The pearl of "show off your golden heart" has come back to me time and again recently, particularly during the Ride song called "Shine." The Arabic word habibi is the centerpiece of the song's refrain, and it means "dearest one" or "my darling" or, yes, "sweet heart." It's a term of endearment. But it also speaks to the central energy of the heart, that most essential part of our body's machinery. Our hearts love to be loved, and to connect with other hearts.
As I wrote before for our NiaSeattle blog, the heart as a muscle. But it’s actually more neuron than muscle tissue -- around 65% of it consists of neurons, in fact. This is part of the reason that the heart is a guiding, driving force, the centerpiece of passion. We “know in our hearts” when something is right for us, or wrong, and a happy heart can transform the world around us.
This is not merely a psychosomatic coincidence.
As stated in an article posted on NiaNow.com, “[the] heart field is 60 times greater in amplitude than brain waves. It can be detected and measured several feet away, in a circle above and around us, and blends between two individuals in close proximity. The heart connects everything around us, and can trigger our deepest yearnings, which is why it is often said that we should follow our hearts’ desires.”
The energy generated by our heart's electromagnetic field is truly extraordinary. Did you know that if you place living heart cells from two different people near one another in a Petri dish, that after a while they will synchronize their pulses? "Some scientists speculate that this method of communication may be able to cross great distances and may explain how social animals bond, or how pets seem to sense when their masters are coming home," says author Pete Nelson, "or even how people fall in love, one heart calling to another.”
This also explains why our sense of community can feel so potent and nourishing to our heart connection, which is central to the mind-body-emotion-spirit aspect of our Nia practice.
“The world today is chaotic -- you know this," wrote Aikido sensei Linda Holiday. "But the age of the heart will come. ”
So this week, let's focus on the heart with the intent of cherishing its role in connecting with others, and to our sense of self-love and well-being. Open your heart, whether with shimmies or chest isolations, or simply by showing it to the world through your smile, habibi. -- Melanie
The adventure of embodying the new Nia routine Ride has led to a lot of “a-ha” moments, particularly as I’ve slowed down and embarked upon the process of decoding the routine. One of the greatest “a-has” gets back to a Nia core teaching, which is to trust the body’s wisdom.
I thought about this a lot after a recent class, when a student approached me and shared that she was confused about which way to turn in direction during one particular song. That is, until she “stopped thinking about it.”
“Then,” she said, “it just clicked.”
“You allowed yourself to flow with your body’s --” I searched for the word, then it came to me “ --momentum.”
Momentum is a fabulous word, and one of the fundamental terms that describes a principle of physics. Remember Newton’s First Law? “An object will remain at rest or in uniform motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an external force.”
When we practice Nia, our muscles and movement range consistently act as external forces. Moving with purpose and a plan, whether in specific directions or through certain katas, creates momentum. It is the practice of sensing our body’s mass in motion.
This allows us to connect more fully with the sensations of mobility and agility while sensing safety in space.
Our brain maps direction and the placement of the feet, the upper extremities and the core within the patterns of the routine. Our nervous system works with our muscles to sense what the body needs to do – more than that, what it wants to do – in order to complete one set of movements and flow into the next. When change occurs, the brain translates what to do in order to effect that change…but even then, if we let our bodies surf the momentum of the experience, we can relax and embrace the pleasure of the dance while remaining present and in the moment.
Simply put, your body knows what it needs, how to move and where it wants to go.
Trust your body.
That’s why we teachers remind our students that there’s no wrong way to move in Nia, that “your way is the right way.”
That’s the simplicity underneath the bells and whistles of Ride: coast with the momentum while being mindful of any shifts that occur. That’s also one of life's big lessons, isn’t it?
Actually, I suspect the routine Life probably has different and unique lessons to impart…but that’s a post for another day. -- Melanie
Have you ever been in a movement class when one of your favorite songs comes on?
When that happens I immediately smile, maybe say something to convey my delight (“Yes!” “I love this one!”). But I also notice my body switch into its own version of “ready” position. The brain tells the muscles, “Alright…we know this!”
Then the dance begins.
The human brain is an extraordinary pattern-recognition machine. Our brains seek out patterns, in fact. It’s our way to make sense of the world around us. Nia taps into this science by incorporating patterns and repetition into each routine. These are known as katas.
The concept of kata comes from the martial arts. In essence, it is choreography: detailed pattern of movements that are taught to allow students to embody the fundamentals of each move until the whole pattern becomes second nature.
The intent is enable the students to Learn the Move, i.e. recognize and understand movement patterns; to Move the Move, i.e. to embody a pattern, and then to Energize the Move – to personalize the pattern.
We learn new patterns over time to embody their benefits and in doing so, more deeply tap into that connection between mind, body, emotion and spirit.
For example, Ride¸ the new routine Mel is learning and sharing, contains katas that repeat – and shift – throughout the playlist. This conditions the physical body while simultaneously conditioning the mind’s memory recall. With sustained practice, Ride promotes deeper relaxation into these patterns (soothing emotion) and allows a body to explore the routine's vast opportunities to personalize (spirit).
Ann is teaching Wild, in which she encourages students to experience reflexive conditioning in the body, encouraging exploration of agility – the action of “start-stop.”
Cell-Ebrate, Juliann's current routine, promotes relaxation through repetition during its warm-up, inviting the class to sink into ease via rich pattern of simple movements incorporating relaxing breaths and sounding, before diving into an inspiring Get Moving cycle.
As we experience each of these routines bit by bit over several weeks, mind and body develop an intimacy with these patterns. “New to me” movements become familiar: We learn, we move and we energize our way to that place of, “Alright…I know this!”
And here’s a secret: Your body already knows these moves, because Nia is designed to move in the body’s way and to be adaptable to your body’s way.
Give your self time to learn, move, energize and relax into Ride, Cell-Ebrate and Wild.