Sunday, October 11, 2009

Nia and Martial Arts

Punches, Blocks, Chops, fists, spear finger, kicks, knee sweeps, and stances are all moves borrowed from the martial arts. Every Nia class utilizes some variation of these moves blended with dance. In martial arts, the hands are trained to be so skilled they become a weapon when used in combat. Each of these movements conditions the body in unique ways, like the front kick gives us stability in the ball joint, grounded foot, and agility in the thrust of the kicking leg. The kick also allows us an opportunity to breath out and make sound as a way to naturally strengthen core muscles. Timing and measurement of where to place the foot further challenges our mind/body connection.
The upward/outward/inward/downward block all are great opportunities to practice with "yes" and verbal "no's" as we center and practice technique of movement through the shoulder joint. This is also a good time to have the martial arts attitude( depending on whether it's Tai chi - patience, Aikido - peaceful warrior or TKD defense/attack) beyond the move, and to access how we utilize our personal energy. The verbal words of yes, no, are a way to stimulate emotions as well, and even to empower a "no" or a "yes" with different meaning.
The moves along with a loud or whispered "yes" or "no" are effective at uniting the emotional body with the physical and with our core. Add to this moving and measuring how we balance our own energy throughout the class and with all the moves. The "simple" technique of adapting the moves to fit ones body, vs. copying the moves the way the teacher demonstrates them builds confidence. It's also a way of strengthening a relationship with self ( through being responsive and confident in your process) which in turn opens up new ways of being in relation to others.
In Aikido it's described as being vertically aligned first. Aligned with your center, the earth, the sky, your spirit, ( independence), and then relating horizontally without losing one's verticality. Being overly horizontal (co-dependent)would be like losing energy constantly by worrying about everyone around you, or having weak boundaries internally/externally or overly concerned with boundaries over all. This would be the sense of falling forward during a kick, or leaning forward during a block in a stance.
A sense of balance of being true to oneself, and yet also relating with others , even and especially in conflict, would be the desired Aiki approach. This is an example of one way to bring Nia "dancing through life" into your life.
I hope you find this tidbit helpful, I always enjoy the moment to reflect and bring forth these notes. How's your verticality today? Aho, Kelly

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Body Reveals itself to us!

Today's tidbit relates to the Nia Principle that the Body reveals itself to us when we listen. This is the principle called "The Body's Way" and all of Nia is built from this. The Body's way meaning that we can look to the design and function of any part of the body, and find the potential and possibility of that part, and compare it to what is happening in our own body. Closing this gap is the art of healing. It requires presence, each and every day, and moment, for that matter, as the body is always speaking to us and we may miss the whispers and only listen when the body is screaming at us. Often we spend more time in the past, recollecting what has happened prior than to be present to what is happening now. Our bodies are different, and changing all the time. Our bodies are a reflection of our thoughts ( this is a great reminder to consider changing your thoughts about aging and the body) Collecting the fine details of sensations and offering stimulation that then feeds back more information. This is the healing circle- all the while the mind offering the statement of " Now i am healing".....This can be happening while we are in life, while we do the things we do each day. While brushing teeth, cooking, getting dressed.
Another aspect of The Body's Way is recognizing that our bodies are energy. Science tells us that every muscle, bone, organ, even our thoughts are a moving energetic vibration. Everything is made up of energy, the more dense ( like a chair for instance) the slower the vibrational rate. The body can hold onto energy , and create a density, that may inhibit our ability to remain physically, mentally , and emotionally healthy. This often happens when we become too entrained, and too much in our "heads" thinking things intellectually versus experiencing life through the body with no inner dialogue. Thoughts like " stand up straight", "keep knees behind toes" and linear movements that make logical sense actually tense up the body and inhibit the natural flow of movement. It is this inhibition, this tension , that creates illness or holding of excess energy that blocks full health. When you release physical or emotional tension, the body moves with more pleasure, ease and wellness increases.
One of the best ways to open into moving the body in an organic natural way, releasing the "training's" and thinking mind, is to practice the first stage of healing. This stage is called "embryonic" , this is where we begin to move without thinking. The intelligence of "preverbal" comes forth. Our Body's are designed to know how to move without us having to be told or to recall from a thinking place. Embryonic is the state of unlocking that wisdom, and allowing our bodies to unfold for us the path. The body can then re-order itself without the thinking mind creating tensions.
To begin embryonic, lie on the floor and hug knees in. Begin to move randomly as if you are in a bubble supported by a sea of water. Allow your limbs to feel buoyant. Sometimes reaching, twisting, from the right or left, or belly down. This is all sensation, and allowing your body to move in ways that feel pleasure able. Once embryonic is practiced for a bit, it's helpful to move through the other developmental stages with the same preverbal state that you have cultivated. ( creeping, crawling, standing and walking) This is a great way to be in the moment, and can be a state that is called on at any time during the day while you do other activities. Enjoy! Love, Kelly

