Story: Dance to reclaim your body and your life

November 9, 2016

Dance to reclaim your body and your life

Having a Nia practice can help you reset your body, your life and restore your faith in humanity 

Illustration by Randee Fox ©2016

This is not a time to be silent. Instead, this is a time for us to stand up proudly, to dance together and reclaim our bodies and our lifes.This is not just for women but for us all.

The artistic, expressive practice that celebrates and honors my body
I have been practicing The Nia Technique since the year 2000. After just one class I adopted Nia as my dance, fitness and creative life movement practice. I became a Nia teacher in January 2004 and since have been teaching multiple classes a week nonstop. Today, at 64 I teach six classes a week at two YMCAs as well as my own dance studio. Nia offers me an artistic practice with infinite depth and limitless awareness of how my body works and expresses itself in motion.

Nia teaches people to find health through the joy of movement combining dance arts, martial arts and healing arts in a fun and music-filled hour-long motivating movement class. The outcome, over time, allows us to create a deep reverence of our body, the absolute most important relationship and the greatest gift of our lifetime. Nia is called “the love your body workout” and I have benefitted personally from this daily movement practice – one that keeps me fit, creative, mobile, strong, young, open, light-hearted, expressive and listening to the wisdom and voice of my body.

Illustration by Randee Fox ©2016
Creating a positive body image and a strong sense of self 
I have witnessed many things in my students over the past 12 years of teaching Nia – students of all ages, sizes, backgrounds with varied abilities. Some new students, in finding their way to their first Nia class, may feel a bit self-conscious. I have heard "I can't dance." or "I have no rhythm." Some bring along a long history of non-acceptance, challenged by a 'negative body image', never quite living up to some ideal fantasy shape, living within their unique shape that is never quite good enough. Some in their mid-life tell me that they long for a body that they once had in their 20s or 30s. This is a mindset that people, especially women, in our society sadly fall into. It can be horribly self-defeating, a self-judgement that literally rips away confidence, self esteem, positive self image and pride in our bodies. Having a daily movement practice like Nia, where all bodies are accepted and celebrated, and where the intensity of the workout is always self-directed with a “no pleasure, no gain” philosophy, can be a bridge to self-acceptance in today’s hard driving, sometimes cruel and competitive world.

Dancing daily for a healthy and expressive life
It takes a great deal of balancing one’s life to sustain a daily Nia practice. Life’s challenges and demands may take precedent. Whether it be family obligations, the loss of a loved one, stressful or changing work environments, illness, injury or emotional challenges, a lack of a designated movement ritual can create a downward, stifling and stuck pattern of motionless, stagnated living. I have had students return to my Nia classes after a stretch of time, once again sensing the immediate health and happiness benefits of their daily Nia movement practice. They are able to restart their body-life momentum and get back on track, back to a state of balance, of moving again daily - with a higher positive sense of self.

Nia is a practice based in physical sensation and choice 
Nia encourages us be independent by choosing sensations of pleasure that feel good while dancing. Doing this in a group of warm, welcoming and positive people can be very rewarding, empowering and make us want to return to class. If it does not feel good we are encouraged to personalize the moves, make changes - or what we call "tweaks" - in the moves or choreography until it does feel good to our bodies. The practice itself teaches us a variety of routines that offer is new ways and patterns by which to move our bodies, creating not only greater levels of fitness but also offering us a program that is fun and conditioning for the body too. The variety of movement not only creates new neural pathways for our brain and body, keeping us young, agile and fit, it helps us to shift, open and heal the damage and stress that repetitive or lack of movement can bring. We move to heal and condition for greater health and happiness.

I have witnessed Nia students literally heal their bodies and lives through the practice. Once they learn to choose what feels good to them while in motion, they become self-empowered, connected to their physical body and stand up strong in their truth. They learn to make healthy life choices and also create the necessary boundaries that they otherwise would not have created. In short they learn how to say "NO!" to what is not working in their lives and "YES!" to self-love and positive sense of self. Some have changed their jobs, found the courage to leave unhappy or abusive relationships and create healthy, loving relationships instead. Through Nia’s hour-long music and movement dance practice they find an inner strength that is first experienced and expressed physically. This form gives them the courage, in their own way and time, to make choices that feel good to them – choices that flow with them, outside of the Nia studio into a better and more healthy body and life.
Illustration by Randee Fox ©2016

Reclaim your body and life through Nia's Martial Arts, Dance Arts and Healing Arts
Nia’s martial arts-inspired moves (Tae Kwon Do, Aikido and Tai Chi) teach us that it’s not always ‘ladylike and polite” to learn to express a strong and guttural “NO!” while delivering a variety of precise kicks, punches, blocks, chops, or strikes. Sometimes tears flow while feeling deeply moved at the sheer joy of emotional release through Nia moves including the expressive dance arts moves (Jazz, Modern, Duncan Dance) as well as the healing arts moves (the work of Moshe Feldenkrais, Alexander Technique and Yoga). The choreographed routines and music provide the perfect atmosphere for releasing our unique self-expression, sometimes for the first time in our lives. The practice gives us a bridge back to the most important relationship we will ever have, the relationship with our body, no longer abandoned, no longer a source of shame, no longer locked up and disconnected. It is now moving, expressive and reclaimed and well.

With every Nia class, it is my goal is to send a message of self-love while guiding my students to take a daily dance break.  Nia is an elixir for a life-giving shape-shifting ‘reset’ -  a sort of a 'personal pleasure and exhilarating, high energy movement massage'.

Dancing it our way, within a warm and welcoming, diverse and positive community
Within the warm and welcoming diverse community of Nia dancers, people of all ages, all sizes and all fitness levels, we dance on our own yet together, discovering and celebrating the true magnificence and potential of our bodies and lives in motion. We discover our rhythm and our dance. We literally fall in love with our bodies, some of us, for the first time ever - together in community. Over time, as the practice becomes 'embodied', we seem to get younger and lighter as we age and our dancing community bonds stronger through the shared cords of connection.

Creating a positive self-image with compassionately empowered community translates to our children as well
Three years ago my spouse and I became guardians to our niece when she was 10 and we are raising her like a daughter. Now at 13 years old, living in a household with two creative, positive guardians who both love to move and realize our dreams, she has learned to make healthy choices for her body and life too. She’s discovered a love of music, dance and sports. She is learning how to express her feelings and emotions while also taking responsibility for them. She is becoming a willing team player in our household and a compassionate leader amongst her friends. She is learning to be a strong, proud, empowered, and a self-loving young woman with a positive sense of self.

Illustration by Randee Fox ©2016

For us and for our children, we must draw closer to one another with with our arms and hearts linked and must also deliver a strong and proud “YES!” YES to help each other heal during a time when positive, empowered diverse communities must align and dance together to create a more respectful and better world for every body. 

Take your first dance step 

If you don’t know where to start, please come to a Nia class near you (Nia is in over 50 countries). Dance with us to break through and release some of the negative energy that surrounds us all right now. Join us to reset your body and your life and also to help you restore your faith in humanity. Learn more about Nia and find a class near you here.

Wednesday November 9, 2016 - Huffington Post
What do we tell the children?

Sunday October 16, 2016 - Excellent Seattle Times Story: 
How to talk to kids about body image amid the 2016 campaign insults

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