Next Generation of Trainers

June Blog Assignment ~ ~

By Danielle Eastman on June 8, 2011

"How have you used the power of symbol & anatomical knowledge to enhance your ability to condition your body?"

Prior to Nia, I thought I knew a lot about fitness. With two degrees (one Bachelor's and one Master's) in Exercise Science and Exercise Physiology, I had extensively studied anatomy, kinesiology, physiology, and training philosophy. Little did I know that the Nia White Belt was going to blow my mind and show me that I had barely learned a thing in regards to all there is to know. With great thanks to my Nia Teachers and guides, I have since further enhanced my ability to condition my body (and to help others to do so) through the powerful gifts of many Nia Principles.

First, the Nia White Belt first taught me about Awareness... about paying attention to body sensations... to listen to my body... to seek pleasure and listen to pain as a healing path toward fitness conditioning. This was a huge step for me to get my nose out of the books and start listening to my body's innate wisdom. My body will now let me know when something feels "off" - too tight, loose, stuck, rigid, dense, weak, etc. I have learned to love and respect and listen to my body. My body now guides all that I do, keeping me injury free and on a path toward enhanced fitness conditioning and wellbeing.

The Nia White Belt also taught me to pay attention to my body sensations outside of class - while Dancing Through Life, in Living Meditation, or practicing Life As Art. This has been HUGE for me, as I am "outside" of class for many more hours a day than I am in class. Through strengthening my Awareness muscles, I have become much more conscious about how I am conditioning my body all day long! For example, I am currently standing while typing on my computer, at a personalized standing workstation. This is allowing me to have my three body weights aligned, my feet active as my weight balances on my grounded foundation, and my core muscles engaged to maintain the natural curves of my spine, all supported from the inside out in a way that feels pleasurable and is sustainable.

The Nia White Belt also taught me to explore "anatomy" in new ways. Rather than rote memorization of bones, muscles, and mechanical movement prescriptions, Nia taught me to Look, Listen, and Imagine the anatomy of my Base, Core, and Upper Extremities. Nia taught me to gather new details and connect the dots from one body part to another, looking at how they work together systemically, and systematically -- how they function based on the architecture of the beautiful human body. Through this continual exploration, I continue to learn more and more about my body's framework and how to move in ways that are functional and will lead to lifelong fitness.

Through the symbols of the Three Planes of Movement and the Smile Line, I've learned to condition my body to move in a grounded, yet powerful way, creating much more stability and strength in my muscles and flexibility and mobility in the joints of my base. Through the symbols of three sizes of movement "bubbles" I have learned to condition my body using Three Intensity Levels, leading to an enhanced ability to move with detail and precision in small ranges of motion as well as large, full range of motion, movements. Together, these symbols provide me a great amount of movement variety - all directions, vertically, and horizontally - which continuously challenges my muscles, joints, and nervous systems.

The White Belt also taught me to see my anatomy in new ways. Through training my skills of Witness and X-Ray Anatomy, I became much more aware of and intimate with my dynamic postural alignment via my bones, ligaments, and muscles. I learned about the importance of loosening and tightening (about how they work together -- in relationship). I learned how to "see" my body in new ways - at all times - and to seek endless movement variety for enhancing my conditioning through constant stimulation and change! I gained a completely new sense of 'body image' and it was incredibly empowering!

Finally, through the many Principles leading up to Brown Belt Principle #10, Symbology, i have learned to become more "body aware" - sensation-wise, visually, and also energetically. This helps me to notice more and more how each movement and posture I am in all day long are conditioning my body toward enhanced vitality or not. I am aware of my posture, walk, and voice and with this awareness I can then choose to make changes in what I am doing or not based on my desires for myself and how I want to affect those around me. 

Finally, I have - through Nia - developed an insatiable hunger for body wisdom - both internally-found and that found from teachers, such as masters in other forms of bodywork, authors, trainers, etc. I consider myself as a lifelong student of the body. I want to know more... and more... and more... I want to embody the wisdom I learn (versus memorize and later forget). I want to understand. I want to sense. I am ever-curious and so very excited. And I am very thankful that Nia gives me a path and a livelihood that allows me to continually study such a fascinating subject. The constant learning is what continually ignites and feeds my personal conditioning as well as the conditioning of my participants!

It is the constant desire to learn/understand the body that fuels my excitement to read books such as Yoga Anatomy - our assigned reading for this month. I love that no matter how many anatomy books I read, I always learn more! For example, I've often looked at the body in the past few years as a system of cables (muscles and connective tissue) that I can tighten and loosen. However, in the book, something that really stuck out to me was the internal balancing act that the bones and discs of the spine play all on their own (regardless of muscle/connective tissue). When one curve is exaggerated, the opposite curve will also exaggerate in order to "balance" it out. I hadn't really thought of the spine in such a way before. This is something for me to really consider with my postural habits (especially since I have developed quite a large lumbar curve). I had explored curves independently, but not as much in how they affect one another to keep the spine upright. As I said... always more to learn!

It was also nice to review muscles and joint actions while reading this book. I enjoyed "seeing" through the skin to the muscles and the bones in the beautiful illustrations of the poses. I also enjoyed reading about common obstacles/obstructions that hinder one's ability to do the poses. I will likely never bring many of the poses into class as they are quite advanced and require significant levels of conditioning to prepare for them. However, it is nice to see them, learn about them in greater depth, and even read about the origin of the pose names and what they symbolize. I would have loved this book to include some more basic introductory poses and/or a variety of modifications of the advanced poses so that we can begin to work our way up to those shown in the book. I will therefore be looking to other books that give introductory steps for incorporating more of these yoga poses into class.