Tag Archives: Organic movement

Daily Practice: Movement IQ

Stretching Puppy in the Grass

As I was going through my Awareness Through Movement® practice earlier today, here’s what occurred to me:

I talk and write a lot about body awareness (it’s what this site is all about) and we hear and read about body awareness on a daily basis. So what is body awareness?

-How do I feel myself in whole and in specific areas in any given moment?

-What sensations are available to me?

-Where am I, as an entire body in space?

-Where are each of my limbs in space?

-How am I organized or arranged as I am sitting, standing, lying, running, walking, jumping, etc.?

-Where do I notice tension?

-Where is there an absence of tension?

-Where do I notice discomfort?

-Where is there an absence of discomfort?

With increased body awareness comes the opportunity to make better physical, mental and emotional choices for ourselves.

We have to know how things are before we can go about changing them, right?!

Choice can come in more flavors than “do this/don’t do this”. The more refined our awareness, the more choices are available to us.

For example, if my low back is painful as I walk, I can stop walking. Or I can pay attention to how I walk and do something else – I can walk more slowly being mindful to how I contact the floor with each foot, if I’m limping I can consciously and gently put solid weight down, I can look for tension and release it, if I tend to look down as I walk I look up and out instead and more.

 These choices can either keep us on the side lines or keep us in the thick of life.

Having more than one way to go about anything gives us a valuable tool. It gives us a tool that can go a long way towards making activities of daily life easier and even enjoyable. A tool that can increase our ability in a specialized skill or activity. It is a tool that can feel as though the clock has been turned back.

Sitting, standing, walking, bending in the one familiar way may be comfortable today. For whatever reason. Many people believe that they can only do these things one way.

“This is how I walk; it’s how I’ve always walked.” There might even be a “because” followed by a structural issue.

Our structure (bones mainly in this context) are not made of concrete and they are not unchangeable. Believe it or not, bone, like muscle is considered tissue. It has it’s own blood flow and it is affected to a large degree by what we do with ourselves every day.

For example, you can look at the bones of someone who did manual labor and someone who did not and clearly see how differently the bones are shaped.

Since our bones are pulled by our muscles, the way we use our muscles will affect how we move.  We all have some structural issues, but because we are so much more than a structure, we may not be conscious of it. Even if we are, that doesn’t mean that we are relegated to only moving in one certain way.

All that to say that even the way we walk is changeable.

Tension (whether it be physical, mental or emotional) is a powerful indicator of function and, therefore, comfort.

If we move or hold ourselves constantly in tension (and there are soooo many reason why we do), then what needs to move can’t move properly. Our bodies are remarkably adaptable and will find another avenue – or set of muscles – through which to achieve movement. If short-lived, hopefully it’s not an problem. However over time if we move, for example, our neck instead of the middle of our spine (that area between our shoulder blades sometimes referred to as a sensorial black hole), we can end up with chronic headaches, neck pain even lower back pain. With enough time, we will even forget how to move the middle of our spine – known as sensory-motor amnesia.

With neck and low back pain, we can become less and less excited about moving and move less and less. And the less we move the less we can move.

Sound a little bit like what we think of as “old age”?

Why practice body awareness?

Quality of performance.

Quality of pleasure.

Quality of life.

Movement Alchemy Workshop: The Sensation of Hearing

Add another tool to your Wellness Toolbox!

Saturday, November 3.

No experience necessary. You do not have to be a musician, dancer or  Nia student to gain benefits from this workshop. This is for everybody.

What does what you “hear” have to do with Stress?

Does music affect your Body the way you think it does?

  • We’ll take simple listening exercises.

  • We’ll play with listening in new ways.

  • We’ll move to what we hear.

 What does awareness and noticing the sounds around you have to do with getting fitness and staying healthy?

A 60-minute NiaTM class will close the workshop, get your heart rate up and let you put what you just heard to good use. You will leave relaxed and refreshed, ready for the holidays!

