Tag Archives: Nia

New Nia Class!

Moraine VCC

Saturdays, 10:30 am, beginning January 10, 2015

First class today! Beautiful facility. Our studio was flooded with natural light this morning with big windows on the back wall. Even without electricity, the space shimmered!

We stepped into class with a Nia 101, explored 5 Stages on the floor then danced on with a little music to close class. We left all looking forward to next Saturday’s class.

Moraine Valley Community College Health, Fitness & Recreation Center

4000 West College Parkway, Palos Hills, IL

Members Only

Adderall Dance 2: Man Walked into a Bar


Man walked into a bar…

This could be a weird one.

I just figured out why I’m so irritable these days. Thank you. Susan Kaufer Carey for prompting me with your questions. That process helped me discover some answers for myself.

With the doctor’s office and insurance company vying for most incompetent, I am temporarily but significantly out of chemical kilter.

I’m off my meds.

After nearly 4 weeks, the chat with Susan reminded me that I have no quiet place without them. My mind and my nervous system ping and jangle all day, 24/7.  Please don’t talk to me about meditation. No offense, but if I could meditate this away I would not be taking amphetamines. This is a  chemical imbalance that the amphetamines bring back into balance. Adderall allows me to have one thought at a time in my head if I so choose. It stills the jangles and helps me to relax. I also get to focus on a project for as long as I like (nothing short of miraculous).

I waited until I was in my 40s before I “broke down” and found a medication that helped. Until then, from my experience, being an ADHD human was something I should have been able to control. “Buckle down, stop fidgeting, be still, don’t jump off that roof, make a decision already, I’m going to give you a passing C because I feel so sorry for you, if you’d just apply yourself.” I should be able to will myself to sit quietly and read, study and write a 30 page term paper.

The other edge of the blade  is that my chemistry played an enormous part in my becoming a Nia teacher and how I’m becoming a Feldenkrais teacher.

Since I couldn’t keep my mind still as a child and my teachers told my parents that I was “stupid” and “wouldn’t learn”, I began to pay more attention to my body. The gifts of my body didn’t require me to be still in the same way. Now, I’ve discovered that, for me, neither does more specific “mental” learning. As disappointing as it was to “stupid”, my sensitive athleticism helped me to find a way out of what could have been devastating depression, bitterness and complete loss of self-worth.

Today I consider it better living through chemistry and I am grateful it exists.

ADHD 2 Amphetamine Molecule

I have come to more fully appreciate that not only am I able to settle and keep my attention steady, but I am also less easily frustrated. There has been a certain level of liberation in terms of speaking my mind these several weeks as acting and speaking impulsively have gotten me into so much trouble over the course of my life that this side effect definitely bears mentioning.

One does not become ADHD. I’m not sure I even believe that there is not ADHD and ADHD, From the research I’ve done and the stories and experience I think of it more as a continuum. It’s not that you are or are not, but how much or how little. Do you have 3 of the traits (you may get slightly distracted with fatigued or lose your keys when stressed)? Or 27 of the 28 (like me)?

We all are distractable from time to time. It’s when the noise won’t stop and everything going on around me is equally important every second of every day that this becomes a problem.

Squirrel! Thank you Barb Wesson!!

My classes are crystal clear, though. Interesting thing. One of the many gifts I have received from teaching Nia is embodiment. After a period of practice, I no longer have to go to my mind to teach a class. I fact, thinking about what comes next actually gets in my way and those are the moments that trip me up; cause me to lose a beat or lose my place and miss a cue (or several). The routines – the material – the information is in my body. I don’t need to fish around for what comes next or worry about where I am in the music. Once I learned to trust this I would only “forget” when I had not spent the time required for embodiment to occur.

Embodiment is not the same as the mental learning we we taught in school. I can no longer teach that way. I don’t know how I did it for so long in conventional fitness before teaching Nia. Teaching fitness was arduous  and really not fun at all. Since I had my proverbial foot half in and half out of embodiment I continued to do it. Once I discovered the difference, I never went back.

What’s all this got to do with the man who walked into the bar?

What man?!

