RAW stands for the state of being in a Relaxed body, Alert mind and Waiting spirit. This is the practice we use to listen with full attention by creating a state of "no inner dialogue." In RAW, you are not distracted by thoughts, desires, likes or dislikes; you are in a place of internal silence--physically, psychologically and emotionally.

Relaxed refers to the body, either standing or sitting, with an upright spine. Your chakra centers are aligned and open. Relaxed is marked by an absence of tension in your body.

Alert refers to the mind and means that while your body is relaxed, your mind is not sleepy. Instead, your mind is alert--not preoccupied with thoughts or opinions, but simply curious about the different sounds and spaces of silence that come and go.

Waiting refers to the attitude of your spirit. You are waiting in wonderment, open and curious to whatever arises in the music, rather than passing judgments such as "this isn't good," or "I can't dance to this." Waiting is a spiritual attitude of complete acceptance and open-mindedness. It keeps you centered and focused on allowing sounds to come, instead of seeking, thinking and judging.

To enter a state of RAW is to create an environment for truly receiving the messages of music. This is the key to the art of listening.

Exercise: RAW

Sometime today or tonight, put on any piece of music and practice RAW. Sit upright, relax your body, keep your mind alert...and now wait. Wait for the magic to begin. You will be amazed at how you feel after you listen wholly, giving your complete attention to your music-muse.

To hear the sounds we dance to in Nia classes, visit NiaSounds. Here, you can sample and shop the NiaSounds library to bring the music into your life and home!


The 8BC System
The Nia 8BC system is a unique listening, counting and music coding system. It is a method of visually mapping sound in order to see its patterns and structures, using symbols and bars. The 8BC system is how Nia teachers count, record and listen to music; it is how we learn and share new routines. As with everything Nia, this system is best understood through physical sensation.

This exercise teaches you the basics of counting music using Nia's 8BC system. As you practice, sense how relating to music in a new way can become a healing tool for your nervous system, mind, body and life. First, find a place where you feel comfortable making a little noise. Now let's begin!


Exercise: 8BC Counting

A common way to count a measure (or a "bar" of music) is called "4:4 time." This simply means that for every bar, there will be four even counts that divide the bar into quarters of time. Now, count out loud at even intervals: One - two - three - four, at any speed ("tempo") that feels comfortable to you. Do this several times until you get a feel for this style of counting. Do it again and this time, clap on the count as you say each number out loud. Repeat this, and sense this style of counting as the sensation of traditional 4:4 counting time.

The Nia 8BC system of counting is different from the traditional method you just practiced. In Nia, we count bars of music with attention to the balance between the act of counting (action) and the act of waiting (resting). This method supports The Body's Way, as it includes the natural, organic cycle of both movement and rest, which circulates energy throughout your body and allows you to move with grace and fluidity. As the traditional counting system ("1-2-3-4") is void of a rest, it quickly becomes agitating and unnatural to your nervous system.

So how do we include the count of rest (waiting) in music? In Nia, we add an "&" count between numbers, physically marking our awareness of the rest. This makes it possible to hear, feel and move to music in a more intuitive and organic way. Instead of just counting on the "beat," we generally count in groups of 8 beats per bar, adding an "&" after each number:

1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 5 & 6 & 7 & 8 &.

(Out loud, it sounds like, "1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 5 and 6 and 7 and 8 and.")

Try it. Count out loud and say the beat-number (count) and the "&" (rest):
1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 5 & 6 & 7 & 8 &.

Repeat this several times and feel this style of counting in your body. Now do this again and add a clap to each count. As you say each number out loud, sense the action. Each time you say "&," wait and sense the rest. Do this again, repeating: "1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 5 & 6 & 7 & 8 &."

Notice how this style of counting includes "action" and "rest" phases, thus making a complete cycle. Similar to breathing, you now have a fluid "in" and "out"!

Lets return to the conventional style of counting for a moment. This time, leave out the clap and the "&" counting, and just say out loud: "1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8."

Notice the difference. Notice how this style is faster and does not include a period of rest. Can you feel the difference?

Now count the Nia way: 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 5 & 6 & 7 & 8 &. How does this feel?

Everything we do in Nia is intended to create balance. This is the Nia Way--The Body's Way. This is how we turn dancing to music into dancing with music.