The three body weights – the head, chest and pelvis – form the core of the body.  When used properly, movement of the head, chest and pelvis strengthen, stretch, and align the body.  They distribute and send energy to all parts of the body as they move.  They can help ground energy along the vertical axis; generate and distribute energy horizontally; improve intrinsic balance; develop core power; provide systemic strength; improve spinal flexibility; increase abdominal support; and provide greater relaxation by stimulating the nervous system.

By paying attention to the way you move and hold these weights, you can effectively align your core to improve your posture and functioning.  Improving postural alignment enhances your ability to breathe more deeply and more efficiently; improves self-confidence and heightens self-esteem; and improves your overall mental, physical and emotional health.  When the three weights are integrated into your natural walk and dance, you feel vitally alive and energetically present.

 Principle #8:  The Core

In Nia, the three body weights – the head, chest and pelvis – make up the core of the body and Principle 8 explores the form and function of the core in depth.  These body parts act as free-weights that work separately and collectively as you move.

Pelvis – Nia integrates the pelvis into all movement.  First, create stability by using your feet as a foundation and base.  It is easier to guide your pelvic movement when you anchor your feet into the Earth.  Keep your knees soft then gently circle and move the pelvis with your feet relaxed and connected to the ground.

If we look at the bones of the pelvis we can see that it is a strong, bony container with spaces for movement.  If we look at the form and function of the pelvis (as we did with the feet, click HERE for more on the form and function of the feet), we see that the pelvic structure contains energy:  the organs, new life and sexual energy are all contained in the pelvis.  We let the pelvis function in alignment with its design by relaxing into mobility and stability in our pelvic movement.

 Chest – The bones of the chest include the sternum, the clavicles, twelve ribs, and the spine.  These bones contain and protect the vital organs, including the heart.

If we look at the bones of the chest we can see that it is a flexible and open container which protects and allows movement.  If we look at the form and function of the chest, we see that the structure of the chest exchanges energy:  the lungs and heart are sustain the entire body by allowing energy to move freely in and out.  We let the chest function in alignment with its design by opening into mobility and flexibility in the ribs and spine.  Breathe deep and let your heart beat strong, and you are letting the chest do what it is designed to do.

Head – The bony structure of the head houses and protects the eyes, ears, mouth, nose, brain, tongue and teeth.  Your neck supports the head and protects the cervical vertebrae of your neck.  Additional protection to the neck comes from the thick muscles surrounding the bones.  The muscles of your neck originate at the base of the skull and cervical spine and anchor deeply into the upper back and chest.  The most natural way to move your head and avoid tension or strain is to use your eyes.  When you look at something, the eyes lead the head motion in a natural and safe way.

If we look at the bones of the head we can see that it is a bony protective container which safeguards the brain, neck and sensory organs.  If we look at the form and function of the head, we see that the structure of the head directs energy:  the brain, eyes and other sensory organs directs the body and mind.  We let the head function in alignment with its design by looking out and moving the head with awareness and attention.  Look, see and follow and you are allowing your head to function in accordance with its form.

Nia Movement for the Core

Incorporating core movement into your Nia practice is essential for creating systemic, whole body movement, as well as overall health and comfort in the body.  Here are the basic core movements we use in Nia:

Pelvic Circles – Circle the hips as if you were moving a hula-hoop.  Pelvic circles are best practiced in an A stance, with your feet parallel and your knees slightly bent and gently spring-loaded.  Sense the motion of your hip join, the ball rolling in the socket.  Avoid pushing beyond the base, your feet.  Use all of the stances and create pelvic circles in both directions.  Focus on making smooth circles.  Notice if the circle is choppy or jagged anywhere and feel for possible tightness in your muscles.

Hip Bumps – Bump your hips in different directions.  Hip bumps are best practiced by moving the top of the pelvis up toward your armpit.  Use hip bumps for moving with precision to trigger the pelvis as an integral part of explosive leg and energy-full, whole body motions.  Focus on rhythmic precision and stop the bump before it pulls on joint ligaments.

Chest Isolations – Isolate and move only the ribcage.  Chest isolations move the ribcage in all directions, at different speeds, and with different dynamics.  Chest isolations are best practiced by using the spine to move the ribcage in lines and circles.  From up to down, diagonally, from front to back, back to front, from left to right, right to left, or in a circle or square.  You can bent, extend twist undulate or vibrate the ribcage.

Pelvic Circles – Circle the hips as if you were moving a hula-hoop.  Pelvic circles are best practiced in an A stance, with your feet parallel and your knees slightly bent and gently spring-loaded.  Sense the motion of your hip join, the ball rolling in the socket.  Avoid pushing beyond the base, your feet.  Use all of the stances and create pelvic circles in both directions.  Focus on making smooth circles.  Notice if the circle is choppy or jagged anywhere and feel for possible tightness in your muscles.

Hip Bumps – Bump your hips in different directions.  Hip bumps are best practiced by moving the top of the pelvis up toward your armpit.  Use hip bumps for moving with precision to trigger the pelvis as an integral part of explosive leg and energy-full, whole body motions.  Focus on rhythmic precision and stop the bump before it pulls on joint ligaments.

Chest Isolations – Isolate and move only the ribcage.  Chest isolations move the ribcage in all directions, at different speeds, and with different dynamics.  Chest isolations are best practiced by using the spine to move the ribcage in lines and circles.  From up to down, diagonally, from front to back, back to front, from left to right, right to left, or in a circle or square.  You can bend, extend, twist, undulate or vibrate the ribcage.

Shimmy  – Vibrate and shake the shoulder blades.  Shimmy is best practiced by letting the arms and hands hang loosely down, and by releasing your lower jaw so the neck and shoulder girdle muscles naturally relax.  Trigger this intrinsic quick and small muscle action by imagining that you have a backpack on and you want to shake the pack.

Undulation – Undulate your spine like a caterpillar.  Undulation is best practiced by first sensing the space around your waist and then moving in slow subtle ways that eventually put you in touch with all 26 vertebrae.  Undulate from top to the bottom and also from bottom to top.

Spinal Roll – Roll your body down and back up.  Spinal roll is best practiced in A stance to assist you in sitting back as if getting ready to sit into a chair.  Release your hip joints, the body’s main joint, and keeping your knees relaxed, gently round down, leading with the pelvis.  Once your body says, “Enough, I can’t go down further,” then round first the spine and then the head over your base.  Unfold back up pushing your feet into the ground, coming up pelvis, chest and then head.  A spinal roll can be done in the other direction by standing in an A Stance and diving the top of your head down first, and then lifting through your crown to roll back up.

Head Movement – Move the head, using the eyes to curiously look around.  It is the action of the eyes being seduced to look that naturally moves the head.  Head movement is best practiced by keeping your lower jaw open slightly and the tip of your tongue pressing lightly up against the roof of your mouth.  Use the eyes to guide head movement by first looking in a direction at something, and then notice how your head has followed, moving without you moving it.  Look in all directions with the eyes and see, allowing images to come toward and into your space.

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