Patience versus Frustration: Matrix Revealed

Matrix 3

Ahhhhrrrrrgh, another lesson in patience!

Patience. Frustration.  Currently co-existing.

My shoulders are whining and growling at me.

The metatarsals on both feet are complaining about the amount of time I’m spending in Bow Stance.

And my hips and knees are arguing over who is feeling the crankiest over turning.

Just when I’m having so much fun dancing the 4 newest routines, U, Feeling, Bailando and Rise – all at the same time.

Too much of a good thing?! Always a possibility. First time? So definitely not!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now I get to figure out how many variations there are for the moves that are in relationship to pain and discomfort.

Since these are warnings and not full-blown injuries, I’m not going to stop moving.

I’ve been healing shoulder impingement issues for a couple of decades and I know that the “ball” or the top of my humerus tends to roll forward in the joint, causing significant pain.

Morton’s Syndrome and Morton’s Neuroma are yearly visitors that whisper before they scream, so reducing the amount of time I spend on the balls of my feet can often defuse a potentially challenging opportunity! (Foot “Undeez” can sometimes help as well, though not always.)

Hips and knees… 3 knee surgeries, my all-or-nothing disposition, tendencies, and tension… Nia has taught me to use my feet in such a way that allows me to do almost anything in any range of motion without pain. Turning is about the only move that can slow me down. For my hips, the deep sinks that may belie flexible and healthy hip joints are possible without pain but I’m on borrowed time. Even when my hips are painful, I can still accomplish the deepest sinking. It’s the return to the top, that the screaming begins and until I began the Feldenkrais Method training it didn’t much matter what I did or took. For me, relying on Feldenkrais to “fix” me when I do more than I should is like taking antacids so that I can eat more chili that’s going to give me indigestion or irritate an ulcer.

The fun is that I get to plunge into h o w.

Wriggle around in creativity.

Roll around in juicy inspiration.

Slow everything down so that I can see, hear and feel what I could not before. Move in such a way that reveals the subtle structure of how I do what I do – or the matrix – my personal matrix.

What is revealed is a whole new world of detail and possibility…

Part 1

I Can Teach Through Injury

Mortons Neuroma Feels Like This

For a long time when an injury was taken to medical care, the prescription was to stop doing whatever caused the injury.

Makes sense. Like the hammer thing.

Then we shifted to the idea that we might continue to do what we want, but at a different level. To stop moving at all isn’t a solution either.

In another realm of our social existence came the proclamation that to admit to pain is bad enough, to modify our activity stood us on the precipice of public humiliation, but  to stop to rest – turn in your jock strap ’cause it’s over. Unless you want to lose your social standing or even be shunned you’d better suck it up and play through it, run through it, dance through it – get through it. So what if you have debilitating pain for the rest of your life? That’s what aging is, isn’t it?

I’m currently teaching injured. A skeleton schedule, but still teaching nonetheless. I’m also considering the wisdom here.

With Morton’s neuroma, I am unable to put weight onto the ball of my right foot without pain that literally stops me. On carpet in 2 pairs of socks and a pair of thick, fuzzy knee-high booties I can walk with relative comfort. On hardwood, nothing is comfortable.

In class, I’m still experimenting with what I can wear to protect my foot without disturbing my alignment. So far, nothing.

What is fascinating to me is how I have been impacted by the compensatory movements I choose in order to avoid pain.

In a simple clock step, stepping to 12 and 6 is a fluid and continuous motion – on my left. On my right, the momentum into 6 o’clock stops rather abruptly so that I don’t

1. put the ball of my foot down

2. fall down.

My low back does not like the abruptness and is confused by the imbalance. My ability to co-create movement with other parts of my body has been compromised. First, the change shifts my natural rhythm and my other body parts don’t know when they’re supposed to do their thing. Second, I am distracted by creating compensatory movements, hoping to avoid pain, and I forget to use the rest of me.

In a cross behind cha-cha-cha, my left knee is unaccustomed to the stress when I don’t put my right foot on the floor in a certain way. If I decide not to put my foot down at all, my knee actually growls at me. With my knee receiving more weight to manage than is usual, shifting my weight to go into the cha-cha-cha is heavy and slow.

