As you can see from this picture I loved dance as a child. Slowly though, as I grew older I was inflicted with the sense that I would never look like a dancer. My ballet teacher suggested I was too tall (ironic for a woman who ended up the shortest in her whole matrilineal family and stopped growing upwards around age 12 or 13!) as well as too wide, the wrong shape and so on.
By the age of 8 other kids were teasing me about my size and shape. They called it fat. I prefer powerful and strong but these weren’t things about my body that occurred to me in those days.
I feel like perhaps since then, and certainly for many years now I’ve been looking around for a way to move and exercise that I enjoy like I’d enjoyed those early years of dancing. Something that felt natural and didn’t feel like a big effort.
It wasn’t that I couldn’t do effort. Actually I’m pretty good at doing effort. I first ran an adult 10k road race when I was at secondary school and since then I’ve complete a marathon and a triathlon. As if to stick my finger up to all those people that implied my body was unacceptable I’ve been a member of at least 12 different gyms, lapped up yoga retreats and tried all kinds of classes.
I love a challenge.
Rather irritatingly most health professionals seem to assume that, because of my wide frame, generous chest and curvy features I’ve never darkened the door of a gym. Nothing could be further from the truth. My personal trainer said that I had more stamina than most women he had trained. The way it feels to me I have lots of energy to put into moving my body and by and large it feels good when I do.
In all of the exercise challenges that I’ve set myself over the past twenty years I have always found that the buzz I get at the beginning wanes either after I achieve the goal (e.g. Run 26.2 miles in the case of a marathon) or after I feel like I’ve proved that I can do it if I want to. After that it some how fails to keep me mental and physically entertained.
Sometime last year I developed the sense that I hadn’t yet found a way to move my body that really clicked for me and when I mentioned this and my love of dance as a child to a friend from the US she suggested I try NIA.
Funnily enough the word NIA happens to translate as something like aim, goal, purpose or intention in Swahili so I thought I’d give it a chance!
At my first NIA class it happened that I bumped, unexpectedly, into someone who had known me since I was a baby. And in many ways I found that for me NIA felt to me like a return to the ease of movement I had as a young child. I began to find myself, sometimes at least, lost in movement in a way it felt like I had seldom been since I was very young.
Within months I approached Dorit who is the NIA trainer here in London and arranged to try her class too. I loved the feeling of body freedom and joy NIA was starting to give me but there weren’t many classes close to where I lived and not that many at all really, in London. And so I decided, on an intuitive impulse to sign up for the training so that I could become a Nia teacher myself.
I’ve grown passionate now about the Way that Nia can help us to start to fall back in love and in touch with our bodies. To understand and listen inside instead of getting all our messages about how we look and feel from without. Nia is fun. It can help you re-learn to enjoy and celebrate your body no matter what it has been through, no matter how you have punished and criticised it over the years. Nia will meet your body just the way it is and move with it. And as far as I am concerned that is one of the most precious gifts for your body that it is within your own personal power to give.
New Nia class start in Bow, East London on 13th May. This post was first posted on 7th May 2013.