Saturday, November 3, 3-5pm at the Clarus Center in Warrenville

For more information on this workshop, other events and regular classes, please visit:


Cost $40

To Register, contact Catherine at niaspirit@yahoo.com or (630)290-4814.



Where did my Dance go?

Where is my dance? Where is my Dance? Where is MY dance?

Before I formally stepped onto the Nia path I danced for myself. It kept me sane-ish and my body from becoming totally mutinous as I taught fitness forms that were unsatisfying, uninteresting, inorganic and downright dangerous. Some of my dance came from shapes my body had been willing to receive from outside sources. Some of it came from my imagination. Most of it came from my heart and my body’s unceasing desire to express what I could not express anywhere else.

Two or three years ago I noticed that when I brought free dance into my Nia classes I felt restless; searching and frustrated. It was unsatisfying, dry, contrived, and separate – as though I was pulling away from myself in these moments. I’m still in this place to some degree but I’m beginning to understand how to move through it.

I sense, deeply, the importance of moving in a way that has not been structured, designed and fed to me by anyone else. The importance of movement that has not been processed through someone else’s body before I get it (think baby bird). As far as movement is concerned, we are never baby birds. We danced in utero and unless restrained, we continue to move organically has we continue the functions of life.

School constrains the dance. Adults constrain our natural dance with the premise that it distracts from learning the “important” things. We are taught to go against our nature. There are no options here. Our joy has squashed, our spirits broken and our bodies battered in order to make us “productive adults”. “Productive” for what? To continue the cruelty? To produce more “productive adults” who will tell me “my parents spanked me”, “our teachers hit us” – “and I turned out just fine” in defense of physical violence as a method to regulate and control behavior in children. It is not our children who need more “discipline” – it is us, the adults who need to become more present to our parenting. Spanking is easy – punishment is easy – growing loving, responsible, sensitive, strong, courageous adults who take responsibility for their behavior and understand their emotions and who they are – time consuming, energy consuming conscious work.

I’ve been teaching Nia since 2003 and feedback on free dance has been intermittent. There are some who perceive Nia as nothing but free dance. Generally my experience has been that those people may “try” a class long enough to – maybe – to get through song 1 before proclaiming that Nia is not for them and exit, never to return. The truth of the matter is that they have not experienced Nia at all and their decision is not based on accurate information. However, it is the best they can do in that moment. That is all I can ask.

I bring free dance into my classes every class these days. That wasn’t always the case. Since there are some routines that have no free dance designed into them there would be periods where there was little, if any free dance. After I learned and embodied those routines, I added free dance in.

Currently I’m getting a fair amount of regular feedback on free dance. While I rarely use the word in class, I purposefully include windows for free dance in almost every song in most classes. The exception is for a group who is new to Nia. The free dance is there, but it is my intention to offer it in a more subtle way so that the group has a foundation – an understanding of what they are doing and what to expect. An invitation to trust – me, but more essential – themselves. Then I throw them off the cliff!! I’m really kidding here, though I have students who readily throw themselves off every single class.

For a country constantly touting freedom, what we’re creating is conformity at the expense of health, wellness and happiness. Terror at the very idea of moving in a direction that has not been pre-determined and sanctioned. Paralysis at the very consideration that we do something that strays from the herd.

I witness students, from time to time, standing stock still, brow furrowed as the rest of the class is moving in some semblance of “their” way. As a teacher and human being, I give my students permission to be in the place of not-knowing-what-to-do and – doing-nothing. It’s part of the process.

To know, we have to first know that we don’t know.

To know who we are, we first have to know that we don’t know who we are. To know how to move in our design, we have to first know that we don’t know what that design is. Not knowing leaves us open to discovery. To think we know how things work, how to do this or that – is to close the mind to fluidly learning the new, the authentic.

Where’s my Dance? Mired in what I know. Wedged into obligation. Bound in habit. Constrained by fear of failure. The irony, is that in order not to fail, I have to slip, push pull, tear and release the layers that exist between where I am in this moment so that I may return to my dance. I alone stand in the way.