What I also find interesting are the moves that my foot will tolerate as long as they’re not specific to the ball of my foot. I can shuffle laterally – to the side – as long as it is to the side. Since there is far less rolling of my foot onto the ball , it works for a while. After that my body begins to realize that there is a laying down and peeling up of the foot from heel to toe, even in lateral stepping or shuffling. Huh! Imagine that.

Like I said before, my back doesn’t really appreciate the choices I’ve been making. My choices result in my back moving quickly in unusual ways, stopping sharply and also in tightening and holding where it would like to be free to move.

When movement cannot occur where it is designed to occur, the body will find another route. I know this too well. The human body is remarkably adaptable. But there is always a price. What moves should be able to move. Our bodies are built to manage stress. We have built in shock absorbers (the discs between each vertebrae and the synovial fluid in certain joints are just two examples), but when they can’t do the job the way design intended damage can be the result. My left knee is reminding me of this fact. My back is reminding me of this fact.

So, what now?

I can design the fast clocks and the cross behinds out. Squish walk out. Bow stance out. Releve’ out. Stepping onto the ball of the foot, out. Rock around the clock, out. Slow clock out. Traveling in Directions – turns – mostly out.

Or, I can do it all on one side only. That’s actually more complicated than it sounds – just ask my students who’ve watched me teach a complete move on one side, only to appear to lose coordination in the modification on the other side. I forgot the direction change I cued 2 minutes ago. Oh, yea, and there were core and arm movements that went along with the feet…

I can teach through this.

Should I?

Post-Crookedness Feldenkrais I’m Training

Picasso 3

I’ve been crooked!!!!!!!!!!!!! I’ve been crooked for 2 days.


I’m learning.

Change consciously made is good. Interesting.  Attention-getting. Hopefully choice-laden. Comfortable? Not always.

As I learn more about how my body does some of the things it does, not only are physical changes occurring in my body; my self-image is being tweaked and adjusted.

I’m no longer where I left me. Brain and body.

I find this disquieting as I practice one aspect of my new journey. Lying on my back with my eyes open, I see the ceiling and I’m pretty confident of my body in space. Once I close my eyes, though, it becomes more of a trip down the rabbit hole. Suddenly I am absolutely positive that my head is lying significantly left of my spine. The fact that I do not sense my spine in lateral flexion or bending sideways does not deter my nervous system. My vestibular system is giving me information that is different than what I can see and feel with my eyes open.

After a live Awareness Through Movement class yesterday I sensed my body more reliably, but when I laid down this morning to work with a recorded class, I, once again perceived my head off-center from my pelvis.

Finally, in a lesson that invited me to move in cross lateral patterns (right hip and left shoulder) this confusion has been cleared up. Now when I close my eyes, my head is where I put it before I closed my eyes.

My body moves differently. During my first Nia class back, I realized that I didn’t want to be moving that quickly without being able to be present to the degree to which I had become accustomed in my training. This caused conflict and my class was awkward.

Not only was my cueing disparate, the rhythm and timing of my cueing was also a contrast. I found myself actually creating a bit of a disconnect between my mind and my body. My body was asking me for something I couldn’t give it in that moment. Not altogether comfortable.  My brain and mind were busy interpreting and attempting to integrate the new information to assuage my overall lack of ease in delivering my usual class. It didn’t go well.

It felt almost the same type of discomfort as I felt on the first day of training when I took a wrong exit and wound up closer to Indiana than to Evanston (the training is in the Edgewater area of Chicago, just south of Evanston). I knew I was still in Illinois, but I also knew I was  wrong.


Not what I was.

Not what I’m going to be.

In between.


The Intimacy of Change: Post First Feldenkrais Training Session

Flower Dress Orange from Flower Story

Considering how complex we are…

After these 2 weeks spent immersed in Feldenkrais Method training, my body has been sore and stiff and has moved in a variety of truly odd ways. This was the first of eight trainings within which I will participate over four years.

This morning warming up for my first class back, I had access to ways of moving through some delicious Gabrielle Roth music, that I have not had.

Soft, subtle access.

