Butterfly Heart, and this took me up, up and away! I had substituted this for the sometimes seemingly long and repetitive Summertime, also by Chris Coco. I like it-like it WAY more with this music. There are blocks,

jazz squares

and kicks

in this kata that repeat in a particular pattern which can feel endless with the original music. So I had changed it! And it was fanTAStic!

The routine continued with different songs mixed in with the originals and I felt energized and enthusiastic again! An all-time favourite among the Southern Ontario Nia teachers (and beyond, I’m sure) is the track, Rock Your Body by Music Instructor. I had added this to the mix too! I use it as a mixture of guided movement and free dance. The choreography is a lot more interpretive allowing for lots of creativity from students. But today, I just tore up the space and flew through the air and played the strings!

The weather did not keep me down, and I left the studio feeling refreshed despite the thick red-gold sun-soaked air. The lesson for me in this was: dance. No matter how I feel. Just dance. No matter what, I will feel better! Even with no one to share the space with. This was a rare opportunity to fill the space totally with myself! Expanding one’s energy field further than the usual day-to-day size is liberating. It feels like breathing in much much more deeply and fully. It is a way to let one’s spirit truly soar. Dance ESPECIALLY when you don’t feel like it! Use my experience to your advantage!

Take Care. Be Aware.

In Life skills, mind, Nia, Nia Class, Sensatioin on April 11, 2011 at 7:26 pm

When we take steps to get back into shape, and increase our over all fitness, we must constantly take stock of our situation and adjust to accommodate ourselves. In order to build greater muscle mass to boost the metabolism and increase fat loss, one of the most reliable methods available to us is weight training. However, as this article I am featuring here today states, there is weight training, and then there is weight training. Take a glance down the list of machines that you should avoid in order to avoid injury.

In Nia we have movements that are designed in line with The Body’s Way. The Body’s Way is the most efficiently functional state for the human body. Within The Body’s Way is YOUR Body’s Way. This allows for our unique physical quirks – in my case, an example is I have slightly knock knees from birth. These irregularities in the human body are present in everyone, and we all need to bring awareness to how to adapt fitness regimes that will best serve us. Cramming a cube into a circular space isn’t going to work well at all. And so when pumping iron at the gym, using machines that force us to use linear motions with joints and muscles that are designed to move in arcs, isn’t going to benefit us.
In a typical Nia class, the weight training can be experienced throughout the entire class. The use of levels (low to the ground, mid-level and high – reaching up) as well as the three body weights (pelvis, chest, head) create plenty of built-in weights for us to work with. We push against the floor, the walls, and sometimes each other, in order to activate and strengthen our muscles. Nia classes have also been designed with free weights (Power Hour ) to add intensity to the basic principles we already work with in a Classic Nia class. What is important here is that The Body’s Way is always respected and followed as a guide towards optimal fitness and health.
When you work out, take care of yourself. Be aware of your choices. And just because EVERYONE is doing it (or has been doing it for ages) doesn’t make it right or good for you. Listen to your body through sensation. Activate your sensation scientist self every time you step into your fitness regime!

Emotional Release; emotional relief.

In jazz, music, Nia, Nia Class, Tai Chi, Uncategorized, vocalising on January 8, 2011 at 2:28 am

You know when you have moved on from an emotionally traumatizing event or relationship and you begin to sense yourSelf opening up again and feeling lighter? And then, out of the blue the shit gets stirred up again, afresh, like it had never healed to begin with? You feel like you were kidding yourself all those years, weeks, hours, and seconds you had to make it through, one minute, by one minute, by one… Well. I just had one of those. It sucked! I pride myself on my introspection and self-reflection to further my personal growth as an emotional and spiritual being. Perhaps I pride myself too much? Who knows! All I knew at the time of the re-lapse was that I was NOT okay with how I felt. I started to stew and mentally spin off on the ‘whys’ and ‘what fors’ and ‘who is to blame?’

Being a Nia practitioner who also teaches classes in a local studio, I had made a plan earlier in the day, to practice a new routine. The time for that was coming around, and at first I was consumed with a seething desire to shoot off a sharp-shooting, harshly witty and biting email response to the one that had brought up all the shit again, and really show them who the HELL was calling the shots here! And then I heard myself. I was shouting so loudly in my head that I was shocked into mental silence. Who IS that in my head? I am not a vengeful person. I definitely make it a priority NOT to play into peoples’ games. But here I was, doing just that. Thankfully, somehow, some part of my Self tapped me on the shoulder and said, in the voice of Lady Gaga, “’S gonna be okay, Just dance!”

So I did.

