Movement Forms

FOCUS POCUS NOTE! As you may have noticed, I’ve been rolling the two weekly FocusPocus posts (art and content on Sundays, playlists and announcements on Thursdays) into one complete post. So whether you come to the blog for the art, the information, the music or the latest happenings and offerings, you are in the right place. Every week on Thursdays, you’ll get it all. Thank you so much for being here.

Varying the energy of our physical movement has a powerful impact on how we can train, condition and heal our bones, joints, muscles, connective tissue and skin. But most of us tend to move in a certain way and can get stuck in those patterns. Playing with the energetic signatures of flow, roll and fire gives our bodies a variety that we might not come to on our own.

These three particular signatures are rooted in the martial arts of t’ai chi, aikido (to watch this “martial art of love” go here – the demonstration starts at 2:12) & tae kwon do. All of these martial arts use some cohesive concepts:
• Fluid movement, Power through ease rather than effort; effort reduces power & balance
• Grounded feet and pelvis; Heel lead; follow hands with eyes; Move from & focus on tan tien – energy center of body
• Feet and Earth are the real power sources; Systemic power; moving with breath.
Each is distinctly different and you can find more detailed descriptions here.

And as we train, condition and heal the body, we can also inquire into how we use these three energies in our lives. How can I flow more easefully through my work? How can I take difficult or even aggressive energy and let it roll past me? When do I need to get clear, set a boundary, make a stand? I’d love to hear how you move flow, roll & fire both in and out of the studio. Please leave a comment ~ sharing our experiences helps the whole community!

Below are our playlists for the week. If you’d like to listen to the music, you can find almost all the songs on Spotify (you can listen for free)! As always, please let me know if you have any questions about any of the music we dance to!

SO MUCH is happening, friends, so before the playlists, here is a listing of happenings!

Nourishing Movement Classes at the Studio at Dancing Water on Thursday mornings at 11am!
Nourishing Movement classes with Susan on Thursdays at 11am ~~ my mix of guided and unguided movement, meditation and creativity! Please go to for the details. Come join us in the trees by the river for grounded, flowing, spacious movement. Second Thursdays are followed by a pot luck lunch! Nourish yourself with movement and bring something nourishing to share! There is space in upcoming classes so please go HERE to sign up!
* The Studio at Dancing Water is at 2370 Old Lynchburg Road ~ detailed directions at and via email when you sign up!

Saturday September 28, 9-12noon – The Art of Seeing: Nourishing Body & Mind
with Susan & Rebecca

When we move through our familiar world every day, sometimes we stop actually *seeing* it. But we all know the feeling of fresh newness that comes from rearranging your living room, or clearing off a long-cluttered countertop? It’s a feeling of seeing it for the first time. What if a little mindfulness exercise with the camera on your cell phone could give you that feeling —without even having to clean anything!? What if taking a few minutes to freshen up your perspective could change the way you see everything? Susan & Rebecca offer a morning to expand your perspective on two things that everybody has: a body and a smartphone. Susan weaves movement and mindfulness into the morning to practice being with perspective, light & shadow and how that feels in the body. Rebecca guides us in ways of seeing the everyday in a new way. Using that most unlikely of tools, the camera on your cell phone, we’ll play with some mindfulness techniques to aid us on our journeys to more clearly see the beauty in our world, each other, and ourselves. $75. Register at

Restorative Yoga with Octabusy: Letting Go of Doing to Restore Your Most Precious Device ~ Sunday, October 13, 4-6:30pm at The Studio at Dancing Water
What better way to celebrate the release of my book, Octabusy: Letting Go in a Sea of Doing, than an afternoon of deep restorative yoga, a reading and signing of the book, and some refreshment? Join me and my teacher, Shandoah Goldman for a recuperative practice for anyone who needs another coffee, rests only while sleeping, are healing anything, need permission to do nothing, or feel that your energy is running low. You’ll also receive a copy of the book (signed however you’d like ~ and you’ll also be able to buy additional copies of the book at 25% off!).
Shandoah’s guidance will help you recharge your body’s batteries and slow down your nervous system through restorative yoga, shiatsu pressure points, visualizations and breathing techniques. We will use bolsters, blankets and blocks designed to bring your body into postures which access the parasympathetic nervous system and give you the permission for deep rest rather than ‘stretch.’ Prepare to come back to neutral with an energized readiness. Please bring socks, a long sleeve shirt and an extra layer.
I’ll read some from the book and offer tea and refreshment to fill out this truly psychosomatic experience that will leave you restored, recharged and rested. $65 with signed copy of Octabusy. Space is limited, please register here.

