By Emily Freebairn
Before Nia, dancing made me uncomfortable. I was awkward and vulnerable on the dance floor, and sure that no matter what I was doing it looked wrong somehow. There didn’t seem a point to purposely displaying myself for other people to make fun of.
Fortunately for me, that’s not what dancing is. And Nia taught me that.
The first time I went to a Nia class, I was bewildered. I didn’t know what the different moves were, and the language was funny and seemed too woo-woo. The floor was “ground”, and “earth”, and how on earth was I supposed to smell the moment? But even while my mind was picking holes and looking for reasons not to come back, my body was experiencing something new and treasured for the first time. I left that class feeling elated in a way I hadn’t in a long time - a buzz throughout my entire being that made me feel like I could do anything. I immediately knew I had to come back.
At the same time, I had no previous frame of reference for this wild joy that left me skipping out of class. I’d heard “endorphins make you happy”, but I’d exercised before and hated it. I’d danced before and at best I’d been relieved no one had outwardly laughed at me. How was Nia so different?
Before Nia, I thought of my body as a tool - something that did what I told it to do the same way every time. I didn’t listen to my body because exercising was painful. Nia’s concept of “Your Body’s Way” - the idea that my body was different from day to day - was a quiet revelation to me. It made me curious about my body. Instead of a tool, my body was fluid, changing moment to moment. A kick one day might feel fantastic; the next class my hip might be sore. Of course I needed to pay attention to my body - how else was I supposed to know what it could do?
In Nia, there’s a give and take. Every time the teacher says “sense your ____” is an opportunity to check in with my body and sense where it wants to move, what parts are stuck and need some extra love. I learn to get out of my head and trust that my body’s experiences are valid. No judgement, no stories about how I’m getting older, my desk job is finally getting to me. Just acceptance, and a growing awareness of my body’s sensations. My body has a voice, and I need to listen to know what is needed. Nia helps remind me I’m not a floating brain case - living is a full body experience.
During my White Belt, my trainer Jill Pagano called the body sacred, where sacred is defined as “being entirely devoted to something”.
My body is sacred, because it exists solely for me.
It is the filter through which I experience everything. My body knows things in a way my mind can’t articulate, and when I listen, and dance, I learn. Nia has helped me deepen my relationship with my body and broadened my experiences of body, emotion, and imagination. My body is an integral part of my life. I cherish the times I get to explore it and understand it more fully.