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The Thirteen Principles of Nia (a 13 part series)

Principle Five:

"We are wired to be fully aware." 

from the Nia teacher and personal development guide: White Belt Manual

Commentary by Julia Desmond,
Certified Nia Instructor

Principle 5 is actually consists of two parts. One half is the awareness of pain in the body and the use of stimulation to promote self healing. The second half is the awareness of pleasure that leads us to "Dance Through Life."  This month I will focus on the awareness of pain and our ability to self heal. 

This principle has been a powerful one for me personally.  I suffered a misalignment of my hips after the birth of my daughter. I went through physical therapy and eventually realigned my body. However for many years later I had chronic hip pain.  It wasn't until I took the White Belt training that I realized I had gotten into a peculiar bad habit that was exacerbating my injury.  As I learned to be more aware of my body I came to the astounding realization that I was driving with my right hip in the air. I have since worked quite diligently to keep that hip on the seat and as a result I am pain free, a state that just a year ago I wouldn't have believed possible. Whenever, the pain returns I know that I need to check that (difficult, quite set in its ways) hip and make a slight correction. 

Awareness is a dynamic process. It is only possible in the present and therefore is constantly changing. We are rarely aware of sensation in our bodies unless we are in a state of discomfort or pain.  Pain signals the need to change the body's movement or alignment. Awareness is not about judging ourselves but about gathering information about our bodies.  With this awareness we can then set about making small changes in our movement that improve our balance and alignment.  Use stimulation, either movement or relaxation, to encourage healing. Ideally this process is a daily occurrence.  We check in with our bodies when we wake up in the morning and adjust how we do the little things in life, just like I monitor my hip as I drive. 

In class this principle should be employed so you don’t accidently cause an injury to yourself.  If a movement hurts or even causes a slight twinge, the movement should be modified or stopped.  Check in with the instructor to see if you are doing the movement correctly.  Principle 5 is about choices.  It is choosing to be aware of our bodies, sensing what needs to heal and stimulating the area in order to achieve healing.

Commentary by Allison Frederick
Nia Studio owner/operator

Julia's story demonstrates the complex benefits of the Nia philosophy. One healing art contributing to Nia is Feldenkrais. Feldenkrais focuses on retraining our brains to break physical habits that are causing our body pain. For Julia, it was in the way she was holding her hips and standing. For those suffering from knee problems, it may be that they walk with their feet pivoted out to the side rather than being aligned in a forward position. Sometimes we hold our bodies in such subtle, yet destructive ways which over time lead to painful conditions. We might say "I have a bad knee," instead of saying, "I have a bad way of walking."
Becoming aware of what our body is doing is the first step towards self healing. How do we stand, sit, walk, do Nia? Do you have any sensations of pain in your body? If so, when do you feel them? Watch how your body does a certain activity. Can you guess whether you are causing the problem through poor body mechanics? Below is a 10 minute video explaining the core philosophy of Feldenkrais. The good news for us is that Nia incorporates the best of Feldenkrais with other healing arts and other exercises to create one comprehensive exercise that can be used to burn calories, tone your body, give you a cardio vascular workout, and self heal.

More articles on The Thirteen Principles of Nia

Principle One:  The Joy of Movement
"Joy is the primary sensation you should seek from all movement. If you momentarily lose joy, tweak your movement until joy again arises." *

Principle Two:  Natural Time and the Movement Forms
"All of your Nia movements are done in your own personal, natural sense of time and include movements and energy from nine classic forms." *

Principle Three: Music and the BBC System 
"Nia is practiced to the sounds and silences of music, using an eight-beat counting (BBC) system (1 - and, 2 - and, 3 - and, 4 - and, 5 - and...) to organize the movements." *

Principle Four:  FreeDance
"Anything goes movement-wise. Let go of structure.

Principle Five: Awareness and Dancing through Life
"In Nia, you become aware that every movement in life is a dance and that every movement can be used to self-heal."

Part 2 of Principle Five: Dancing through Life

Principle Six: The Base - Feet and Legs
"Your feet are the hands that touch the earth, and through your legs they carry the energy of the earth to your whole body."

Article Coming Next - Principle Seven: The Three Planes and Three Levels
"Every movement can be done within three planes - low, middle, and high (or as you will hear in class, Level One, Level Two, Level Three) - and can be done with three different levels of intensity. Mixing the three levels and three planes creates a wide repertoire of movement choices. Transfer body weight along a Smile Line, moving from low to middle, to high. Use three levels of intensity to vary your rate of exertion."

*Nia Principle descriptions are taken directly from the fitness book "The Nia Technique: The High-Powered Energizing Workout that Gives You a New Body and a New Life" by Debbie Rosas and Carlos Rosas

If Nia sounds like something you would like to try, we invite you to take your first Nia class for free. Simply fill out the request below and we will send a coupon to you. Our Nia fitness classes are offered in Castle Rock, Colorado. 
Castle Rock Nia Fitness Studio is located 15 minutes south of Lone Tree, 20 minutes south of the Denver Tech Center, 20 minutes west of Parker and 10 minutes north of Larkspur, Colorado. Our convenient, off-the-highway access (Just off I-25 and Exit 184  - between the Meadows and the Outlet Mall) makes it easy to get to our Nia classes.
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