Sunday, October 4, 2009

How To Use Nia for Self Healing

Any time you come to a Nia class, you have the opportunity to heal yourself. In Nia we are very aware of the power of Attention. So, we make a conscious choice to pay attention to our own self-healing, and that's what makes Nia such a profound form of therapy as well as fitness.

By the way, when I say "healing" I'm referring to any act of consciously making yourself feel better. Healing could stimulate or relax you physically, mentally and/or energetically, strengthen your muscles, increase your flexibility, reduce or remove your aches and pains ...etc. As long you feel better after you do the movement, you have self-healed. Scratching an itch is a simple example of an act of self-healing. So is rubbing your cold hands together until they are warm. Some other examples could be squatting down deeply enough to stretch that tight hip muscle, or throwing your arms open, looking up to the sky and taking a big deep breath of fresh air. The carefully composed movements of a Nia class are designed to use all of your muscles, lubricate all of your joints and access heightened sensations of pleasure so, if you choose to, you get a chance to self-heal all of those body parts during the class.

Nia classes have a Focus and an Intent for every class. It's different each time. The teacher will announce what the Focus and Intent of the class are during the first five minutes. For example, I started class this morning by saying "Today we're going to focus on moving with PLAYFULNESS as a way to tap into our creative selves so that we can MAKE SOMETHING HAPPEN in the choreography that wasn't planned." Playfulness was the Focus, and Making Something Happen was the Intent.

However, there may come a time when you arrive to Nia class with a particular need and are looking forward to the opportunity to self-heal it but the teacher sets seemingly contradictory Focus and Intent. For example, what would you do if you need nurturing and the Focus of the class was using Tai Kwon Do vocalizations to stimulate diaphragmatic breathing and abdominal support?

In order to harness and apply this innate ability to self-heal you always start with yourself. In any class, you infuse whatever you're doing with an awareness that you are self-healing and you measure it by witnessing and sensing pleasure. Then, you layer the Focus and Intent of the class upon that. So our hypothetical student above would be focused on the pleasure of nurturing herself while making Tai Kwon Do vocalizations and witnessing the self-healing of her abdominal muscles through diaphragmatic breathing. She could fully participate in the class and get exactly what the teacher was bringing that day and still get exactly what she needed for her own self-healing at the same time.

After a while, the act of self-healing becomes more and more habitual. Once you get to a state of health, it is easy to recognize it as normal and to maintain it.

Until it becomes second-nature, please ask your Nia teacher for assistance in ways you can tailor your workouts to suit your personal needs.

Injury Update

October marks ten months since that fateful day I went too far in the gym and injured my shoulder. I rarely feel pain anymore. It's been about four months since any of the pain was present. Although, after a particularly vigorous workout, I do experience some pain in a similar pattern as the progression of the first time: the insidious ache that starts in the middle back near the inner edge of the scapula and moves deeper in towards the head of the humerus and finally becomes a spasm in the belly of the pec minor. But that only lasts for a few days at a time.

I've regained a lot of my symmetry and my shape, but I'm still a bit asymmetrical as you can see
in the photo. My right shoulder, arm and chest are slightly smaller than the left. It takes a discerning eye to see, though, because it's much better than how I was in June. Click here to see Before Injury pictures and how I looked in June and then compare to how I am now. This shot was taken in September 2009:

During my down time, I have doing lots of research on injury recovery, of course, but also on smart and efficient forms of exercise with low risk of injury. It was also important to me that the exercise was very integrated. That is that it shouldn't be bicycling, for example, because of the heavy emphasis on the lower body.

So what I've decided to do is a body-weight strength building program based on combining yoga and calisthenics with the concept of high intensity interval training.
My goal is to:
A) maintain and improve my current flexibility
B) build muscle and
C) lose fat.

So I am:
A) using a four day cycle of intensity progressing from recovery to high intensity.
B) progressively taxing the muscles by altering the body weight exercise as I get stronger. (e.g. going from two-legged squats to squat jumps and then to one-legged squats.)
C) working in bursts of high intensity for 30 to 60 seconds at a time with rest intervals, for up to twenty minutes total (plus warmup time)

My goal is that at the end of this month, after doing this for 28 days, I will be leaner and have more muscle definition, more balance and symmetry and will be able to move more freely and completely free of pain.
I'll post my results in November.
Stay tuned.