Tuesday, April 5, 2011

My Physical, Emotional, Energetic Signature

I want to talk about Fascia. It is a smart sleeve. Sometimes being smart backfires.

Fascia knows that its job is to wrap me and hold my contents tight. Fascia is excellent at doing its job. So good in fact, that it holds onto all my contents: physical, chemical, energetic, emotional. And in doing so, it casts my body into a physical signature.

This signature is also known as posture, and it served me at one time. When I needed to close myself off, to not risk being open and vulnerable, my fascia knit together tightly, rounding my shoulders in to protect my heart. Yet as I evolve and become ready for change, the fascia, reflective of our Western culture, doesn't know how to "take time off" from work.

As a Nia student, I thought it was fun when we played with emotions in class. Later, as a Nia teacher, I began to recognize that exploring different emotions as I moved could give me access to trying on different physical signatures related to emotions that I had not expressed as my habit. These experience of trying on new postures gave me a taste of what I wanted to change, how I wanted to evolve, desiring more physical and emotional space and range of motion. In terms of my body signature, I wanted to trade up, in order to access more.

But sheer will is no match for the strength and intelligence of the fascia. I can't simply reorganize and shed off fibers so tightly woven and intent on holding together what I had feared "spilling out" for so long. When the movement is over, and the tensile stress and expansion releases, the fibers return to their previous pattern.

Transformation of tissue is possible: it just takes patience and dedication to expanding one's range steadily over time, and with repetition. Linda Hartley reminds me that, "appropriately applied pressure, stretching and the warmth produced by touch and movement can positively effect the the connective tissue, breaking up or dissolving the gluing and solidifying that so often occur when patterns of chronic tension set in." This phrase could sound like a rote approach taken by many physical therapists. Yet we do the same thing in Nia and have a lot of fun doing it! Over the years, I've learned to integrate props like blocks and bolsters, support from gravity, the floor, the wall, the mirror into cycles 5 and 6 of my Nia practice and my Nia classes, as well as my own self care practice. I learned these techniques by self-research: I played and explored and I listened to the language of my tissues, which is sensation.

Beating myself up for the sculpture I've erected is not useful. It could lead to set backs, including pushing too hard on integral fibers, expecting to force change. Good thing I have Nia to remind me to celebrate the body I inhabit at every moment along the path by choosing pleasure. With Nia, I change my shape through movement incrementally and organically in natural time. This past fall, I attended a vigorous yoga class led by a close friend, Robin Shaw for the first time in about 8 months. I have not been practicing yoga regularly, but integrating Yin yoga stretches into my Nia classes and my daily practice. On the way home from class, Robin remarked how much increase in my flexibility and range of motion she noticed in my body by witnessing me moving. Yoga and bodywork are lovely component to include in my journey into expansion. And yet, all I really need is the variety, curiousity, awareness, compassion and patience that Nia teaches me to embody, in order to transform my physical, emotional, and energetic signature.

The Integrative Science of Nia

Nia science follows an integrated approach to gaining knowledge. Through Nia’s scientific model, practitioners achieve “body literacy” by looking at The Body’s Way and Your Body’s Way.

The study of The Body’s Way is natural science: learning the design of the body that is measurable, in other words, quantitative research. The study of Your Body’s Way can be seen as both applied and social science: applying the “natural science knowledge” to the personal physical experience (applied) and coming to understanding through direct experience via sensation, in other words qualitative research (social).

Through Nia education, practitioners learn to balance the objective and the subjective learning and the delivery of objective/subject data.

All points leading to Nia are integrative. This plants Nia firmly within a holistic foundation.

My perspective on science is influence by and integrated with my perspective on spirituality. Rudolph Steiner's view of science is reflective of my personal spiritual beliefs.

My personal spirituality has always come through as the god inside everyone of us. “Love thy neighbor as you would love yourself” was the sentiment from Catholicism that resonated with me the most, for I didn’t want to feel that separation between myself, my neighbor, and my god. I remember singing in church and gazing at the altar wanting to feel closer, yet as I grew up every naturally occurring behavioral event made me feel ashamed, and disconnected. The god that my Catholic upbringing kept trying to convince me was outside of me or “other”... somehow I came to view as actually one in the same as me – all parts of me, my spirit, my emotions, my body, my thoughts, all integrated with and representative of the god within – and within not just me but everyone and thing in nature.

