Nia White Belt Anniversary

It will be my one-year Nia White Belt Anniversary this weekend.

At first I thought that teaching Nia would be like any other new teaching credential I’ve taken – a lot of preparation time involved to be sure – but it soon became apparent that my new ‘credential’ was offering me much more than a new teaching gig.

I could write pages about the insights teaching Nia has given me; Let me just say it is deep and it is all good. It seems to just keep giving me back more as I continue to open and trust the process. 

In  a Nia workshop I recently took with Nia trainer Loretta Milo, we discussed the teaching fears – the gremlins – around teaching. They happen with teaching other classes as well, and now I know it isn’t just me! They are things like: “They won’t like me; I’ll forget everything”; No one will come back.”

So, this week in class (the 2nd week for new students) everyone was late arriving and that thought did cross my mind, that maybe they didn’t like Nia or me, and maybe they aren’t coming back. Well, everyone did come to class, but as I was waiting, I remembered what Loretta said: if one – or even all – of those things happen – I still get to dance. That is one amazing benefit of teaching a class like Nia!

This weekend I will be celebrating my one-year anniversary by auditing this year’s White Belt class with Martha Randall, making new friends, re-connecting with my classmates from last year, and most of all, dancing!

And I have a wonderful fall teaching line up to look forward to, with two new classes and locations, and workshops to plan.  How I love my job!

© Deborah Redfern 2011. All rights reserved.

The Nia Promise

I came across this in our Nia forum and I thought it was intriguing — the Nia Promise.

The Nia Promise is what a student will get in a Nia Routine:

  • A body-mind-emotion-spirit experience
  • Opportunities for self expression and play
  • The Seven Cycles
  • Three intensity levels
  • The Five Sensations of Conditioning
  • An integration of the 13 White Belt Principles
  • A unique combination of the 52 Moves
  • Musical variety

Today I want to take the first two and share my thoughts on them: A body-mind-emotion-spirit experience and opportunities for self expression and play.

In my experience, some activities put a person in their body while other’s take them out of it. It sounds like a silly thing to say “puts a person in their body” — where else could we be BUT in our bodies? Some people actually aren’t fully in their bodies though. They are more in their heads and they have difficulty connecting with their body. It happens to me when I get too caught up in abstract ideas and figuring things out. (Sometimes figuring out my WordPress blog does that to me!)

Being in your body is an entirely different sensation than being in your head. And you can be actively engaged in exercise and not really be in your body. Using myself as an example when I had a Nordic Track ski machine, I’d get on it and listen to music or watch the telly and try to ignore what was going on with my body. I’d say anytime you are exercising and waiting for a timer to tell you when to stop, you are probably not fully in your body. There is a disconnect between your mind and your the body: mind over matter. 

How different it is when we move with full consciousness of being in our bodies. It makes me feel more fully alive: It is a delicious sensation. When I am teaching I often remind the class to bring their attention to the breath. It is one thing I know that takes you back into the body if there is a tendency to space out.  And the footwork in Nia is just challenging enough to keep students engaged and focused.

Moving to music also integrates body and mind. I learned that when I was taking vocal lessons and singing in a choir. I’d think “oh wait, did I get that note right?” and in the instant it takes to have that thought that note is gone, and thinking about it throws me off getting the next one. Same with lyrics: By the time the thought comes on whether the words you’ve just sung are correct it is too late. Music is a body and mind experience because it makes us very aware of the present moment. There is only one place to be in music which is in the NOW, and that can be experienced as a sensation of ‘flow’ or ease. It is as if a voice (not from your head — perhaps it is your bodies’ voice) says that the notes might not be exact and the lyrics wrong, but I am one with the music and the flow. An example of being in the flow with music is a famous rendition of “Mack the Knife” by Ella Fitzgerald. Not part of their usual repertoire, Ella forgets the lyrics but playfully keeps on going, making up the words as she goes along.

Which brings us to the second part of the equation: opportunities for self expression and play which I connect with emotions and spirit. I was talking with a friend recently and she reminded me that traditional dance classes, like ballet, are focused symmetry with every one and every body doing the same thing. Nia, on the other hand encourages every one and every body to do it their own way.

There is something there that frees the emotions and lets the spirit soar. Most times dancers in my Nia class associate the free dance segments with self expression and play, but it can actually happen in any of the songs. I find that the more people come to class, the more relaxed they become about moving. When I invite students to vocalise in class – to shout “hey” when doing a punch for example, that’s when I know they are really loosening up, not in their body, but the mind expanded and the spirit and emotions more free and integrated. They have come to a place of trust and acceptance.

Listen to Ella Fitzgerald singing Mack the Knife

© Deborah Redfern 2011. All rights reserved.