Three Intensity Levels

The Unofficial Guide
to the 13 Nia Principles
~ Practical, Nia-or-Not Applications for EveryBody

(Wondering what the heck the Unofficial Guide is and why I’m writing this series of posts? Click here!)

p7 pt 2 less is more

Principle 7, Part 2 – Three Intensity Levels

(This week’s principle covers a lot of territory so we started with Part 1 yesterday and today, we’re on to Part 2.)

Excerpt from the Official Nia Headquarters Description:

Part 2: Three Intensity Levels

The Three Intensity Levels allow you to personalize every Nia move, encouraging you to adjust your movement to fit the moment. … Use the Three Intensity Levels to choose what is the best for you from moment to moment by monitoring your comfort, breath and the sensation of ease. Practice each move in a way that feels right for you and personalize your practice by making your own choices. Do not force your body to move like any other body; this creates unnecessary tension and can cause injury. When your body moves with ease, it naturally takes care of itself. Choose what feels good and replace effort with ease. Replace will with desire.

This part of Principle 7 encourages you to choose from three intensity levels when moving. Level 1 (movements are close to the core), Level 2 (increased range of motion / exertion) and Level 3 (full range of motion / exertion). The look and feel of the three levels are personal and unique to each person. Each level offers unique conditioning benefits for the body, mind, emotions and spirit and should be explored with equal passion and curiosity.

Unofficial Practical Nia-or-Not Application for EveryBody:

“Less is More” ~ Robert Browning
“Less is more?? More is more!” ~ Susan, circa 2000 and intermittently thereafter

Three Intensity Levels is used in Nia to offer everyBody in every class a version of the movements that feels right – a version of the movements that can be executed with an easy breath and steady balance. The common assumption in Nia is that Level 3 is better than Level 1. In fact, all three levels have benefits for everyone and exploring all three in every class is ideal.

My friend Kate just returned from taking her Nia Black Belt training. In one class, she said the trainer taught the entire routine at Level 1. Kate’s experience was that she was more relaxed and even with complicated choreography, she felt that she had more time … and she still got a workout. My experience is that while I love the energy of Level 3 – reaching far out from my center – I find that my larger extrinsic muscles and my momentum often “skip over” my smaller, supporting intrinsic muscles. Level 1 is about conditioning my body close to the bone.

Practically and officially speaking, I use the Three Intensity Levels to modulate my energy over the course of a day, week, or a year. Just like in Nia, I find that if I’m going all-out Level 3 all the time with a full calendar and a busy schedule, I miss a lot of nuance and subtlety. Meditation, energetically speaking, is my daily Level 1 experience. When I sit, I notice what I might otherwise have “skipped over.” It also wakes up my awareness to what’s around me – the leaves changing in my neighborhood, the expression on my step-daughter’s face, the shift in Frank’s posture.

Most people (in Nia and in life) pick an Intensity Level and stick with it…all. the. time. You probably know people who are all-out, going full speed, burning-it-at-both-ends (Level 3). Others are more laidback, are easy going and doodle along at a relaxed pace (Level 1). Then there are the middle-of-the-road folks who stay the course, steady Eddy, without pushing too hard or taking it too easy (Level 2). Think about how you schedule and move through your days: which Level do you tend to go to? And which do you avoid?

For years, I was convinced that Level 3 was better than the other levels. If I could push it a little harder, reach a little further, do a little more, then it was better. But that’s not the way the body or our Selves work. There are benefits to all three levels and the most healthful way to move through a Nia class or a day is to have some of all three as part of it.

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