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

From the Inside Out- My Nia Story

Hellllloooo ,
First I wanted to send out an apology for not being more regular with the tidbits. I am feeling a lot these days that when my window of opportunity to write opens, it feels like my well is dry, and that I just need time to stare into space to clear the way. The second a creative inspiration comes in , my attention is needed somewhere else and the thought drifts out to the ethers. I wonder if this is what Attention Deficit feels like and I have a new empathy for that challenge. Thank goodness I have Nia to dance a connection to myself, or maybe I would become one of the many mothers I hear from that become so absorbed in their roles, that they forget to care for their own souls and then spend years later recovering!.
So this is one of the rare moments. I have been asked to write about why I teach Nia and feel so strongly about Nia as a fitness and well being practice. It's been an interesting process for me to consider who I was when I first took a Nia class, how I have changed, and what I love most about Nia now. I am considering how much of me changed naturally, whether I took/teach Nia, and how much was stimulated by Nia's principles and movement.
When I first took a Nia class, I have to say I was primed and ready for what Nia is all about. From the very first aerobic class I took in 1987, I knew that I felt better when I moved. I loved music, and that I had a knack for inspiring others to also move. Over the next 10 years I I had taught aerobics, all kinds, and lifted weights and ran generally 15 miles a week on top of 7 aerobic classes and weight lifting sessions. I was a fitness expert on the local News channel, and also a fitness trainer on a radio show called "Lose your belly with Kelly" where people would call in and ask for advice. I was all about fitness, and also very aware of external image and what they call in psychology as a "high self perceiver". I was also a hairdresser and had spent a lot of time helping people to look their best on the outside and listening to clients talk about their lives. You know this is part of every hairdressers job!
What started out as pleasure and movement began to change after 10 years of teaching. I noticed that what once I did to make me feel better, began to become a drug for me that was fueled with self loathing. I would run to burn calories, I would do aerobics to feel better about myself, I would lift weights so that I could feel "normal". Outside of fitness I found myself eating large amounts of food, only to plan in when I cold burn it off. I was driven by my weight, and always felt I wasn't in the range I wished to be. If only I looked more like I thought I should, then I would be happy! . On the surface, I appeared happy and healthy. Under the surface I was depressed, anxious, neurotic and not happy. I was fueled every day with self hatred, judgement on myself ( that also mirrored out to the world to others), and a feeling of being "stuck" and not in control, I had a lot of fear. I began to notice my unhappiness, and also noticed that for some of my students, movement was also a way of feeling "normal" or more connected to something that gave them peace. I knew from this that movement could be healing, and also that it touched me and my students on many different levels. From this I concurred that I would like to learn more about movement as a healing modality and signed up for 2 more years of college to prepare for a career change in physical therapy.
I was preparing to start college in Rochester NY when I saw an ad for a fitness center called "Feels Great Fitness". The ad had women and men of various ages, sizes and types all laughing a real authentic looking laugh, not the typical Barbie doll advertising with washboard ab models depicting the promise that you too can look like them if you join in ! I was intrigued. I went and took the class called "Nia" that was posted all over the schedule and walked away mystified. Between the music, the moves, and the uniqueness of the class, I for the first time, felt a stirring in me of something bigger. Was this my spirit? I knew then that this is what I was seeking. I wanted to connect with others on this level, I wanted to connect with MYSELF in this way. I have to admit, there were parts of the class that I was resistant too. First of all, the women and men where all a full range of sizes, with all kinds of body types, and the women with the fuller bodies moved confidently and wore clothes that showed off their curves, not hiding it. This was new for me. I also noticed how much I was accustomed to everyone dressing and looking alike and moving alike in the classes I taught. I had to be with my awkwardness, yet I knew it was healthy. These people in the class were open, creative, energized. I noticed how fluid other students moved, and openly expressive. Along with this these Nia students were so flexible and strong, after all the fitness I had done, I couldn't sit down in a squat with my tail down to the floor like many of the students of all ages could. I didn't like moving "freedance" style. I was so trained to move "aerobic like" that I had no idea how to