Next Generation of Trainers

Symbols, Anatomy, and ME!

By Shannon Mairs on June 15, 2011

My self-view of myself is that I am not a slight person. I am tall. I am strong. I am powerful. To me, there is no delicate about me. This perception has shaped how I have approached my body over the years. I would say that I have not necessarily been overly kind to myself and that I viewed my lack of dainty-ness as a handicap. I would say that this perception of myself gave me license to do things to my body of which I am not proud. This perception game me license to say things to my body of which I am not proud. This perception changed after I did my Nia Brown Belt and I learned the concept of Symbology.

Symbology gave me the awareness of how I was representing myself physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I cannot say enough about how this concept changed my body and my life. It completely shifted my perception of myself. Thinking of my body as a symbol brought me the awareness of how I was representing my body to the rest of the world. This was not a concern about how others “viewed” me but a true curiosity about what exactly did people see when they looked at me. As I continued to play with the concept of symbology I realized that how I carry myself and how I think of myself plays an integral part in how people view me. If I cross my arms in front of my chest, I energetically put a wall up. If I open my arms and clasp them behind my back, my heart is open to those with which I am interacting. These small, but telling, symbolic gestures can transmit information that I wish or do not wish to transmit. I have learned that my body is a remarkable transmitter for my energy. I have learned that I wish to be perceived as strong, powerful, and tall. I wish to be perceived by others as I truly perceive myself. This shift in thinking was definitely a mental conditioning.

Anatomically, I honor my body. My body is tall and strong and my body is fit. I realized over the years of my Nia practice that my anatomical perception rules my health and fitness level. For example, I suffered for years from recurring bronchitis. It has been about three years since my last serious encounter with this illness. I feel as if my recently learned awareness of my lungs, ribcage, sternum, and diaphragm contributes to my ability to keep my respiratory system healthy. I use my knowledge of the shape, or symbology, of my ribcage to imagine an open-air cage with space and volume inside. This awareness brings me the ability to inhale and exhale deeply and to imagine no blockages or narrowness within my lungs. As I breathe both directions of breath, in and out, are always healing my body from the inside out. From Leslie Kaminoff’s book, Yoga Anatomy, I learned the expanded definition of breathing: the process of taking air into and expelling it from the lungs is caused by a three-dimensional changing of shape in the thoracic and abdominal cavities. Kaminoff says that defining breathing in this manner explains not only what it is but also how it is done. Kaminoff says this process of breathing has profound implications as it can lead to examining the supporting, shape-changing structure that occupies the back of the body’s two primary cavities-the spine. As I read this information, I realized that my use of my body anatomically had truly increased my awareness of my ability to self-heal my body. Words like expelling and three-dimensional, shape and cavity enabled me to picture myself as my lungs and ribcage. My diaphragm, lungs and my ribcage were not the enemy…they were a part of me! I could study my breathing and study the depth of my breath. What a concept! Anatomically, I could create space and volume in my core and think of my lungs as slick and healthy or as soft and expansive. I could imagine the pulsing of my diaphragm and picture it as a jellyfish pulsing upward toward the surface of the ocean. This imagery allowed me to see the beauty of my body instead of viewing it as an enemy. The gentleness with which I began to view myself enabled me to become more aware of nuances in my body that signal when I was sliding down a slippery slope of lung dis-ease. I could take measures to heal my lungs ahead of becoming knock-me-off-my-feet ill.

Once I became more aware of my breath, I actually began using it to condition my body. Inhaling and exhaling with power and force increased muscle tone in my belly. Using my breath and my sound to direct my energy created strength in my body. Using my awareness of my symbology and of my anatomy helps me to breathe deeper and enables me to guide myself through my Nia workout with dynamic ease. The conditioning in my core from sounding and moving my breath enables me to do more, dance more, and be more in my daily life. I receive more from every Nia workout now that my breathing is healthy.

My body will never be dainty or delicate, but my body will always condition itself as I breathe and dance. My body is strong, tall, and powerful. It is remarkable in its ability to shift and shape itself based on the movements that I do. If I use my representation of myself positively and dance into my height, I condition my muscles and my ligaments as I reach into the heavens. No diminishing my greatness or my body by sinking inward into myself. My mantra: Expanding. Always. One breath at a time!