Octobusy Launch Celebration at New Dominion Bookshop ~ Saturday, October 19, 7-8pm
I’m thrilled to be celebrating the release of my new book, Octabusy: How to Let Go in a Sea of Doing at the wonderful New Dominion Bookshop on the Charlottesville downtown mall on Saturday evening, October 19 from 7-8pm. I’ll read a little, talk a little, sign a little, snack and do a happy dance! You can get the information here and here and if you can’t be there, you CAN preorder from NDB!

Saturday October 26, 9-12noon – Nourishing the Nervous System with Mindful Movement
NOTE from Susan: I am thrilled, honored, excited to welcome Emily Wright to teach at Dancing Water. She is an extraordinary, approachable, gifted teacher. I can’t wait to do this with her. Will you join me?
The body is a central portal to nervous system regulation. When we are regulated and integrated, we have the capacity to be our most awake, available, creative, curious, flexible selves. Using a blend of guided movement work, journaling, visual art-making, poetry, and mindfulness practices, participants will explore states of autonomic nervous system regulation as a means to establish safe, nourishing connections to ourselves, each other, and the natural world.
About the instructor:
Emily Wright, MFA, PhD, is a movement educator, author, and practitioner. She offers classes and workshops in functional movement, contact improvisation, and intergenerational community dance informed by her extensive background in dance and other somatic disciplines.

Nia resumes in Studio A at acac downtown
Nia is back in Studio A at acac downtown:
Mondays 4:15–5:15pm ~ Rachel
Wednesdays 6-7pm ~ Jeanne
Fridays 9-10:10am ~ Loring
Saturdays 9-10:10am ~ Anne
Sundays 3:30-4:30pm ~ Anne
at acac Albemarle Square, Tuesdays 12-1pm Nia Moving to Heal ~ Rachel (starting Sept 3)

The Movement Barn offers the GYROTONIC Method
Note from Susan: I recently had the good fortune to meet, move and have a GYROTONIC session with Casey Turner. I love the circular, functional, mindful approach of this technique. And I loved doing it with a view of the mountains in a field of flowers! Please check out her beautiful offerings.
The Movement Barn is a boutique fitness studio in Charlottesville, VA offering private GYROTONIC® sessions in a picturesque setting. Located in a field of wildflowers, The Movement Barn provides a unique workout experience for people of all ages and levels of ability. The GYROTONIC® Method is designed to increase strength, agility, and range of movement. This low impact system uses flowing exercises with circular and spiral motion to open energy pathways, stimulate the nervous system, and create space in the joints. For more information, visit, email, or follow @themovementbarn on Instagram!

Decoding Your Body’s Wisdom ~ Video Series with Cecily Armstrong
Over the past few years I’ve been inspired and energized by the teaching and guidance of Cecily Armstrong. She is so generous with her offerings ~ her latest is a three-part video workshop Decoding Your Body’s Wisdom. If you’ve ever felt confused about how best to nourish yourself and live your healthiest, happiest life, Cecily offers amazing insights. You can sign up for the video series here. And/or you can get access to a longer 1-hour on-line workshop with Cecily here!

Decoding Your Body’s Wisdom [optin]

First Friday Freedance with Kate ~ Oct 4 at 11:25am
Nia Freedance is an opportunity to play and tap into the creative wisdom in our body, emotions, mind and spirit. For a full hour we get to dance together with the intention of stimulating our own unique movement creativity. The next Nia Freedance will be at ACAC Albemarle Square Friday, Sep 6 from 11:25 -12:25.

