I discovered classic Nia in 2016, and I have been teaching for the past four years at Studio Kairos. What a tonic it is for me! I am happiest when I move, and enjoy being both a student in a class, as well as after teaching and taking my own class. The more I dance, the more the music and movement resides in my body. After all these years, I still feel a tingle when I’m about to teach, and I have those little butterflies in my tummy before class. The “movement as medicine”, “the Nia 52 moves”, and the “memory of the moves” have become more and more familiar as I continue to step into this beautiful practise every day.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, and when I was recovering from the virus, I was invited by Susan to dance with Jule Aguirre, my Nia Moving to Heal trainer and teacher on a Thursday evening. I was in the process of healing, and found the practise much slower for me than classic Nia. At first I wasn’t sure of the simplicity of the slowed down moves, and whether it worked for my body. I’m normally very fast-paced and live in the energy and the sensation of joy maxed out at level three athletic peak. But, with time, and in the weeks of dancing with Jule, I continued to explore the new experience of Nia Moving to Heal in my home studio on Zoom every week. The simplicity of the moves had me sensing and feeling more deeply in my body what is needed for me. I realised that I needed to slow down in my everyday world.
I’m an art teacher, and my day job involves teaching 300 heartbeats a week at a dramatic fast pace. So, the slower dance form has really caught my attention and has also giving me new tools for my classic Nia classes.
I often find that I run the race of everyday life at such a speed. I know now that it’s too fast! Nia allows me to slow down and release tension in my body. Sensing my breath and the sensations in my body brings peace to my very existence.
There are two Nia movements or concepts. The one that Susan shared with me in White Belt that shifted my world, and the one that Jule shared that equally changed the way I think about the way I move. Both are very profound for me.
Susan first taught me about my hara – my centre around my belly button or my core. She said that we have a magnetic field of energy around our bellies and our centres that can protect us. Before I started Nia, I found that I would bump into things, stub my toes, and rush around totally unaware of my body and my space between me and other objects in my environment. Often unsafe. Once I became aware of this magnetic energy or field like a hula hoop around me stemming from my hara, I became more aware of my personal space around me, and of my body in my own environment. I feel safer and much more in charge of my energy and safety in my environment, and I don’t bump into things or hurt myself anymore.
The Nia practise has made me aware of my body. It has allowed me to accept and honour my shape, and it has given me the freedom to be confident and appreciate myself in every way. I tell my art students about this practise, which I believe is also a very powerful art form of self-care and joy.
In a Moving to Heal class, Jule talks about how we push ourselves to the limit. She says that we don’t have to go to the maximum. We need to go to only where we feel comfortable. The small shift and change of movement to where I feel comfortable is beneficial to my body, instead of pushing my body to the max and potentially injuring myself. This practise has taught me to show care and patience to my body and to understand its needs.
What I discovered was that if I slow down, I can sense my body more. I am aware of my breath, and how to take care of my body.
The Nia Moving to Heal training manual is full of incredible information. Something in it caught my eye: “What if the most important relationship we have is with our body?” This really resonated with me. Also, “What if the most special thing we own is our body?”
Before we step into a Nia Moving to Heal class, we take a few minutes to check in with our bodies to sense how we feel and if there are any stresses, physical ailments, or tensions we might be holding, or injuries we have in the moment. This intense scrutiny we give ourselves is time to honour and check in with our bodies, and it’s extremely important. We become aware of our “now” bodies and how we are feeling. Jule has taught me to talk to my body, which at first felt odd, but is so empowering. We also breathe and give ourselves a number from 0 to 10 on our lung capacity. Jule sets a focus and intent, as in classic Nia, that for me relates to my life experiences.
At the end of a Nia Moving to Heal class we check in with our bodies to see what has shifted. We repeat the exercise of breathing, and rate our lung capacity. For me, there’s a magical feeling, because I can arrive with my nervous energy unhinged and when the class is finished, I am invigorated and my nervous system is totally rebalanced.
We use the phrase, “Thank you body. I am healing”. This is a form of positive affirmation and gratitude to our body. It helps me acknowledge my body’s way, even if I’m have a slight ailment in my “now” body. With this phrase, I can shift my focus from what’s wrong or lacking to what’s right and working well. I find that this is a good way for me to cultivate a more positive and supportive relationship with my body, which in turn will create a calming and meditative state for me.
I have found that when I teach a Nia Moving to Heal class, my body and my nervous system click in and I am able to change the pace of the movement and to slow it down completely. The slow movement allows for intense awareness and sometimes a more intrinsic workout. I always leave the class with a good sweat whether I am teaching Nia Moving to Heal or classic Nia.
I have taught 30 Nia Moving to Heal classes, and am about halfway towards my teaching practical that I will submit to Debbie Rosas (the founder of Nia) and Jule. I am learning every day about my body and loving my Nia journey.
Moving in the body’s way with awareness is so healing, and it doesn’t have to be at speed. Moving gently feels better. Moving in my body’s way feels better. Movement is medicine, and it is healing.