Amy 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!