As always, please let me know if you have questions or how I can help more.
Dance on. Shine on.
Susan sig

Monday, Sep 16, 2019, 1045am ~ Flow, Roll & Fire: The Energy of Martial Arts

Amazing 4:34 One Eskimo
A Canterbury Tale 8:41 Dreadzone
Saracen 5:03 Jeff Stott
Waiting For You 3:39 Seal
Work That Body 5:35 Rodney Hunter
Let Me Roll 3:52 Seal
Jogando Capoeira 6:20 Beatfanatic
Raag Trance 5:32 Biddu
Bengali Song 4:08 Nitin Sawhney
Deep Inside 5:06 Kid Beyond
Halving The Compass 5:27 Helios

Tuesday, Sep 17, 2019, 840am ~ Flow, Roll & Fire: The Energy of Martial Arts

Amazing 4:34 One Eskimo
A Canterbury Tale 8:41 Dreadzone
Saracen 5:03 Jeff Stott
Work That Body 5:35 Rodney Hunter
Let Me Roll 3:52 Seal
Jogando Capoeira 6:20 Beatfanatic
Raag Trance 5:32 Biddu
Bengali Song 4:08 Nitin Sawhney
Deep Inside 5:06 Kid Beyond
Halving The Compass 5:27 Helios

Wednesday, Sep 18, 2019, 11am ~ Flow, Roll & Fire: The Energy of Martial Arts

Amazing 4:34 One Eskimo
Saracen 5:03 Jeff Stott
Spellbound 5:43 Rae & Christian
Work That Body 5:35 Rodney Hunter
Let Me Roll 3:52 Seal
Jogando Capoeira 6:20 Beatfanatic
Raag Trance 5:32 Biddu
Wrap My Words Around You 3:11 Daniel Bedingfield
Bengali Song 4:08 Nitin Sawhney
Deep Inside 5:06 Kid Beyond
Halving The Compass 5:27 Helios

Thursday, Sep 19, 2019, 11am Nourishing Movement at the Studio at Dancing Water ~ Flow, Roll & Fire: The Energy of Martial Arts

Bloom 8:40 Qualia
Amazing 4:34 One Eskimo
Saracen 5:03 Jeff Stott
Spellbound 5:43 Rae & Christian
Work That Body 5:35 Rodney Hunter
Let Me Roll 3:52 Seal
Jogando Capoeira 6:20 Beatfanatic
Raag Trance 5:32 Biddu
Wrap My Words Around You 3:11 Daniel Bedingfield
Ain’t No Sunshine (Rishis Short Mix) 3:27 Al Jarreau
Deep Inside 5:06 Kid Beyond
Halving The Compass 5:27 Helios

Saturday, Sep 21, 2019, 1230-145pm ~ Nia Jam with Jeanne & Kate: Balance is a Verb

The Rising 4:47 Bruce Springsteen
Moonsmith 5:50 Cantoma
Something To Believe In 4:44 Parachute
Shadow 4:28 Big Blue Ball featuring Juan Cañizares, Papa Wemba
Mobius 3:05 Lis Addison
Drumming Up a Storm 6:01 Bob Holroyd
My People 5:01 Nadia Kazmi
Sweet Harmony 5:01 The Beloved
Safe and Sound 3:13 Capital Cities
Scream & Shout (feat. Britney Spears) 4:42
Multiply 4:27 Jamie Lidell
Faded 3:33 Alan Walker
To Build a Home (feat. Patrick Watson) 6:11 The Cinematic Orchestra


For more information about Nia and this rich system of training and learning? Everything Nia is at…
If you’re traveling or moving, you can find a teacher or classes wherever you’re going.
Interested in teaching or deepening your practice? Check out the Nia White Belt Training. They are offered all around the world so you can find one near you or where you may want to go!