I think that this belief germinated in my young self even while I was being raised with a different set of beliefs because it is so inherent in the human experience that it remains strong even when culturally challenged. It is the same seed that Steiner says science grew out of. My organic means of knowing god is Steiner’s position on how ancient people came to know anything – from the knowledge of the self, of sensing ourselves to know god, nature, the universe as non-separate. There is some knowing that can be quantified and some that can only be sensed and experienced.

Why have so many Westerners embraced yoga? Yoga comes from a philosophy that is closely connected to a culturo-scientific model that says: “If this is done daily, it will yield certain results.” Yoga is embraced in our Western culture through a cannon of yoga literature that can be studied. While the results may not be guaranteed, there are clearly defined steps to follow, like an established experiment. We are a culture of people who want to "know" what we inherently know to be true through scientific validation. Not only does yoga have a scientific component that appeals to the West, yoga science speaks to several different interest groups insofar as it can be classified as an interdisciplinary study.

From Wikipedia: "The distinctions between the natural science disciplines are not always sharp, and they share a number of cross-discipline fields. Put another way: In some fields of integrative application, specialists in more than one field are a key part of most dialog. Such integrative fields, for example, include nanoscience, astrobiology, and complex system informatics."

Yoga engages the Western masses partly because of the multitude of natural, applied and social sciences that one can study to enhance their workout. People can thus “individualize” their scientific inquiry into the practice. When I am on my mat in a Vinyasa class, I may be showing up partly due to my interest in anatomy. The person on the mat next to me may be there partially in response to reading an article on yoga’s benefit for alleviating depression, the one on the mat in front of my may be using yoga as a tool for weight loss, the research on which has been documented. And the person behind me may be a spiritual scientist, engaged in the physical as one limb or an eight-limb practice toward spiritual enlightenment.

A Nia class is also like this, whether or not we are aware of it in the moment. In any class, people show up to loose weight, to experience the Joy of movement, to be part of a community, to emotionally heal, to physically heal, to combat stress. This is actually where I see a missing link in health science that is pertinent to Nia. Nia has an integrated approach from many different angles, but we are only beginning to think of Nia as a form of Interdisciplinary Studies. We need Nia people who are also social scientists writing about how practicing Nia can yield behavior results, including mindfulness. We need Nia people writing who are also health scientists writing about the laws of nature that are forces at work during a Nia class. We need Nia people who are also applied scientists in all kinds of fields writing about the long term measurable and observable results (quantitative and qualitative) of applying Nia to the regimes of healing stress, mental health issues, physical therapy, educational and athletic performance.

Nia is young: just about 30 years old. Over time, Nia will expand into many different markets, and individuals will be exposed and turned onto Nia who can research and contribute to the scientific cannon of Nia. But today we can all experience and benefit from the applied science of Nia by coming to class, or simply turning on some breathtaking music and being utterly seduced by the science of sensation: the application of awareness of living in your body.

There is so much Nia science that warrants study beyond the science of fitness. There is so much benefit from Nia beyond fitness that I sense, that other sense. Currently, it seems people show up for the fitness and are lucky to get the other components of "body intelligence" that draws from all the realms as a bi-product. When we encourage the view of Nia as interdisciplinary sciences, then like yoga, a Nia cannon will emerge. And many more people will be studying Nia in the interest of enhancing their workout through engagement with their individualized scientific inquiry into the practice. And people will be coming to class for the multitudiness reasons or "knowledges" that people are currently flocking to yoga for.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Consciousness: the Pulse of Nia

By practicing the Nia Technique...

...my consciousness has been transformed by learning to create stillness

...my consciousness has been transformed by learning to sense pleasure and pain in my physical body and in my mental, emotional and spirit bodies

...my consciousness transforms when I become aware of when to receive and when to transmit

...my place of no concern has transformed the way I experience being in relationship with myself and the world

...practicing The Four Energy Allies have transformed the environment I create for myself to live in, my consciousness, and my existence

Even if I didn't choose to teach Nia and didn't share Nia directly with students, my personal evolution in consciousness would spread to others, simply through the culture of consciousness I create for myself.

My continued evolution asks: how do I live this consciousness in every moment? This is the mastery I seek.