I'm lucky I do Nia; I get to enjoy my body and life in "peak" experiences every day. Nia has taught me how to engage with my body so that everything I do – how I move, think and feel – results in "peak experience" sensations that help me stay fit, healthy and well. Nia reminds me to live in my body consciously and to sense the experience of life: of my body, of love, of my self and the world I live in.
Nia's approach to science is based on the body, which is why we call it The Body's Way. This is a method of observing the natural design of the body and using it as a guide that illustrates the correct way to use our body the way it was designed to be used. When we follow The Body's Way, the body itself becomes our source of inspiration and movement creativity – and it speaks to us through sensation. Sensation is The Voice of the Body, the ever-present voice that guides us, if we choose to listen, into a loving and respectful relationship with ourselves, with others and with the world.
In the Nia White Belt, the first level of Nia training, we focus on tuning into sensation to connect to health, wellness and "capital J" Joy. This education introduces the 13 White Belt Principles of Nia, powerful tools you can use in your movement practice and every aspect of life. I'm sharing the science behind each of these principles with you this year, to explain the "what, how and why" behind the technique and craft of Nia. The more you understand, the more you will gain from everything you do in your Nia classes and beyond.
This month, we are focusing on Principle 7: The Three Planes of Movement and Intensity Levels. (To read about the first six principles, visit the 2010 Course of Education page of our website.)
White Belt Principle 7 has two parts. Part One, The Three Planes of Movement, encourages you to move your body through three physical planes: high, middle and low. Part Two, Three Intensity Levels, refers to moving through three levels of exertion. Level 1 exertion involves keeping your arms and legs close to your core (easiest). As you shift to Level 2, you begin moving your arms and legs further away from your core (a bit more demanding); and in Level 3, you move into your full range of motion (most demanding). While moving, use body awareness to track the sensations of comfort and pleasure. Listening to these "voices" allows you to monitor your movement, so you can respectfully and safely challenge your current skill level. By making sure you move in comfort, you allow your body to dance with the powerful, balanced and relaxed sensation we call "dynamic ease."
In Principle 7, we share two techniques to support dynamic ease by protecting your bones, joints and muscles as you shift body weight: The "Smile Line" and "Heel Lead." The Smile Line is an imaginary line you follow with your body, which guides your movement gently down and back up again as if following along the line of a smile. Heel Lead, one of Nia's 52 Moves, is a Base Move and is much like walking. In Heel Lead, your heel touches the ground first, allowing you to shift weight by naturally rolling through your whole foot. Together, these two techniques make it possible to sink and rise your body, in any plane or intensity level, as if riding on waves, bobbing up and down. This action of bobbing up and down naturally strengthens your bones and muscles, while protecting your joints and ligaments.
The Three Planes of Movement teach you to create elegant whole-body motions as you ride the waves of "up" and "down." Moving and dancing in all three planes creates rich, comprehensive actions that tone, strengthen and stretch your body as a whole, instead of in isolated parts. The Three Intensity Levels provide the freedom to personalize your movement, putting you in charge of how much or how little you do, while guiding you to push into new levels of conditioning and potential. This allows you to get the most out of everything you put in!
Moving through three planes and in three intensity levels also stimulates the "muscles" of your attention and awareness. As you sink closer to the earth, sense energy streaming up from the ground, through your core and into your shoulders. As you move faster and slower, up and down, sense your dance quickening in your elbows, rolling in your wrists, wiggling in your fingers. Maintain soft, spring-loaded knees, flexible ankles and dexterous feet, to use all your body parts together as you ebb and flow through the planes. As you learn to ride your own movement along the Smile Line, you will learn to stay loose and fluid through your spine. The result feels like a full-body massage; a full-body oxygen bath that leaves you tingling, feeling fully toned, symmetrically defined, dynamically fit – and more alive than ever!
Dancing Through Life
Tips for Integrating Principle 7: The Three Planes of Movement and Intensity Levels into every moment
- Use every activity today as a way to create new alignment in your body. Take a moment after each activity to notice the feeling of energy circulating through your whole being.
- The next time you sit in a chair, imagine sinking into the Smile Line. Slowly lower yourself onto the seat along the curve of the Smile Line. When you are ready to rise, continue riding the curve all the way back up!
- When you walk, become conscious of the way you are stepping, one foot at a time, allowing your heel to gently and dynamically lead your walk through life.
- Get up and down from the floor for 60 seconds each day, moving at a speed that respects your current level of fitness and health.
- Have an indoor picnic. Instead of sitting at the dinner table tonight, try having dinner on your living room floor. Notice how this affects the flavors and sensations you experience as you dine.
- When doing a repetitive activity, such as cleaning countertops, do it as slowly as you can, and then as fast as you can, while maintaining balance and ease.
- As you walk to the refrigerator, sink and rise, as if riding waves in the ocean.
- Crawl on the ground for 60 seconds each day. Crawl fast, medium and slow and observe how this affects your alignment, balance and muscle tone.
Most of all, enjoy the wave!