A NOTE about the Focus Pocus art: I am in the middle of a book project called Octabusy: How To Let Go in a Sea of Doing. I’m excited about it and want to focus my art-making energy on it in the next couple of months. So instead of making more complex art pieces for the Focus Pocus blog, I will make little cartoons like this one that features characters from the book. This week, Octabusy herself plus a couple of hatchet fish and a crab are promoting our focus of Mix It Up.

Body mechanist, Katy Bowman is an avid promoter of natural movement and more movement in general in our lives. She is a prolific writer (I loved her book Whole Body Barefoot and am in the middle of Move Your DNA now and she offers practical and eye-opening information about the impact of our sedentary or often “active-sedentary” culture impacts our bodies.

Her work showed me that even though I am a freaking MOVEMENT TEACHER, I was “active-sendentary” which means that I would move for a bout or two during the day and be mainly sedentary and seated for hours and hours at a time. This realization has utterly changed the way I think about movement and the way I live my life. Here is a great piece about how to get more movement in through the course of even an office-working day. Do read it. It might change your life, too.

When I read this in Move Your DNA, I got out of bed, got my journal and wrote it down:

“A repetitive environment breeds mindlessness. The human is constantly expending a lot of energy up front to learn, only to put the skill in an automatically run file – no energy (or thought) required. You want to kick some serious health-butt? You’ve got to mix it up.” ~ Katy Bowman, Move Your DNA, p 140

YES. THIS is what I’ve been teaching and learning about for years and I love how she articulates it. Mixing it up is essential to the health of our bodies our minds. And not just that, I think it’s a way to make EVERYTHING* healthier.

If I had a really long bumper, this is the sticker I would put on it:
MAKE ANYTHING HEALTHIER: MIX IT UP (within healthy, intentional boundaries)!

Want to make your body healthier? Mix it up: move in different ways, at different speeds, on different surfaces. Go smooth and sharp, big and small, squeezing in and reaching out. And do it with healthy, intentional boundaries: know yourself and your body and make choices from there. I’m not going to start mountain biking or downhill skiing anytime soon. That’s me. You know your boundaries. Respect them.

Want to make your diet healthier? Mix it up: eat a wide variety of whole foods. Eat A Rainbow, yo. Experiment with a new veggie on your salad (ever have jicama? Or bok choy? Or Easter Egg radishes?) and make a new recipe every week (here’s one source of inspiration that I love and there are countless more). I could go on and on (and on and on) about the powerful health benefits of eating whole foods, mostly (dare I say exclusively) plants and avoiding sugar and processed foods. (If you ever WANT me to go on and on about it, just ask.) But whatever you do, give your body a wide range of nourishment. And do it with healthy, intentional boundaries: know yourself and your body and make choices from there. I will never ever eat ribs or bacon or doughnuts. That’s me. You know your boundaries. Respect them.

Want to make your relationships healthier? Mix it up: do different activities together, have new conversations, ask interesting questions. Especially if you’ve been in a relationship for a long time and even if it’s working really well, mix it up and bring life into how you are together. Be willing to step outside your roles and expectations and refresh your connection. And do it with healthy, intentional boundaries: know yourself and your relationship and make choices from there. I won’t have a romantic relationship outside my marriage and there are some questions I will not ask even my closest friends. That’s me. You know your boundaries. Respect them.

Mixing it up, as Katy Bowman points out, goes against our brain’s tendency to want to put anything new into “an automatically run file.” It can also be scary to go outside our habits and maybe even break social norms. At the very least, it can feel awkward. But be brave, friends. Mix it up and make it healthier.

* The one exception that I thought of to the “Mix it Up” motto is sleep. It’s well-documented that consistent bed and waking times lead to healthier sleep. So I don’t recommend intentionally mixing those up. BUT I do recommend sleeping in different positions, with different pillow arrangements and on different surfaces to give the intrinsic muscles of your body different experiences. So it’s an exception, but only partly. Can you think of other exceptions?

Utter confusion.
Complete disorder.
In Physics it’s defined as “behavior so unpredictable as to appear random, owing to great sensitivity to small changes in conditions.”