move freely. I had lots of judgement about myself, and also was shamed by noticing how this judgement also went out on to others. I could feel my mind searching for a way to find some "order". Yet, something told me this was very healthy, and that I could grow through practice. I noticed my inherent need to feel a certain amount of pain as I exercised, and that I had become dependent on that to determine if I worked out "hard " enough. I became aware , for the first time, that there were different ways of perceiving the world. My way was not the only choice, and that I could notice my thoughts and change them. This was the beginning for me of a new way of living. I was still afraid, and wondered.....and the only thing that kept me moving forward on this path was trusting that what I felt in my body was really good. As my questions came forth, I kept returning to how my body felt, how calm I was after class.
Within six months I changed gears with my plans as my father became sick with a brain tumor. I quit school, returned home and helped take care of him through his last months. I still feel that the experience of those Nia classes opened a world for me that helped me to stay strong during this time of my life. I began to journal and explore my life. I tried to create a class I called "MBF- Movement , Balance, Flexibility" at a fitness studio I opened in the same building as my hair salon was. It was close, but didn't have the same feel as the Nia remembered at college. Soon after I married , moved to Sarasota, and became a Nia White Belt teacher in 2000. I felt like a fish out of water in the traditional fitness world. I had changed, those things that I used to do where no longer helping me, and I was spreading my wings in new territory. It was scary. It was my passion for knowing how much Nia helped me to connect to my body, my emotions, my spirit, that supported me in those times when I had no students and was paying rental in a space.
Today, you can pick up any magazine and read about mind body fitness. It's a trend. Pilates and Yoga are well known and hold less mystery. Yet, both of these modalities ( that I also teach and do feel their benefits are huge) don't offer much in the way of creativity and expressiveness ( both of which are know for their ability to heal). All of our joints need not only to open and close in their full range, but they need to open in a way that we live our lives, and we live our lives as emotional creatures. Emotions are information that tells us about our experience. Too often we become stuck in feeling only certain emotions, and fear is a prevalent one in this day and age. I Nia teaches us to trust the bodies natural healing mechanisms, to feel emotions, and even to celebrate them along with other parts of the body. This is a gradual process in Nia, it's not expected that you feel comfortable emoting to your hearts content on the first class or the 100th, but it is noticeable that this part of our selves is nurtured in every class. Like the subtleties of fine music, it's felt , this nuance. The effect of releasing long held tensions, is an emotional one. Strengthening to the point of being able to recognize an emotion and then to call on a different one to feel, is the agility of the heart center, another benefit I have developed from 9 years and now a black belt level Nia teacher.
Beyond all of this, Nia is a great cardiovascular sweat that you can receive without your feet leaving the floor, it's grounded. This kind of sweat and this deep breathing is necessary for the body and the brain to remain healthy. The joints are supported. The feet are awakened along with all the sensations of living in a body.
So what happens after 9 years of doing NIa? I have become more choosy through the years and that I feel was stimulated through my Nia practice. I no longer will do things that feel unhealthy for me, behaviors like eating foods that feel bad in my body, staying sedentary for more than a day, or doing one type of activity for too long ( like computer or television), or being away from nature for too long . My body has been conditioned to seek pleasure as a way of reaching excellence , and I have become conditioned to listen and respond. I appreciate life, nature, and the moment with reverence. I love and use music and silence as modalities to keep myself balanced, both of which I knew nothing about before Nia. I know that I can teach and practice Nia long into my future and that it has become a way of life for me.
I also feel eager to see the changes in my future, I don't fear them. Something happened in my process of learning to let go, release shame, to open and let my body lead me. The changes that have been supported by my Nia practice have all brought me to more pleasure in my body and mind, and have supported the changes that have happened around me and effected me ( including the death of my father, a divorce, a marriage and the births of 2 sons- both of which I danced right through all 8/9 months of ). I no longer use fitness as a way of avoiding life, but rather , through Nia , I use it as a way of integrating life and my body as one. So this is my positive evidence that Nia works. Thanks for listening! love, Kelly