Access to relaxation that I’m not sure I’ve ever had. That access made my dance feel incredibly beautiful. It felt new. Liquid and curious. This lovely experience didn’t translate into the class, however. The class itself truly sucked. I wasn’t ready to teach a Nia class – especially not to a group who doesn’t know me. It’s ok*. For me, I knew this was coming. Processing and integration always creates an interesting bouillabaisse with some familiar fish and some new fish that haven’t quite found their place in the stew.

With this new sense of my body and ability to sleep deeply and comfortably has come a not-so-welcome visitor. Morton’s neuroma. (An inflammation of a nerve bundle, usually under the second toe. Imagine stepping onto the pointed end of a knife.)

Out of nowhere. As usual. Absolutely no warning.

One minute I’m dancing and all is wonderful and the next time I put down the ball of my foot (usually in a cross behind move), lightning shoots through the ball of my foot and crumbling to the floor is my body’s sudden desire.

For two weeks my body has been quite happy in the daily Awareness Through Movement classes and the time spent in hands on practice (on each other, of course).

Change has occurred.

My walking is easier and more fluid, with the chandelier that is my rib cage swinging gently in just the right rhythm.

As I mentioned earlier, I have access to relaxation on a deeper level.

As evidenced by my swinging chandelier, movement in my thoracic spine is also more available.

This body of work also accessed my core more effectively than Pilates ever did (and I used to teach Pilates).

In general, pre-training, I had a strong core and my movements well-organized. I gained this mainly through force. Power. Muscling.  Not ‘do I need this amount of energy to accomplish this?’ or ‘how much force do I need to exert?’ Even movements with which I created grace could be tiring; created with effort. Created with “push”.

So now I’m in that uncomfortable, transition – not who I’m going to be, not who I was. Restless in my body and acutely aware of how much softness I can keep in my body. Not weakness.

Softness. Strong, flexible, agile, stable, mobile softness.

(Flower dress photo from Flower Story)


Up Into Red

It’s here.


Autumn Magic 2

Shorter days.

Breezes turned nippy.

Leaves, abandoned and seeking earth.

Everything returns to the earth.

A time of letting go.

It’s coming… Halloween.

Dark Forest with Eyes

What now?

We dance! What else?

When and Where?

Harvest Moon 2

Sunday, October 27, 10:15 am Good Samaritan Health and Wellness

Wednesday, October 30, 7:15 pm Downers Grove Park District

Thursday, October 31, 7:00 pm, The Deck

Costumes? Of course!

You dance free on The Deck Thursday night if you come in costume!

MovementAlchemy@yahoo.com for more information


Yin Yang B 10 Tree of Life

In a previous post, I wrote about BE-ing and creating a balance with DO-ing.

I am here to take my own advice and BE what I say. Walk the talk.

During the past month I have found myself in a mind jam. Much, much, much going on! Half a dozen projects to work on! (I do so love projects.) Music to map and choreograph, books to read, absorb and practice from, speeches to write , practice and deliver, 7 or 8 Nia classes to teach,  blah, blah, blah. Oh, yea, and posts to write.

I’ve DONE all the above, except the one that requires stillness, quiet and rich introspect. That would be the post writing – just in case you weren’t sure!

Experiences whirling around me. Sensations rushing through me. Emotions heightened, speaking in clear voices and in voices I have to strain (or quiet) to understand.  Discoveries arriving and departing without full and conscious acknowledgment. Yes, present to a conversation, but allowing it to be a filable item, not integrated.

All without gratitude.

Frankly, this past month has been a time management and organizational mess and I had to quiet myself in writing this to find the root of the “mess”.



I had to stop.

To Be in my life. To truly live my life.

Rather than the whirling, rushing, straining, striving, arriving, departing and general airport-ness of late, Stop.

Wait. In relaxed awareness. Listen. To what whispers. Look. And see. Be still. And be fully present.

How about those neutrinos?!

Feeling my own vibration; the rhythm that is my way to Be in my life. Inviting the rushing by to become a washing over – Be-ing in the moment, not watching its taillights.

The ability to multitask does not serve me here. Perhaps it is a skill best reserved for rare occasions. I touch many “things” but with no real sense of discrimination. I do not, can not see deeply. In the maelstrom I cannot learn. There is no receiving only an outpouring of energy.