The original word in ancient Greek (khaos) meant a gaping void or a vast empty abyss. But mostly, when we use the word now, we’re talking less about groundlessness and more about intense unpredictability, incomprehensible disorder, and absolute confusion.

In Gabrielle Roth’s movement practice of 5 Rhythms, the body goes through movements that follow the patterns in nature.

Flow to

Staccato to

Chaos to

Lyrical to


I was fine with Flow and Staccato. Lyrical and Stillness were totally approachable. But Chaos intimidated me. It felt scary. Teachers warned, “Relax in chaos or get hurt.”

How in the world do you relax into utter confusion?

Chaos is not my favorite feeling and it can’t be avoided. Chaos is part of life. In the routine I’m choreographing*, chaos keeps bubbling up in the music, the movements, even the process. My schedule feels chaotic, too, with much more teaching than usual in unfamiliar settings with unpredictable variables. These days the very world feels deeply unpredictable, teetering precariously on the edge of chaos. I keep reminding myself to relax but…dang.

When I told a friend about all the chaos swarming me, he smiled slyly, “You know about chaos theory, right?”

Um. No. I’m an English major, remember?

In chaos theory, he explained, the utter randomness and confusion is actually a way of reorganizing. Self-organization theories in a wide range of disciplines – from physics and biology to computer and social science – demonstrate that chaos is a way of finding an organic and highly stable order. Let a whole gaggle of things happen higglety pigglety, and new patterns and possibilities emerge.

I’m no scientist. I’ve just told you the sum total of what I know about chaos theory. And yet, as a dancer, this idea of self-organization makes sense to me.

In Nia, we use a huge assortment of movements to train, condition and heal the body~mind. The practice is based on 9 different movement forms and we energize those forms with 5 Sensations of Fitness (Flexibility, Agility, Mobility, Strength & Stability). We take movements at all different speeds and ranges of motion and we take them through the three planes of high middle and low. We use sound and breath to strengthen the core and move energy. We use emotion and expressiveness to enliven movements from the inside out. We use form to gather our collective attention and to break habit. There is also a boat ton of freedom. A Nia class in full swing can definitely look and feel chaotic.

It’s actually one big reorganization project.

All those different movements and patterns and speeds opens new possibilities. I reorganize my muscles: the ones that are tight and sore and the ones that haven’t been used. I reorganize my bones and joints by lubricating them and nudging them into better alignment. I reorganize my mind to pay attention, to invest in what matters most: what’s happening in this precious present moment.

Sometimes the most healing thing we can do is shake things up and allow them to find new patterns. The notion that life is solid and unchanging is an illusion anyway. Why not relax and find a new order out of chaos?

* The new routine is called Love Warrior and I’ll be launching it on March 3 at an event to raise money for 5 Charlottesville refugee families (this is a special event routine and not one I’ll teach in my regular classes). You can get the details here. I hope you’ll come.

If you enjoyed this post, I’m delighted and I hope you’ll share it.

You might also enjoy these two:
Dragonlily (or the Dance of Mobility and Agility)

Stability Within Instability

Just the second week into the 13-weeks adventure of the Unofficial Guide to the 13 Principles of Nia and we’re already into a rich exploration of both the body and how we move energy through our posture, walk, voice, dance…and life.

13 moon calendar glif

Part 1 of Principle 2 is Natural Time which takes us from the 13-Moon Natural Time Calendar* to the movement of 13 joints and measure of 20 digits in the body. If you’re interested in following the 13-Moon Natural Time Calendar, you can receive daily emails from my friend and Nia Trainer, Helen Terry, by signing up here.
I also use a great 13-Moon Calendar app on my phone that you can find here.

p2 9MF Rainbow

Part 2 of Principle 2 explores the nine movement forms (three dance arts, three martial arts and three healing arts ~ for more, click here) the energy and essence of which Nia uses to train, condition, and heal the body. Even cooler, we can use that same energy to find balance and ease in our lives.

