|Posted by denverholisticfitness on February 16, 2011 at 10:13 AM|
The year was 1987. The class was aerobics. The teacher, a tiny blonde spark plug of a thing, 21 years of age, 5 foot 1", 105 lbs soaking wet, brand new white sneakers, barely there sports bra and matching skin tight hot pink pants, yelling "more, faster, harder" into a microphone. All sinew and not an ounce of cellulite (or even roundness) anywhere in my field of vision, except perhaps on my own thighs. At the tender young age of 19, I was determined to be anything BUT what I was. I sought out this class to achieve the goal of being as magnetic and beautiful as she was. Several painful classes later, I decided that in my 5 foot 9, 160 lb. frame I would never attain my goal of feeling beautiful and healthy and felt even more frustrated. Even in my young body, the aerobics class hurt my joints and made my muscles scream with pain, and it seemed like it would take someone like me forever to get in that kind of shape when all I could feel was "ouch."
That was the last time I stepped into a gym until 1999. Now 32 years old, 230 lbs and battling severe thyroid and metabolic problems -- going to the gym was definitely not appealing. Why would I torture myself as I had so many years ago-- and more so, why would I want to perpetuate the feeling that I'm not good enough? Yet in all those years, I had somehow failed to find a satisfying, sustainable exercise routine. It was at that moment in time my good friend Holly took me gently by the hand and led me to a Nia class at the local gym in Nederland, CO. Little did I know how dramatically my life would change in the years ahead.
The year is now 2011. In the past 5 years, I have witnessed 40 lbs melt off my hips, thighs and butt with what felt like almost no effort. I watched my biceps, triceps, quadriceps and calves take shape for the first time. I have increased energy, stamina, strength, agility, flexibility and mobility. My total cholesterol has gone from 255 to 173, and my thyroid issues have come into balance.
Most importantly, I now love my body, just as it is. I have consistently been attending Nia classes since 1999, and became a certified instructor of The Nia Technique in 2005. I am not 5'1" and 105 lbs -- silly me, why did I aspire to be that body type? My genetics say otherwise.
My entire body is alive with sensation. I feel at ease inside of my skin and savor how effortless movement feels in my body. I celebrate my large, sturdy frame, the increased alignment in my bones, my curvaceous hips, and flowing joints as they grace their way through a room, and (who'd have thought?) I giggle at how my curves actually inspires others to move -- in their body's way. I'm wearing the microphone, now. And I don't have to be tiny little Suzy Pink Pants to do it! And there's more! Teaching Nia classes and workshops has empowered me to create a sacred livelihood that fits my own natural pace. Honoring my own natural time=much happier, less stressed-out Sandy.
Okay, now I hear all you critics out there. How can exercise that is rejuvenating and effortless be effective, you ask? Isn't it true that we must work hard to take off pounds, burn calories, and sculpt our bodies?
Not true for me. History has taught me that loving my body = pounds-melting, body-sculpting pleasure. And guess what? I no longer injure myself. Not only do I want to exercise more and pay closer attention to my diet, but using the principles of dynamic ease and "less is more" has enabled me to heal many of my joint ailments and sculpt my body in the way it was designed (wow! I have biceps!). I have created sustainability in exercise by igniting the desire to DO MORE OF IT. Well gee, this is a win-win all around.
In our goal-oriented fitness industry, we have become masochists. We have been culturally hypnotized by the media (and by those who want to sell us fitness gadgets) to believe that we must experience pain to see any gain and work hard to obtain the results we want. We are obligated, and therefore we feel guilty when we don’t work out. Just like in my story about the aerobics class, this negative mindset often comes from a place of shame, self-loathing, or just a general lack of acceptance of our bodies -- just the way they are -- in the present moment. For those who have repeatedly tried and failed at exercise programs, this state of mind may be one of the root causes of your failure.
Don't get me wrong; there is a scientific basis for the fact that goals are good; they give us hope and feed our dream life. And there is a time and place for athletic competition and professional performance, and this requires a certain brand of careful discipline. But for those of us not destined for the Olympics or for professional competition, we need to find something that we can do every day that feels good in every way--something that takes us into the NOW in our bodies. When was the last time you saw someone smiling on a stationary bike or treadmill, or laughing during an exercise that appears painful? The strained looks on their faces, the intense gum-chewing, the furrowed eyebrows, the mind-numbing repetition--well, this speaks volumes.
The Nia TechniqueTM movement and lifestyle practice has taken traditional fitness in a different direction since 1983, by challenging those basic belief systems. Using influences from 3 martial arts (Tae Kwon Do, Aikido and Tai Chi), 3 dance arts (Modern Dance, Jazz Dance, and the Dance of Isadora Duncan), and 3 healing arts (Yoga, Feldenkrais and The Alexander Technique), Nia embraces systemic movement. Harmony is manifest in all movements, by balancing the eastern forces of Yin and Yang, form and freedom, and ease with dynamicism. Accordingly, we as Nia practitioners make choices for balance when move. The participant has the ultimate responsibility – "i.e., physician heal thyself" – in creating the sensations in his or her body that are suitable to individual energy and fitness level that day, and these factors can even vary from day to day for most people. According to Debbie Rosas, Nia Founder, "pleasure is our yardstick for healing." And this is not just hippie stuff--there is scientific evidence that shows how the cell tissue responds favorably to pleasure. Hey, man--that's okay with me! Following the blonde spark plug made me want to puke anyway. When I attended that first Nia class, I found it so refreshing, freeing and FUN! Ever since that first Nia experience, I have discovered that is so much more comfortable--and frankly, well, more ME--to let my own body's way be the guide.
And guess what? There's more. When we move--with pleasure--we open up, we grow, we change, we get out of patterns, we step into our greatness. We connect with the magic of the music and the NOW. For the past 6 years, I have consistently seen people walk out of my Nia class smiling, and showing signs of increased energy, hope and vitality (not to mention lots of excited talking and connecting with one another!). Isn't this what we can hope for from an exercise routine? Community--and dancing through life? I say, let's have FUN and give up the torture. Let's choose pleasure and sustainability. Let's love our bodies, and Dance in the Now.
SANDY ENKE is a certified Nia Brown Belt Instructor and Movement Coach. To attend one of her classes or contact her for more information, visit www.denverholisticfitness.com. For more information about the Nia TechniqueTM, visit the national website for Nia at www.nianow.com.