Body Language – Nia Principle 9

woman punchintAmy Cuddy’s amazing research shows that not only do my body postures communicate to others, they actually communicate to me!  By intentionally holding our bodies in a powerful posture, we actually become more powerful.  Did you know that Nia does this, too?

Principle 9 of The Nia Technique is Creative Arms & Hand Expressions.  On a strictly physical level, this principle is revolutionary in regards to how it trains and conditions the body.  By intentionally using the hands and arms in different ways, the upper and lower bodies are integrated, the core is activated, and the joints are both strengthened and freed with a  variety of movement.  If you want to get a feel for it, do Finger Flicks (four fingers under your thumb and flick out like you are flicking water off your fingers) or Creepy Crawlers (use all ten fingers – especially the thumbs – as if you were plucking berries off a branch) for 30 seconds and see what sensations you have in your forearms!  (When I do it, I can feel all the muscles in my forearms turn on and get a heated up.)  And that’s just finger movement!

Nia uses a wide range of arm and hand movements in its choreography which stimulates the body in a variety of healthful ways (see the whole list of movements here) — and not only physically.  In alignment with Amy Cuddy’s research, Nia arm and hand movements allow movers to use their body language to show up differently – in their bodies, in class, and in life.

It can be challenging to move our arms and hands in ways that are outside of our usual style.  Some people feel awkward with punching or blocking moves.  As a generalization, women often not only haven’t done these movements, but they’ve been discouraged to use strength, fierceness, or power in their upper body.   Others are challenged with the more fluid, dance-like hand movements in Nia.  Many people, men, in particular, are culturalized not to move expressively.

“It’s just not me,” they’ll say.  And to that, I say, “Actually, it is you.  It’s just an un-exercised part of you — just like an un-exercised muscle.”

It is human to have strength and fierceness.  It is human to have tenderness and gentleness.  It is a cultural phenomenon to abandon some gestures and movements and over-develop others in order to fit into social norms.  In my classes this week, we’ll focus on hand and arm movements.  If you’re dancing this week, notice how different movements make you feel physically as well as mentally and emotionally.  If you’re dancing through life this week, notice how you tend to use your hands and arms.  See if you can experiment with using them in different ways and see how it changes how you feel and how you show up.  And if you’ve got something challenging to do, go into the bathroom and stand like Wonder Woman for two minutes before you do it.  Then, go get ’em!

Arms and hands are how we connect with the world and with ourselves.  I’d love to hear what you observe in your practice and your life.  Please do leave a comment below!

  1. This reminds me of the 5Rhythms workshop on Fear I just returned from. One by one, we had to stand up for the group and project a statement that summarized the free write assignment we had just completed. One woman’s statement was something about being able to show she has power. When she projected the statement, her legs were spread wide, in a deep squat, but her hands weren’t doing anything. Our teacher (brilliant 5Rhythms teacher from England, Adam Barley), pressed her before she could sit down: “Where are your hands?” he asked. “Where do you see your hands in that statement?” It took her a while to seek out an answer. She was struggling, of course, because this workshop was about fear. Adam continued to encourage her to find a stance for her hands. Eventually, she raised her arms up in “bodybuilder” fashion, her hands in fists. Adam smiled, made her say her statement again using the arms/hands, and then invited us all to raise our hands and arms the same.

    This experience, as well as your other post about Amy Cuddy’s work, makes me very self-conscious of my tendency to sit on my hands in social situations. Eek! Must work on that ASAP.

  2. Nice. I’ve seen similar things in workshops — I love that Adam encouraged to integrate her upper and lower bodies. So important for the internal/external communication as well as brain retraining! Do you literally find yourself sitting on your hands?? Experiment with folding them behind your head! Let me know how it feels!

    • Oh yes, literally sitting on my hands. Even when sitting here on the computer, reading blogs. This “hands behind the head” thing feels so foreign, but I am up for experimentation!

      • Go baby! Let us know what happens! 🙂

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