Warm smiles greet you as you walk in. The teacher introduces herself to you personally. Everyone is taking off their shoes, chatting; you take off your shoes as well. You feel your bare feet as you join the others on the floor. The room quiets and the teacher goes to the front to “set the focus” for the class – the thing you will be focusing on for the hour as you move. Maybe it’s a body part such as the Spine. Maybe it’s a concept like Self-Healing. Maybe it is one of the “five sensations of fitness” – flexibility, agility, mobility, strength and stability. Whatever it is, the focus will shape and guide your experience for that class.
The teacher says, “Let’s step in,” and everyone literally steps forward and waits. The music begins. You notice right away, “Ooo, this is not regular exercise music. This is calmer, more sensual.” Watching the teacher, you emulate her movements. “Pretty easy,” you think. “Is this really going to be a workout?”
New songs come on, the tempo picks up and the choreography evolves. You notice how extremely well the choreography fits the music, a nice surprise. The teacher’s well-chosen words help you get the moves and focus you inward on your body’s sensory experience. “Sense your thigh bones,” she says, and you do. “Loose joints,” she says, and your joints oddly get looser. She never criticizes or corrects. Only guides and inspires. You notice how safe you feel.
The music gets more energetic, the movements more vigorous. It’s fun to do these moves, even the weird ones. The teacher gives images that make the choreography come alive in your body. “Tickle the clouds!” “Footprints in the sand!” “Big swooping condor wings!” You laugh. You puzzle. You have sensations you’ve never had before. You wonder if you look silly, but you see others doing the same thing and having fun, so you think, “What the heck” as you join and re-join this beautiful, funny vortex of music, images and movement.
Then the music calms down and the movements do as well. You find yourself on the floor, guided by the teacher’s words, stretching, making new shapes with your body, feeling gravity acting on your bones. Your heart rate slowly lowers. Oxygen floods your bloodstream. You feel hot but serene.
Finally the teacher brings everyone to a stand. On your feet, you hear her closing words. Then she calls everyone to “step out” of the Nia experience and into the rest of their day. Bare feet, including yours, step forward.
Hands clap in front of smiling, sweaty faces. You notice your own sweaty grin in the mirror. You see the clock and do a double take: “That was a whole hour?” Walking over to the shoes with the others, you notice your body feels somehow extra alive. Awake. Tingling with sensation. Your joints feel juicy and warm. Your face feels loose and expressive. Your hands move with a new confidence.
You realize, this was not an ordeal that you “endured.” This was something else entirely. This was about pleasure, fun, the joy of movement.
You wonder, “What IS this?”
This is Nia.
Welcome to our world.
Paula Chambers is a Nia Black Belt teaching in Los Angeles. Come step in! http://www.valleynia.com