Thin Ice

thin ice 1The house where I grew up in Connecticut was on a pond.  As soon as it froze, we all put on our skates and were out on it.  My dad is Canadian by birth and is an excellent skater but he also has a healthy respect for ice.  He was always the one to test it before we were allowed to skate and he was always the one to assure us that the pops and cracks we heard were just “safety cracks.”  It was not without irony, then, that one sunny winter afternoon it was he who broke through the ice and fell in.

He was okay, and didn’t even need us to fish him out with the long-handled rake that we kept on shore just for that purpose.  But I never felt the same going out on that ice again.  I remember, even when we were sure it was perfectly safe, the sensation of trying to skate without actually touching the ice.

Standing without touching the floor

Do you ever have the feeling of attempting to stand without actually touching the floor?  I notice that I feel this way when I’m afraid of someone’s reaction or I think I’m not welcome or if I just feel like I don’t want to be there.  Of course, we have an idiom in English, “walking (or skating) on thin ice” for any situation where we feel like something could go seriously wrong, we could get in trouble or ruin something easily.

When you are “walking on thin ice,” what does your body feel like?  My shoulders come up, I start to hold tension in my core and my breath goes all shallow-y.  I can feel tightness in my neck and upper back.  This holding becomes habitual for many of us, since I see this “thin ice” posture in myself and in students all the time.  If I really check in with myself, it’s unusual for me not to have some kind of tension in my body all the time.  In some way, most of the time, I am efforting to hold myself up rather than relaxing and trusting that I really am supported all the time.

Relaxing into Six Nia Stances

In Nia, we have six stances to help us break the “thin ice” habit.  Six stances that invite us to fully let our legs and the floor support us:

1.       Closed Stance

2.       Open Stance

3.      “A” Stance

4.      Sumo Stance

5.      Bow Stance

6.      Cat Stance

All power and grace in human movement comes from our connection to the Earth.  Each of the six stances gives us a different sensation and opportunity to relax ourselves into that constant foundation.  (See complete description of each stance in the Helpful Info menu to the right.)

This week, I invite you to focus on how you stand – both in class and in your day.  Do you effort to hold yourself up?  Do you hold tension in your upper body in an attempt to avoid resting fully into the floor?  How much can you relax into any standing position and trust the support that is always under you?  Ironically, by giving your full weight to your stances, you have much more power, grace and far more choices about how to move from there.

NOTE FOR THE CURIOUS:  Later this week, I’ll offer a “graduate level” practice to combat “thin ice” standing (and thinking!).  For now, stand tall and relaxed in the knowledge that you have support in you and beneath you.

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