Below are the playlists from the week with some annotations as to our focus for each piece of music. Enjoy.

In Lakesh**, y’all.

Dance on. Shine on.

Susan sig

* Hey, did anyone decode their birthdate? If so, tell us your galactic signature in the comments below!
** “In Lakesh” is a Mayan greeting that translated to “I am another you.”

Monday, Aug 25, 2014, 1045am ~ The Unofficial Guide: Natural Time

Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes 5:48 Paul Simon (focus on ankles)
All Around the World or the Myth of Fingerprints 3:15 Paul Simon (focus on knees)
Gulf Breeze 6:30 Eat Static (focus on hips)
Splitting World 8:35 Eat Static (focus on spine)
Papa Dukie & The Mud People 4:39 The Subdudes (base/spine freedance)
Jogando Capoeira 6:20 Beatfanatic (focus on shoulders)
Drive By 3:16 Train (focus on elbows)
Spirit Voices 3:56 Paul Simon (focus on wrists)
Through Cinemas 5:55 Loop Guru (upper body freedance)
Monday, Monday 3:25 The Mamas And The Papas (13 joints floorplay)
Subtle Body 7:02 Wayne Jones (integration)

Tuesday, Aug 26, 2014, 9am ~ The Unofficial Guide: Natural Time

Symbol I 6:35 Children of the Bong (focus on ankles) 25th Century 6:30 Timeshard (focus on knees) Don’t Say 5:47 Deep Dive Corp. (focus on ankle and knee integration)
Blood Stud (Ray Mang Remix) 8:36 MB Disco (focus on hips)
Up In Indiana 4:36 Lyle Lovett (ankle, knee, hip freedance)
Exit Through You 5:52 Big Blue Ball featuring Joseph Arthur, Peter Gabriel, Karl Wallinger (focus on spine and shoulders)
Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It) (DJ Escape & Tony Coluccio Club Remix) 6:57 Beyonce (focus on elbows)
Spirit Voices 3:56 Paul Simon (focus on wrists)
Airborne 3:48 Rain Perry (spine and upper body freedance)
Sometime Tuesday Morning 4:25 Johnny A. (13 joints floorplay)
Inlakesh 3:58 Lou Rhodes (integration)

Wednesday, Aug 27, 2014, 1055am ~ The Unofficial Guide: The Nine Movement Forms

Wonderwall 4:09 Ryan Adams (focus on Tai Chi)
A Different Space 8:43 Bob Holroyd (focus on Duncan Dance)
Plane Shift 6:14 Loop Guru (focus on Aikido)
More Than This 4:07 10,000 Maniacs (focus on Alexander Technique)
Soullala 4:08 Candy Dulfer (focus on Jazz)
Everything Comes From You 4:42 Big Blue Ball featuring Richard Evans, Joji Hirota, Sevara Nazarkhan, Sinéad O’Connor, Guo Yue (focus on Feldenkrais)
Passion 5:46 Michael Franti (Focus on Tae Kwon Do)
Dawa 4:18 Sacred Spirits (focus on Yoga)
Amaté Adea 5:23 Adiemus/London Philharmonic/Miriam Stockley (focus on Modern Dance)
Deep Inside 5:06 Kid Beyond (freedance/floorplay of all nine movement forms)
First Impressions 4:08 Yo Yo Ma, Mark O’Connor, Edgar Meyer (integration)

Thursday, Aug 28, 2014, 9am ~ The Unofficial Guide: The Nine Movement Forms

Wish You Were Here 6:12 Bliss (focus on Tai Chi)
A Canterbury Tale 8:41 Dreadzone (focus on Duncan Dance)
Lovers House 4:49 City Reverb (focus on Alexander Technique)
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction 2:41 Devo (focus on Feldenkrais)
City of Light (Reverso 68 Remix) 5:53 City Reverb (focus on Jazz)
Deeper (Into Places) (Silk Spinner Mix) 6:23 Afterlife (focus on Tae Kwon Do)
What I Be 4:45 Michael Franti & Spearhead (focus on Yoga)
Raag Trance 5:32 Biddu (focus on Aikido & Tae Kwon Do)
Release It [Instrumental] 6:27 Afro Celt Sound System (freedance of nine movement forms)
The Memory of Trees 4:22 Enya (floorplay with nine movement forms)
Lux Aurumque 4:16 Eric Whitacre Singers

For more information about Nia and this rich system of training and learning? Everything Nia is at…

If you’re traveling or moving, you can find a teacher or classes wherever you’re going.

