The Upper Extremities of the Body

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

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

P9 two women hand_gestures

Principle 9 – The Upper Extremities

Excerpt from the Official Nia Headquarters Description:

[Principle 9] introduces you to the practice of integrating your upper extremities into your movement. Your upper extremities include your fingers, hands, wrists, forearms, elbows, upper arm bones, shoulder joints, clavicles and scapulae. In every Nia routine, we practice a variety of moves and dynamics with our upper extremities to naturally condition our arms, hands and fingers, while exploring new ways to express ourselves.

* * *

The Body’s Way shows us that it is just as important to pay attention to our upper extremities as it is to our base and core. Your arms, hands and fingers are key players in your personal expression, in your ability to maintain balance as you shift weight, and in conditioning the muscles of your core—which in turn supports your base. Everything is connected. This is why throughout any Nia practice, we focus on keeping our arms, hands and fingers alive and engaged at all times. … To keep your upper extremities alive in everything you do, imagine energy flowing continuously through your arms, hands and fingers as you move, like water through a garden hose, and practice sustaining this sensation throughout your day.

[NOTE FROM SUSAN: This principle includes details about the arm and hand anatomy as well as the 18 Nia arm, hand and finger movements. For details on the Upper Extremities, please see The Nia Technique: The High-Powered Energizing Workout that Gives You a New Body and a New Life by Debbie Rosas and Carlos Rosas New York: Broadway, 2004.]

Unofficial Practical Nia-or-Not Application for EveryBody:

In my twenties and early-thirties, I took all kinds of fitness classes and a few dance classes, too. In all my leotard-clad years of traditional aerobics, I don’t remember anyone ever talking about the hands. We just let them hang there as we jogged and jumped and stepped and leapt. In ballet class, there was exactly one conversation: we kept our hands in one single delicate, lily-like position.

P9 ballet_hand

One of the most profound and practical things I learned early in my Nia practice was the importance of mindfully engaging the hands and arms in movement. The first routine I taught, Sanctuary, focused on use of the hands. I worked for months to learn that routine. After practicing dozens of times in my living room, when I got in front of studio mirrors — whoa! — my arms and shoulders were more toned and defined just from moving my hands with focus and awareness!

We use our hands constantly from the moment we wake up and snap off the alarm to the moment we pull the chain to turn out the light. It can be easy to use our hands unconsciously and to stop noticing the sensations we receive through them.

On the other hand, just by shifting attention, we have the chance to feel everything from the slightly rough computer keys, to the smooth-worn steering wheel, from the warm water and foamy soap, to the weathered skin on a loved-one’s face.

By focusing on using the hands and arms with awareness, we train and condition the upper body safely and effectively, we integrate movements in the upper and lower body, and we wake up our hands and arms for our everyday movements.

Try your hand at it and see.

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