My work in feng shui draws in teachings from different cultures including sacred geometry and creating sacred space. Certain hand gestures and mudras that I use in home blessings have also come up in Nia. Many of the hand gestures used in the martial art component of Nia are related to what I do in home blessing ceremonies. Clapping the hands breaks up stagnant energy; spear fingers directs energy; chopping motions are used to seal energy (used for protection) especially when used with the vocalization “shu”; the infinity sign with the hands is also used to seal the energy after it has been cleared and blessed. And when we ‘fluff’ or smooth the energy around our bodies we are doing a form of personal space clearing. I find it is also similar to a type of energy work I do called Therapeutic Touch.
The patterns created in Nia (foot work and arm movements) remind me of feng shui, the Five Elements and sacred geometry:
A square pattern brings in the energy of Earth which generally feels ‘stable’. The full clock of front, back, side and side is an example. The box step (as in stepping to all four corners) is even more stable.
A triangular pattern is the energy of Fire. Fire element energy is dynamic and fun. We don’t see a lot of triangular foot patterns, however I like to think of the Jazz Square (even though it is called a square) as a triangle. The step front and cross over is the tip of the triangle and then we step back into the base – and the Jazz Square certainly is dynamic and fun! Some triangular hand gestures are used in Nia as when bringing thumbs and forefingers together, often over the hara. This represents the life-force, the fire within. Triangular shapes are also made with the limbs when doing standing yoga poses, like Triangle pose.
A circular pattern is the energy of Metal so whenever we make a circle we are connecting to that element. We can draw a circle with our foot, or do fluid belly dance-like circles, or Tae Kwon do type circles, spirals and kicks like knee sweeps, and turn/return. The Metal element is also connected with the act of breathing – inhalation and exhalation – and as our breath deepens naturally during a Nia workout we are bringing a lot of Metal energy into the picture.
A rectangle shape is the energy of Woodwhich represents strength and flexibility and the shape traditionally associated with the Wood Element is rectangular or columns and one of the most powerful symbols of the Wood Element is the yoga pose Mountain. I think (like the Metal element) whenever we move at all we are using the Wood Element. Our bodies are rectangular and our spine is a column. When we undulate our spinal column we mimic the action of a plant moving in the wind.
Free form is the energy of Water. Water is the emotions and memory. When we free-dance we invoke the Water Element and one component in particular in free-dance has the potential to bring all of the elements together: in modern dance we create shapes in space and have the opportunity of incorporating all of the shapes of the Five Elements into our routine.
Sounds are also used to create sacred space. I know that some people are shy about vocalizing during Nia (it is all part of the process of feeling comfortable in our bodies) but certain sounds made when doing the martial arts chops and punches invoke sacred space. All of the vowels have healing power. “Ha” for example means “Breath of Life” in the Hawaiian language. Even with not vocalizing but making audible exhalations such as “Ha” bring healing energy and a connection with the divine.
The main thing to consider is that everything is energy and nothing ever stands alone and separate, and one of the reasons that I love Nia is because of these deeper connections I make – not that I consciously think about them when I am doing Nia. Then I am simply energy, RAW (ready, alert and waiting) to see what will show up next. It is a beautiful thing.
© Deborah Redfern 2012. All rights reserved.