Interested in teaching or deepening your practice? Check out the Nia White Belt Training There is one planned in Richmond next month and lots of other places, too.

Principle 2 (Part II) – Nine Movement Forms…in nine nutshells

The Nine Movement forms invite us to use our posture, walk and voice to communicate clarity and receive with openness.  Use their energy and essence in class and in life.

Tai Chi for grounded relaxed power

p2 9mf tai chi

Tae Kwon Do for emotional strength and confidence

p2 9mf tae kwon do

Aikido for blending and redirecting energy

p2 9mf aikido

Jazz for expressive playful fun

p2 9mf jazz

Modern Dance for creative choices and possibilities

p2 9mf modern

Duncan Dance for childlike, authentic ease

P2 9mf duncan

Yoga for alignment of mind and body, restoring balance

p2 9mf yoga

Feldenkrais for slowing down, reconnecting internally

p2 9mf feldenkrais

Alexander Technique for creating space and grace with consciousness

p2 9mf Alexander

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

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

p2 9MF Rainbow

Principle 2 (Part II) – The Nine Movement Forms

Excerpt from the Official Nia Headquarters Description:

In traditional fitness, choreography is constructed by changing steps and patterns frequently, presumably to hold students’ interest or challenge them. In Nia, we use the energy of the [nine different] movement forms [from the dance arts, martial arts and healing arts] to emphasize specific and unique feelings and sensations. Thus, Nia approaches choreography from an energetic point of view; we repeat the same step and pattern, but change the movement form in order to change the energy. This allows us to stay with the same pattern for longer periods of time, giving both teacher and student time to deepen their connection to body sensations and form. When choreography stays simple, people can feel and express themselves more playfully [and, I would add, in a more healthy and integrated way].

For the official scoop on all nine movement forms, click here.

Unofficial Practical Nia-or-Not Application for EveryBody:

The first part of Principle 2 is Natural Time. Which I’m sure you know about since you read about it, right? As you know, then, the 13-moon calendar is based on a 13:20 code that recognizes the natural cycles of the Universe. Which sounds a bit woo-woo and highfalutin but actually, 13:20 is right there in your bones: the human body has 13 major joints and 20 digits.

The second part of Principle 2 is a natural extension of the first. Part 2 of Principle 2 addresses how Nia trains, conditions, and heals this 13:20 body using the energy and essence of the nine movement forms. In a Nia class, we can do any movement in these different ways, each affecting the body differently. For example, a front kick executed with Tae Kwon Do energy is going to emphasize strength, power and stability, while the same front kick executed with Alexander Technique will focus on lift through the crown of the head, length in the spine and an graceful, easeful alignment. As we practice, any movement can be infused with the energy of any of the nine movement forms which offers both teacher and student enormous freedom within the form.

This is all excellent and juicy-good, but even if you’ve never done Nia, you can use the energy and essence of the nine movement forms in anything you do. We all have our style and habits around how we approach the world. Take a look at the descriptions of the movement forms (or even better, move them), and you will notice that some come easily and feel familiar and others feel awkward and strange.

Notice which movement forms you tend to gravitate toward and then explore the ones that are outside your habit. By exploring all nine of movement forms we have access to a broader range of options for approaching anything. Especially if my habitual way isn’t working, the nine movement forms give me options for another approach.

Me? I tend toward Jazz and Tae Kwon Do. The energy and power of these two movement forms is great for some things but in lots of situations and relationships, they work about as well as wearing a red sequined dress to a funeral.

