This feels like a good time to share an excerpt from my
Wellness Wisdom: 31 Ways to Nourish Your Mind, Body, & Spirit book (2nd ed. 2011).
If you would appreciate inspiration and encouragement about choosing a joyful way to move, then you’ll enjoy this!
Discover the Joys of Movement
Years ago I noticed how certain words with similar meanings prompted different reactions. I stopped saying “exercise” when I discovered that my next thought was “No pain, no gain.” That didn’t sound like much fun for me, so I began substituting the word “movement” for “exercise.” My clients smiled and their bodies relaxed when I would suggest they find a form of movement that would be just right for them.
While in my mid-forties, I could not always find a tennis or racquetball partner and sometimes felt bored lifting weights or riding a cycle that went nowhere. I had taken jazz dance classes for years but my work schedule often conflicted with the class schedule. During this time I discovered a holistic form of movement called Nia. Nia is a transformational fusion fitness and lifestyle practice that blends selected movements from the martial arts, the dance arts, and the healing arts. Nia uses The Body’s Way to achieve physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health and well-being. Anyone can enjoy Nia because it encourages all participants to listen to the wisdom of their bodies. It brings out the inner dancer in everyone—especially in people who were told in their childhood (or adulthood) that they couldn’t dance or were too clumsy. All sizes, shapes, and ages can joyfully participate. If you are in a wheelchair or have a limited range of motion, you can enjoy the arm movements, music, sensations, sounds, and images created through Nia routines.
I discovered a passion for Nia that continues to inspire me to want to care for and nourish all aspects of my being. I am a certified black belt Nia instructor and have been teaching since 1999. I delight in being a dancing grandmother! And I must share this—I got a kick out of turning 60 in 2009 and love being able to get down and get back up again with ease! Nia has opened the doorway to profound joy, healing, passion, and wholeness in my life and in the lives of Nia students across the globe.
You can learn more by taking a Nia class or by reading The Nia Technique—The High-Powered Energizing Workout That Gives You a New Body and a New Life by Nia co-creators Debbie Rosas and Carlos AyaRosas. If you visit the Web site www.nianow.com you will find listings for classes all over the world.
Dance and martial arts don’t excite you? Simply walking each day can bring a sense of calm and provide cardiovascular benefits. If you move through your day via wheelchair or a Segway, taking time to get outside and connect your wheels to the earth can heighten your awareness as you take in all that surrounds you. If you like cycling or in-line skating, you can do that with attention to what’s flying by you. Whether you are walking, rolling, or jogging you can feel the wind on your face and through your hair. Delight in your senses. Smell the moment, see what you are traveling in and around, touch a flower or a rock or tree. Twenty to 30 minutes of movement each day freshens the mind and gently massages the heart in many ways. If you walk or roll everywhere you go, make time to do a part of it with a real intention of being fully in your body; an intention and recognition of “being here now” rather than on your way someplace else.
If health concerns seriously limit your ability to move, I offer a pearl of wisdom that my mother’s hospice counselor, Randi, suggested to her. Just a few days before my mother passed away, she confided in Randi that she realized she would never dance again. This wise and compassionate counselor took my mother’s hand and said, “Helen, close your eyes, and let’s dance together right now.” The mind is magnificent, and my mother smiled as she enjoyed visions of dancing one last time. Let your imagination guide you to enjoyable places now. Don’t wait.
It’s important to note that some people don’t have the problem of finding a movement form that suits them—they have found something and over-do it to the detriment of their body/mind. And in this arena of health concerns, if you or someone you love deals with disordered eating and over-exercising, Peach Friedman’s captivating book, Diary of an Exercise Addict, provides inspiration and support for healing.
And so, I advocate closing your eyes for a moment and thinking of a form of movement that creates joyful feelings and suits your wellness path. This joyful activity is the one to start with if you’re seeking a way to add more movement to your life. After selecting your first option, you might want to see if this movement involves strength, flexibility, and a cardiovascular benefit. (Nia provides all of these, by the way.) If not, the next step would be to consider adding another type of movement that includes these elements. Let this form of movement stir your passion and your pleasure.
Suggestions for Implementing the Ideas in This Chapter
- Think of a form of movement that creates joyful feelings and suits your wellness path. Nia, yoga, tennis, jogging, hiking, Pilates, golf, dancing, biking, aerobics, tai chi, softball, skiing, rock climbing, swimming, walking, skating—these are just some of the choices you have.
- Does this movement involve strength, flexibility, and a cardiovascular benefit? If not, the next step would be to consider adding another type of movement that includes these elements.
- Consider working out with a buddy. This is a great way to motivate and support both of you in creating time to discover the many joys of movement.
- Walking is a wonderful way to provide cardio-vascular benefits. Have fun stretching before and after you walk and you’ve added flexibility into your plan. If you have a gym membership, add weights and “play” with how it feels to strengthen your body. An alternative is to buy weights (second-hand stores always seem to have this type of equipment around) and check with a personal trainer or find a good book from the library to guide you. Less is more in this arena, as you never want to strain your muscles. It’s important to skip a day to allow your muscle fibers to rebuild properly. So if you do an upper body workout one day, focus on lower body the next.
- Set the intention to participate in healthy movement activities every two days. Seek pleasure in your choices, be playful, and don’t overdo.
Excerpt from chapter 15 of Wellness Wisdom, 2nd ed., 2011, by Susan Tate
LEARN MORE about FREE Nia classes with Susan at the Emily Couric Clinical Cancer Center at the University of Virginia.
Copyright 2011 by Susan Tate