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Nia tidibit #117

Hi everyone,
Happy Blue Electric Storm Day ! Blue Electric Storm is the "tribe" that today falls on in the Natural Time Calendar/Mayan Calendar. There are 20 tribes that are kind of like zodiac signs in that they each have meaning. It's a fun way to play with intention each day as the meanings for each tribe are a blend of eastern and western philosophy and spiritual growth concepts. Not all, but many Nia teachers like to follow this calendar. I will have ones for the new year for sale soon in class if you are interested.
So, today's Nia tidbit is inspired by Blue Storm ( this happens to be my partners sign- Sid). A key word for Blue Storm is self generation, catalyze and energy. Thunder, and a storm, is natures way of ushering in change. Change is natural, and consistently a part of life. We change as we age, relationships evolve and change, our roles change through life, friendships change, everyday subtle changes are there....and as much as staying the same feels safe, it's actually not good for our health physically or mentally to strive for same.
Before a change happens, whether it 's big or small, it's common that things have to become unsettled, disorienting, old constructs begin to feel unstable. It's the process of change, and the thunder is the clarifying energy that must happen. It's the contractions before the birth. Often this is the state of change that we resist, and it's easy to begin to grasp at familiarity. When this grasping happens , the body becomes tight, the joints dense. The shadow of Blue storm is being stuck, and repeating habits and addictions as a way to try to avoid reality.
This brings me to sensing stability in the body. The most important sensation of fitness is stability. It is from stability that we can reach new potentials of strength and flexibility. If you have ever injured a joint, you can re-call what extreme instability is felt like, and then how a new stability in another part compensates as the body heals. Though instability doesn't feel so good it's an important part of the process. Recognizing it and adjusting to find stability once agian. Stability in the body is felt like a radiating center and it's natural and necessary that stability is evolving continually. We must feel the sense of no stability to begin to seek stability and then we must not hang on to it. Being stiff, dense and stuck in the body is not stability. Stability is fluid, adaptable. It's being the eye of the storm. It has a feel of being able to change at any moment, a freedom and openess to choose. Stability is not constantly the same, it's dependent on instability to keep it alive.
For today, notice what is asking to change in your body/life. How do your joints feel? Invite the sensations of instability to come forth and notice your movement choices that bring you to a new subtle sense of being a radiant center. This can be from one joint, to a whole body sensation. As you bring yourself into feeling stability , you will be the center for others to also find their centers. If you come to Nia class tonight you'll have the opportunity to feel stability viscerally!
Love, Kelly
ps. Trainer Denise Medved had a thunder bolt go through her house 5 weeks ago. about change. Her house was 2/3 destroyed and she's living in a rental. We collected lot's of love during last week for her, and some extra money to replace her chatkas. She wanted me to express to you her deep gratitude and wonderment for being so loved and supported. Thank you everyone .........

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Thanksgiving post

Hi everyone,
I love this time of year and Thanksgiving is my favorite all time holiday. Food, Family, Friends and festivities all blended into a day, yum yum....

