It's curious that my last blog, from the summer, was Moving while recovering from injury or illness, and I now find myself needing to follow my own words very closely. Two weeks out from a hysterectomy, I'm allowed to come back to class, as long as it is VERY LOW IMPACT. This means I will demonstrate small and you can choose to intensify the movement until you find what is right for your body. Rather than bring in familiar routines, this seems like a good time to experiment with a new one. As some of the movements are new to us, we can take it smaller, focus on tiny details, and add intensity with increasing familiarity. (I find when teaching at full volume, the small details can get lost.) Consider the next couple of classes a workshop on a new routine. Hopefully, we can all develop a deeper level of intimacy with these new 'katas' - as we like to call the specific movement combinations in Nia.
The new routine, 'Sacred', incorporates beautiful world-flavored music with some interesting and playful movements and sounds. The original focus for this routine is 'dancing the bones,' and as I (minimally, in my condition) move and listen to this work, it takes me to any number of places: dancing our body, mind, emotions, & spirit; awareness and healing; dancing the three body weights: pelvis, chest, and head; and the power of dedicating our dance to something we hold sacred. We will visit each of these foci (described below) as we learn the routine 'Sacred.'
We define 'focus' in a Nia class as "what you place your attention on." You might notice me say in a particular class that we are focusing on the sensation of stability, in order to feel more peaceful. That is an example of a focus, followed by the intention. The focus always leads us to something we would like to experience. You can always bring your own personal focus to any class.
Dancing the bones comes from a Nia principle called "X-ray anatomy." X-ray anatomy involves sensing from the inside, or observing the form in the mirror to check for proper placement of bones (which benefits ligaments, muscles, and tendons). When focusing on dancing the bones, I notice a sense of lightness and ease, less resistance, or more playfulness when practicing a resistance move.
If you practice Nia, you know that you are a multidimensional being. Our workout integrates the body, mind, emotions, and spirit, feeding every part of you. When your being is fully fed, your motivation comes from within, we don't have use pounding beats as an external driving force to push you to move harder and faster. Music can stimulate joy, passion, and playfulness in your workout. You can practice from a place of inspiration, rather than needing to be driven to work out.
Awareness (which includes self-healing) is one of the basic Nia principles. Awareness allows us to tune into sensation - the language of the body. Pain lets us know to stop and assess what we are doing, make corrections so that we can move safely, and heal. Pleasure says, 'yes, more of this.' Awareness teaches us to be mindful of our thoughts and emotions, heal misperceptions, and speak our truth, when necessary. In the spirit realm, awareness allows us to sense our connectedness, and heal feelings of isolation.
The three body weights, the pelvis, chest, and head, make up the core of the body. As we focus on the three body weights, we learn to find a natural alignment, that alleviates holding patterns that cause pain and discomfort. We build strength, flexibility, and stability in the core for more comfort and ease in dancing through life.
We can dedicate any dance to an attitude or concept that we hold sacred to get a profound sense of well-being. The nondual teacher David Hawkins says that we can use just one spiritual tool, such as kindness or forgiveness, and pursue it with intensity to its ultimate end to free ourselves from the bonds of the ego. We can apply this to our dance, as well, to fully embody that which we hold sacred.
No matter what focus you apply to your dance, remember that laughter and playfulness are also sacred. So come to Nia and enjoy an immersion in 'Sacred.' Beginning this Tuesday Oct 10 (at Timberhill Athletic Club - 6:45pm), for the next 2 weeks, or so. I'll be starting 'Sacred' at Chintimini next week on Monday Oct 16 at 11:00am.
Wednesday, August 16, 2017
Group exercise classes bring an air of fun and comradery to our workouts. The expressiveness of dance brings smiles, while the deep relaxation at the end of class allows us to let go of our daily worries and struggles. Are you feeling sidelined by an injury or recovery from an illness? No need to let the fun pass you by, you can learn to participate in group fitness classes in a way that supports your healing process. Nia and Fit for Life both provide opportunities to engage with the joy of dance, the stimulation of interesting or uplifting music, the relaxation of a deep breath and stretch, and the fun of working out with positive people. Leela cues both of these classes with varying levels of intensity and modifications for situations you may be healing. Here are some attitudes that can help you make the most of class while learning to adapt the moves to fit your healing process.
Go easy on yourself – practice ‘beginner’s mind.’ Consider these classes “movement practice” – we come together to practice, not to be perfect. We are learning what works for us right now, at this time in our lives. Let go of what worked twenty years (or six months) ago and be present with where you are right now. No need to ‘try hard’ or ‘figure it out’ – find the movements that feel good. Keep the focus on the sensation of pleasure.
Listen to your body. Start small and work up to greater intensity over time, only when your body says you need more (ignore the ‘shoulds’ in your head – listen to the body). Never push into pain! If any movement hurts – don’t do it. Pain is body talk for “stop that!” Listen to your body. Just because a movement works for others does not mean it will work for you, right now. Modify your moves to find pleasure in your dance or stretch. Over stretching or overdoing any movement can cause injury or set back your healing process. The more you listen to your body, the more intelligence you will find.
Let your instructor know about your concerns, she can direct you towards alternative or smaller movements. Keep your focus on what’s working, what feels good, and move towards pleasure. Anxiety about pain produces greater pain. If you are in a lot of pain, you need medical care, not exercise. If you are not in extreme pain, you may find that shifting your focus to what feels good actually reduces the pain you do feel.
Be consistent in your practice – show up for yourself! Those who start and stop, and start and stop tend to give up before they establish the exercise lifestyle. If you over-did it one time – don’t stop – show up and find out how to avoid making the same mistake again. There is no shame in having to work smaller or slower, it’s all learning.
Notice that you are surrounded by some of the nicest people in the world. Your classmates are welcoming and willing to offer helpful tips to newcomers. Some of them have even been where you are right now. Don’t be shy, and if you are – that’s OK, too.
Don’t let an injury or healing condition keep you from finding the joy of movement. You can learn to take your movements down a few notches to a place where you can practice in safety and develop greater body awareness, along with all the other physical, mental, and emotional benefits of exercise.