For example, if I have a daunting pile of work to do around the house, instead of powering through it Tae Kwon Do style, I can choose to take the Tai Chi approach of mindful, relaxed grace or use the creative possibilities of Modern Dance. When I’m talking to my step-kids, instead of being my Jazzy expressive self, I might choose a Feldenkrais approach by slowing down and reconnecting or tap into the harmonious, circular flow of Aikido.

There are lots of ways to move through the world. The nine movement forms give us more options to explore what energy might serve each situation, each relationship, each moment best.

nia mover 1Last week, I agreed to participate in The Eleanor Project. Sisters Terry and Jen (a photographer and writer, respectively) want to use the project to change the perception of what is beautiful. As they say on their blog, “We don’t buy into the ideal of beauty pushed by Hollywood and glossy magazines; not when there are so many incredible women all around us.”

Well, amen.

This is important to me. Women, even in 2013, are diminished and sexualized in the media and in our culture. Like a salmon swimming up the stream of objectification, I want to absolutely support efforts that highlight how amazing women and all people are beyond superficial appearances. (And besides, I was flattered to be considered.  My profile isn’t up yet, but check out who is there – lots and lots of amazing people!)

The Eleanor Project creators ask four questions:
How would you describe yourself?
What inspires you?
What makes you feel powerful?
What is your favorite part of yourself and why?

For days, I had fun thinking about the questions. The first one was the trickiest. I admit it; I really wanted to seem awesome. I wanted to be Eleanor-worthy. I thought about words that I thought described the best sides of me – the parts of me that I love to show to the world. And then I thought about it. The truth is that I am those things…except for when I’m not.

I am, we all are, a collection of personalities: shy and dynamic, passionate and indifferent, confident and insecure, powerful, graceful and clumsy. How would you describe you? What are the things that you’d love to have printed in an article about you and what are the things that you wouldn’t be comfortable owning up to?

The practice of Nia reflects that we’re all a whole bunch of everything. One way Nia reflects this is that the choreography is based on nine different movement forms.  Each of those forms has a distinctive personality, energy, essence. Practicing Nia allows me to experiment with my full range of personalities – the ones I comfortable with and proud of and the ones that I tend to hide.

The Nine Movement Forms of Nia are:

Jazz – Fun, Showmanship & Expression
Duncan Dance – Spirited, Honest Movement
Modern Dance – Playing with Balance, Shapes & Space
T’ai Chi – The Slow Dance
Tae Kwon Do – The Dance of Precision
Aikido – Harmonious Spherical Motion
Feldenkrais – Conscious Feeling of Movement
Alexander Technique – Movement from the Top
Yoga – The Conscious Dance of Alignment

We don’t teach these forms in Nia, we use their energy and essence to transform our movement. All nine movement forms train and condition the body in unique ways. All nine require our focused and imaginative minds.  All nine expand the range of movement expression.

I appreciate the humanness of this diversity. We are all a whole bunch of everything. We may make sincere efforts to show what we think are the most flattering sides of ourselves, but rest assured, all of us are all of it: angry, ecstatic, patient, frustrated, dramatic, pensive, frightened, fierce, focused, aimless…you name it and you are it.

The nine movement forms allow me to be who and how I am and to try on different personalities for the benefit of my body, mind, emotions, and spirit. If I come to class angry, I can use the energy of Tae Kwon Do to direct it, or the energy of Duncan Dance to let it go. If I’m feeling emotional, I can play with Modern Dance to exaggerate it, or Feldenkrais to allow in awareness. If I’ve been sitting around eating chocolate all weekend, I might want to engage the fun of Jazz to energize my body, or the consciousness of Yoga to pay attention to sensation.

This week in my classes, I’ll offer playlists that take us through each of the nine movement forms. The invitation is to try on each of the personalities. Ask yourself which seem like familiar friends and which are like aliens. With practice, we can integrate our full range of personalities into our movement and our lives … and be proud of them all.

For fun, please write nine words that describe you in the comments below!  I’ll start.

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