I decided the other day to begin to notice why I say thank you through out the day. I invite you to explore this practice for yourself tomorrow. Here's what I noticed:

1. I say thank you ALOT. Sometimes not when I am feeling gratitude:0

2. I say thank because I want something done , as in , " Nate , PLEASE put your shoes on...THANK YOU".

3. I say thank you because I feel I am not worthy. I notice this when I say thank you at the end of every sentence. It's more of a way to feel I am giving something back, as in everything has to be balanced and if I don't have something I can give back, then I must say thank you over and over till the other person acknowledges my gratitude. This comes from my EGO:)

4. I say thank you to show I have "Good manners" ....ego, check....

5. I say thank you and express gratitude as a way to manipulate....ouch. "Thanks so much , that was, would you go to the store for me?"

6. I say thank you when I am embarrassed or lack words to say something after a compliment sometimes...

7. I say thank you when I genuinely am grateful and when I feel appreciated.

8. Finally......I am deeply thankful when I feel the emotion of gratitude so strong within.....This is how I feel to teach Nia. I feel such gratitude for the building community of Nia students and teachers. When I look into my sons' eyes, I feel something so deep and cherished, this is gratitude for real...It's tangible...and often I hold it back as it feels like it will overwhelm me, or embarrass the other. And sometimes I let it go ( this feeling) too quickly.

So, I humbly share this with you in hopes that it inspires your own awareness of "Thank you" and the emotion of gratitude. From this experiment I have discovered where I lapse out of authenticity, and I see where I can savor and deepen a connection to others and to myself.

Happy Thanks giving everyone! And a heartfelt Thank you for dancing with, Kelly

Monday, April 27, 2009

Nia tidbit #113 Alexander Technique and Nia

Hi everyone,
I am so proud to share this email with you. It's a snippet that one you ( thank you Martin) sent me describing how he experiences Nia. I think it shows how Nia is great for men and women,any age/size and how it touches different kinds of people in so many different ways. It's also an example of how the movement form below touches us through imagery and movement of the head.
We've been focusing all last week on Alexander Technique, one of the 9 movement forms. Frederick M Alexander developed this system of healing to heal himself from a throat problem that effected his acting career. Dancers took to it quickly and then it expanded even more when doctors began sending patients to him who were depressed, breathing disorders, unexplained aches and pains, back ache, arthritis, fatigue, headaches, gastro intestinal conditions, and certain sexual conditions. Through conscious "use" of the body, looking at the body from a "whole" perspective, and utilizing "non-interference" or " inhibition" and then "conscious direction" , movement ( and thus emotions, thoughts, beliefs etc) habits are gently shifted to make room for a better functioning body and mind. It all happens in the "non-doing" , meaning it takes not changing the body through the "stand up straight, chest out , stomach in " approach, but rather through inviting a forward and up position of the head as it relates to the spine and then waiting and feeling for a new experience of the posture in the body as it walks, sits, lays down, dances and functions in life. This gentle approach helps to re-establish neural pathways by bypassing the outward act and creating change from the inside out. Another aspect of Alexander Technique is using the eyes to look and engage the energy body. The mirror was a tool Alexander used to notice how he did simple things like sitting in a chair and then initiating a new alignment of head and neck, and eyes, as he practiced and developed his method of change. It's truly "Dancing thru Life" in practice. I hope to see you in class this week to deepen your connection to Alexander Technique and to bring Dancing Thru Life into your day! love, Kelly

"When I first heard of Nia, it was from a friend who lived in Orlando and drove to Sarasota to participate in Kelly Atkins’ Nia classes. It had be good, I thought, for her to drive that far. I had started taking Yoga classes a few weeks earlier and I was already on the path of self-discovery, so I decided to try Nia. Now, picture this: a single guy in his early 40’s, business executive, likes fast cars and being a guy. That was me. And there I was, in Kelly’s Nia class – the only guy in a group of women – acting playful and silly, seeking pleasure and nurturing my body. Nurturing? What’s that? Well, let me tell you… For the first few weeks, I found it hard to leave my machismo at the door and shed my inhibitions in front of all those women. At the same time, I felt a sense freedom every time I stepped in, so I kept coming back. It wasn't long before I was able drop the masks I'd been carrying for years and give in to the pure pleasure of Nia. When I come to Kelly’s class, it’s as if I'm able to leave the material world behind and enter a magical world that Kelly creates for her students. The room transforms form a stormy sea to a tropical forest with butterflies, from soaring over cliffs like an eagle to touching the inside of a transparent sphere, from pounding on a drum to enveloping myself in an invisible cloak… the magic is infinite. To me Nia is a place where everything is possible, where I can create my present and my future exactly the way I want it to be. There are no boundaries and everything simply flows. I am part of the Creation." -Martin Turneau