Balance is not to be found in the constant outpouring of energy. Balance will be found in receiving so that I will not find myself gasping for air;  weary in body, mind, spirit and emotions; overwhelmed by the smallest endeavors.

BE-ing. Nourishment for the whole self.

In Appreciation of My Many Teachers

JRC13 92013

Jason Alan Griffin, this is what you stimulated last weekend.

Saturday’s class reminded me of a dynamic I had left behind. Along with that dynamic movement of energy was the pleasure I had also forgotten often accompanied the experience. I moved differently. I spent time not knowing. I left Saturday’s class at Jill Campana’s Sacred Space happily tired. I didn’t really want to leave. I didn’t have anything to say, I just felt resistance to driving home when I did. I felt as though I was leaving something there. I’m sure it had nothing at all to do with Jill’s warm and open hospitality at Sacred Space as well as the love that is palpable in the home she and Frank have created!

On Saturday I danced for myself and the joy of being in community.

Sunday’s class came. While I had indulged myself at Jill’s, I was a bit more outwardly focused during Sunday night’s class. The result was a double-edged blade (as most experiences are). Jason poured an enormous amount of energy into every song for our 95 minute class.  That outpouring was enough to ride on and I while I couldn’t put my finger on why I smiled through both of Jason’s classes, I knew there was a connection.

On Sunday night, I noticed Jason’s teaching style, transitions between moves and songs, cueing skill and material embodiment. As a Nia teacher, this guy is a great Nia teacher. It was what he brought as a human being that made it an extraordinary experience for me.

Fast forward to…

Pam Berk and Velvet last Saturday morning at 9 am. Play time! In Green belt I remember being told to follow what the teacher did, even if she or he wasn’t teaching it exactly as it was designed and I think about that when I take another teacher’s class. (Sometimes I’m so literal!) One of the most wonderful gifts I receive from Pam is her generosity and willingness to give me room to discover. She brings her own wonderful creativity, but she also invites her students to dive into their own body’s creativity.

I’ve discovered so many ways to move familiar choreography in Pam’s classes.

And in Kendra Dicker-Deutsch’s classes.

And in Jenny Rogers’ classes.

And in Jill Campana’s classes.

Stephaney Robinson (Abilon)

Carlos AyaRosas

Debbie Rosas Stewart

Ann Christiansen

Ken Gilbert

Dana Kalombo

Kari Wynn

Jill Factor

Jamie Klausing

Kim LeClair

Kathleen de Miranda

Myrna Weinman

Denise Medved (my White belt trainer)

Sara Shafran

Sandi Oppenheimer

Trish Humenensky

Kathy Rink

Jenn Cesario


To every single one of my students. To those of you who have been with me from the beginning. To those of you who walked in, got halfway through the first song and left. To those of you who are anywhere in between the two!

You have all influenced me in some way. I have learned from you all and you have my gratitude.

Refreshed Fall Nia/Movement Alchemy Schedule



And always a laboratory of movement and sensual explorations!

Sunday, 10:15 am  – Good Samaritan Health & Wellness Center, Downers Grove

Monday, 9:00 am – The Deck* in Downers Grove

Tuesday, 7:00 pm – The Deck in Downers Grove

Wednesday, 7:15 pm – Downers Grove Park District, Belmont Avenue

Thursday, 9:00 am – The Deck in Downers Grove

Friday, 9:00 am, State Street Dance Studio, 9 N. State Street (at 4th Street), Geneva

Saturday, 9:00 am – The Deck in Downers Grove

*The Deck is attached to my home and this schedule will hold as long as the weather does! Please contact me to get on our email list and for more details.

My business cards say ‘Nia teacher’, but I’m not sure I’m a teacher so much as more of a guide. I’m in the front of the group ’cause I kinda know the choreography – more as a possible source of inspiration – to give ideas for what can be done. I don’t set the standards and I don’t set the limitations – that’s up to each and every individual soul. I’m feeling a bit cheeky this morning; maybe I’ll change my business cards to say “Nia Muse”…