The routine is ‘Canta’, created by Nia co-founder, Carlos Aya-Rosas. The routine is filled with haunting, multi-cultural music, featuring more vocals than usual for Nia music. I turned up the sound significantly louder than normal and ‘stepped in.’ The warm-up gave me an opportunity to clarify my focus, wriggling and squirming in my skin, organizing myself from the inside-out. Searching for twinges and creaks to untwist and realign, I went through lists of words and phrases to create my internal, personal focus. (Canta’s focus is X-ray anatomy, principle 10 of the While Belt. But every Nia routine can be used with any focus you want to create for yourself.) One word kept resurfacing – release – so I went with it. A part of me scoffed, ‘Psh! That’s too simple for what’s going on here!’ But I knew from experience and many books and teachings, that simplicity is usually the best option. We often over-complicate things. Bringing the issue into the physical body, while accessing the emotional, mental and spirit realms, calms us enough to find the clarity we need. As the warm-up continued I sought peace in the motion of my breath as my body flowed through the thai-chi-like movements. Planted feet. Slow motion sweeping arms. Eyes following the path of my fingers through space. The music revved up a little and hip twitches and small, whole-foot steps added an agitating dynamic. As the hips woke up more, I became very aware of the hot and cold sensations flashing through my solar plexus. There it was. Right at my power center, the third chakra, whatever you like to refer to it as. The thing to be released was clinging onto my spine, deep in the core of my body. It felt my intention to release it. It didn’t like that much. It felt hot, then cold and then hot again. I intensified my attention to my breath and kept moving.

The ‘get moving’ section of the workout started off with cross-behind and cross-front steps with lots of opportunity to free-dance the upper body. The tune was, Somptin Hapnin (Water In Me) by Adham Shaikh. There is water splish-splashing all through it, sounding like someone playing in a puddle. As the movements settled into their pattern I felt my core pulse and contract with growing intensity. My breath was loud with a heavy emphasis on the exhale. My arms dangled a lot of the time, and bounced, as my legs and core moved my body through space. Soon I was alternating powerful thrusting and pulling motions with my core and arms with hopping and flopping my arms and head around. During the patterns in the choreography I was aware of the incredible sensations of relief that flooded through me every so often. I was IN my body and feeling the flouncing of the release of that hot/cold knot, but I was also feeling my Witness, watching me. It was comforting. The Witness does not judge. She only watches. She is the mirror in your mind. I learned from her that I could let go even more. So instead of just exhaling sharply with each core-pelvic thrust, I spat out words. Fuck off. Get out. Stop. Enough. My space. The music worked well with double syllables. It was exactly what I needed!

As the routine continued I also continued feeling and sensing the hot/cold core of my body reach the same warm buttery temperature of my muscles in the height of a Nia workout. There was clapping that I used to clear out the space around me, similar to when we clap to scare something away. There was kicking which I channeled my ‘get outta my space’ thoughts into. There were sweeping figure-8 arm motions that I healed the space around me with, returning its currently turbulent energy to serenity. Soon the claps became triumphant and celebratory and the kicks moved into a fun Jazz-like energy. I felt myself smiling. The words also became more positive: Love. Heal. Yes.

I rode out the rest of Canta switching between the celebration of dance and joyous healing, to empowering myself to protect mySelf better and not let others’ games affect me. I am not here to play games. I am here to show others how to love and heal themselves through dance, music, art and anything else that lights up their eyes! The power of aligning our four realms (body, mind, emotion, spirit) into a common purpose or focus, is immense. As I reached the cool down and floorplay cycles of the routine I felt another word surface – relief. My body was thanking me for helping her process the upsetting feeling in her core. The sensation there is quite different now. It is no longer an angry flashing hot-cold knot, but a cool and moving, watery sensation. When we heal ourselves, the optimal goal is not to kick out and stomp on that which caused us pain, but it is to acknowledge and accept the pain. Then, with our focus, we transform the pain into what it wants to be. All pain is, is love that has become confused and frightened. As I write this tears are welling in my eyes. Have I just had a profound moment? I am smiling through my tears. This is real progress for me. Let my words help to inspire you on your journey of healing.

Nia is a powerful tool, resource, comfort, teacher, and celebration. I feel like I say this a lot, but if it weren’t for Nia over the past decade, I don’t think I would be as healthy and pulled together as I am today. The main difference between Nia and other exercises (mindless running, gym machines, aerobics classes) that has the most profound effect on us, is that it is conscious movement. We move with purpose. We listen with our senses to what our body is desperate for us to hear. The ‘hearing’ is done through the sensations in the body. There are many conscious movement forms out there, and Nia is my main staple. Look into Yoga (real yoga, not “flow yoga” or “yoga-lates”), thai chi, 5 Rhythms, contact improvisation… make up your own! But find your conscious movement practice.

In a mere hour, I went from raging mad and desperate to WIN, to calm and relaxed with a desire for Peace. You can see the healthier option here.


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