Monday, April 6, 2009

Nia tidbit #112- sensation, creating dreams, chakras

Hi everyone,
The last few tidbits have been "passed on" info i have recieved, and i am excited to offer you something that came right from my body today.
Today's tidbit is about desire, passion, and flow. It is always said if you can find your passion , your calling, then money and opportunity will flow. Finding that thing to create in the world that you'd do no matter what, admidst lifestyle stress... this is the trick, or rather the art. This applies if you're looking for a successful career, relationship ( passionate/healthy/supportive love) , health( ways of healing) or any goal. I believe that finding what one is passionate about or cultivating passion is dependent on feeling desire( sensation), staying with it ( focus- tolerance) and allowing it to unfold for you ( choice). Think of a baby that moves and explores until the desire is strong enough to push the edges of their little bodies to strengthen to move from embryonic, to creeping , to crawling, to standing and walking..The body actually naturally gravitates towards health, ease, relaxation, and wellness. If we can sustain being in our sensations, becoming more tolerant of pain ( meaning to notice the subtle, acute, or constant sensation and not "numbing" it till it's an enormous pain you can't ignore) and pleasure( is it a little pleasure? medium ? a lot?), and not in the thinking mind but in the living body's wisdom, desire becomes enriched. This desire is healing in it's ability to bypass the ingrained habits and loops in the mind filled with "should's" and other beliefs. This desire is constantly changing and adjusting the way the body does naturally to whatever is in need of attention.
Once one is attuned to what one desires, passion begins to come forth that are authentic to one's spirit. This is embodied passion that is running on sensation. Glimpses of this come forth through practice with desire in the body. Living passionately is very energizing! A great way to practice this at home is to ask your body as a whole or even better a particular bone, muscle, ache, pain, joint , etc, "what is it you need, what is it you want" and staying with the sensations as you begin to decipher the difference between the head answering, or the heart or the ache/part itself...and the key is to stay with the sensations as you de-code it's meaning. Become a good listener!
As desire is cultivated from this deep place, passion is the tapestry that is woven from noticing that which you desire. As passion is deepened, it's time to begin to notice how the Universe steps in to support you. Be observant of opportunities and "random" encounters that are chances for you to begin taking action towards your wish. Having hope, and faith in whatever you believe in as a higher power, and knowing that good is coming your way is important to help you see clearly. IT's the river that will float you to your highest good. Below is a chakra flow chart I created for you to play with that ties in with desire and our energy bodies:

Remember these are questions to your body, and the body is answering through sensation:

chakra one: What do I need ( survival: safety, food, rest, movement)
chakra two: What do I want? ( once needs are met, what would enhance the experience?)
chakra three: Do I have enough personal power to integrate that want? What am I afraid of ? Who is the Me that is stating all my fears? What does fear feel like in my body?
chakra four: Who is there to help me create this? How do I begin relating to my desire, and to others about my desire? Trust
chakra five: what do I say about it? how does my language choice, and sound of my voice relay my desires and creation. What is it I am truthfully saying ( beyond the simple words). truth
chakra six: What ideas and inspirations come regarding my passion energy and choices?What are my beliefs about achieving my desires? thoughts
chakra seven: Universal love. Hope. Connectedness.

Kelly Atkins www.niawithkelly.com941-928-8866©Black Belt Nia teacher ©ACE certified personal trainer©Certified Wellness Coach- Coach "K" ©PhysicalMind Institute Certified Pilates Mat teacher