While the pupils are basking in the sun and resting from the exertions of a long and heavy winter activity, we teachers at Nia are sweating while preparing new lessons to be taught when activities resume in full swing.
I am exaggerating and also generalising. I don’t know exactly what all my colleagues are doing, I only know that I and certainly some other colleagues are taking advantage of the slowdown in classes to prepare for the next lessons.
What does it take to learn a lesson? Surely it doesn’t take the whole summer?
In fact, at the heart of Nia’s philosophy is precisely this: learning a lesson does not mean mechanically learning movements and doing them again. To learn a lesson we teachers have to embody it. And yes, it does take time!
This process involves really learning the different focus through practice and not just defining it and letting it be just theory. We all know, for example, that embodying is fundamental, but are we really embodied?
If we want to teach it and make our students feel a focus, we have to have incorporated it, felt it, made it our own. This is the true depth of Nia.
Apart from bringing joy, well-being and immediate benefits, each lesson is an ‘educational package’.
You can ” consume ” a lesson simply as it is, but you can also savour the details and especially discover how it affects the body afterwards, feel the prolonged effect of the focus of each lesson. Look for the true treasures hidden in each lesson.
During the Art of Sensation Training, the foundations are laid for refining the ability to perceive the body, to train the joy of movement, to receive the vibrations of music. Those who want to teach must then really practise and follow various steps.
Sometimes these steps can be time-consuming and sometimes one thinks there are shortcuts. But we can thus lose and especially our students can miss the opportunity of finding the precious subtle teachings of each routine.
Learning a new Nia lesson can therefore feel like climbing Mont Blanc. Just like a challenging climb, what you learn and find once you have reached the summit is not only the wonderful view from the top.
You learn to pay attention to where you put your feet, you learns to gauge your endurance, to listen to yourself, to be patient, to be inspired by the route and to enjoy the view. And once at the top, you learn to recognise your own worth.
Just as for a mountain climb, so for undertaking the process of learning a new routine, the first step and perseverance counts.
I don’t know about you, but for me, training my perseverance is important.
If I learn to persevere with a mountain climb, I can then apply this skill in many other situations in life: tidying up the house to give an example.
If I had not learnt to persevere, I think my life would have been very different. It is not only thanks to Nia, perhaps also to the mountain climbs I did with my father.
What is certain is that Nia’s 23 years have formed me and given me tools that I would hardly have had.
So whether you learn a routine as a student or as a teacher, it certainly does not end there.
In both cases there are lots of positive ‘side effects’.
I am now learning a new Nia routine, Treasure.
One of the required steps in learning a routine is to dance it many times simply as a student, in “beginner’s mind, without unravelling the movements or the music.
I have been dancing like this every day for more than a week now and today when I woke up I felt my body as I hadn’t felt it for so long: loose, free, strong, aligned, relaxed.
I think I have found my treasure!
To simplify, the focus of this routine is the spiral movement and in particular the rotational movement that occurs in the spine, but also in the ankles, hips, sternum, shoulders and neck.
A very useful focus given that every time we walk we activate rotations, the cross-crawl or rather a cross-patterned movement. This cross-movement not only has a positive effect on the body, but also on our mind. By moving in cross-crawl we create hemispheric integration: left and right hemispheres are activated simultaneously. This activation results in greater coordination, greater fluidity, but also greater concentration and memory.
I am an aquatic animal. When I want to integrate a movement I have to go in the water to make to embody it.
Yesterday I was lucky enough to find the sea clear and inviting. I spent lots of time in the water and spontaneously experienced the rotating movements I am practising with the new class. The absence of gravity and the upward thrust provided by the water allowed me a completely different perception of movement, not only while swimming, but also while floating.
The real flow state. Of course in water everything is naturally fluid.
But you don’t need to be in the water to feel and use movements you learnt in class. You can feel the parts twisting and turning as you unscrew the espresso machine , as you change direction while walking, as you turn your head to look behind while backing up, as you pass salt to someone.
If you have not yet danced the Treasure routine maybe you can practise it by paying attention to how you walk, how your shoulders turn, how your chest rotates when you look for something with your eyes.
When you dance it perhaps you will feel fluidity in these movements and the music will have the function of water, you may feel at ease, and notice how without straining your body naturally knows what to do.
While waiting to immerse yourself in Treasure leaves, I invite you to move by listening to the dance of rotating body parts, with or without music.
The ‘educational package’ of each lesson – and not just Treasure – is different and you can use it at any time of your day with or without music.
Now I keep turning and looking for lost treasure in places on the body that normally turn little or only in one direction. I keep squeezing to release stiffness in the body first of all but maybe something will also rotate on a mental and emotional level too. Who knows!
So, no it doesn’t end there.