The strangest thing happens to my perception of time in December. It feels like it gradually speeds up starting at Thanksgiving, rocketing through Hanukkah, whizzing to Christmas and then careening right to midnight on January 1. Whatever you celebrate at this time of year and even if you don’t celebrate anything, there is no avoiding the swirl of the season.
Wild People Singing
One of my favorite Christmas carols is The Carol of the Bells. I love the energy of the music. For me, it captures the speed of the season. I’ve never actually sung this carol, so for fun, I looked up the lyrics. The chorus goes “Gaily they ring, while people sing / Songs of good cheer, Christmas is here! /
Merry, merry, merry, merry, merry Christmas! / Merry, merry, merry, merry, merry Christmas!” First of all, I just love the flurry of “merry”s! Second, my whole life, I thought it was “wild people sing.” That’s how this season feels to me: wild people singing…and shopping and eating and drinking and celebrating…and arguing and stressing out and drinking some more.
Right in the middle of all the man-made holidays of December is the winter solstice: the longest night of the year. The solstice is nature’s way of inviting us to slow down, to decelerate in the midst of all the wild people singing. The human holidays, what with their emphasis on flashing lights and sparkling tinsel and music sung by a hundred voices and lavish eating and drinking, seems to me to be a manifestation of our resistance against the darkness. Most people want to push against the natural movement toward darker and slower energy of winter, but there is great power in deceleration.
The Power of Deceleration
In Nia, we use deceleration to increase our strength and to protect our bodies from impact. Nia is designed as a non-impact movement form, so in its classic form, deceleration in the lower body is focused on the relaxed roll of the foot into the floor rather than dropping the weight as we step. As you move, whether in Nia or any other way (including hiking, running, or walking across your living room), practice stepping silently, decelerating the feet as they connect with the floor. Deceleration is about talking softly, like a cat. Even when we introduce micro-hops or jumping into Nia (as we will when we do Firedance on Wednesday*), we can use the strength and control of the lower body to slow down and land softly and silently.
We can also use deceleration in the upper body, especially when executing martial arts movements of blocks, punches and strikes. By mindfully decelerating to the end position of any strike, we protect the joints from being pulled out of alignment and strengthen (rather than compromise) connective tissue with changes in speed of the movement.
Decelerating Through Life
As always, The Body’s Way is not just about what we do in class. The Body’s Way invites us to move our lives with the same mindful intention. Winter Solstice reminds us that slowing down has hugely regenerative and healing power. Take a few breaths before you approach the buffet table. Let others talk at dinner even if you hear someone say something that you want to comment on or correct. Slowly sip a glass of water before a glass of a spirited drink. Set aside time for quiet and contemplation as well as socializing and celebrating.
Just as decelerating our movements does in Nia, decelerating our days during the holidays has the power to strengthen especially the connective tissue of our lives. What can you do, in the midst of wild people singing, to decelerate? Please do comment below about your choices for deceleration in Nia and through the holidays. “Like” the Focus Pocus Facebook page, and if a post resonates with you, share it!
Special Classes this Week
* I’ll be teaching two special classes this week: Wednesday, December 19, 1045-12noon at ACAC Albemarle Square, we’ll dance Firedance to the beautiful, powerful music of Riverdance and on Friday, December 21, 9-1010am at ACAC Downtown, we’ll do the silent class called ChakraDancer with music that is tuned to balance us. Of course, I’ll also be teaching on Monday, December 17, 1045-12noon at ACAC Albemarle Square and Thursday, December 20, 9-1010am at ACAC Downtown. Those playlists are in their formative stages but are sure to have their share of festiveness. Please do join us.