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.