Going Blue by Janice Horner
I completed the first level of Nia training, the White Belt Intensive, in March 2017. Nia White Belt teaches the Art of Sensation, which means living and functioning in your body while guided by sensation. It is very much centered on body awareness: learning to listen to your body and moving in a way that feels good and brings pleasure. Nia Blue Belt builds upon that foundation through the Art of Communication, which focuses on relationship and intimacy – being with ourselves and others. Successful relationships and teaching come from learning to communicate intimately, mastering both speaking and listening skills.
Finding my voice
I had been eagerly awaiting the opportunity to attend Blue Belt once I learned that the focus was on communication. This may come as a surprise, but communication is something I have struggled with most of my life – despite all of my education, training and professional experience in that arena. On the surface, I think I do a decent job with both written and verbal communication, especially in my professional roles. But when it comes down to speaking the truth - my truth – I often stumble.
More than once I have sought out “assertiveness training” to help find that balance between passivity and aggression. The first time I attended such a program I was really excited…until the instructor indicated that learning to be assertive meant being okay with some people not liking you. That didn’t sit well – after all, I was a recent college grad and “fitting in” was still an important part of my social experience. In the years since then, I have experienced several situations in which I did not speak up for myself out of fear of hurting someone else’s feelings…only to find that I was the one who wound up hurt due to my silence. My growth in this area is still very much a work in progress, which is why I was excited to jump into Blue Belt.
On the first day, we were asked to write down what we hoped to receive from participating in Blue Belt training. Here is what I wrote:
I want to be comfortable using my voice on and off the dance floor. I want to be heard without stepping on others and without being stepped on either.
I felt both anxiety and anticipation when I wrote those words. I longed for them to be true, but I also know myself and the lingering doubt and fear I face when it comes to speaking up. Thus, I entered the week with a sense of realistic optimism, hoping it would be the start of a journey to finding my voice. Now, after six days of immersion into the 13 Blue Belt principles, I can say with confidence that it is.
It feels near impossible to convey the power and full picture of what I experienced last week, but I hope the following highlights give you just a taste of what it meant to “go Blue”:
I had the great fortune to spend the week with 12 beautiful and courageous Blue Belt sisters, as well as our amazing Nia trainer, Winalee Zeeb, and fearless producer/trainer, Kate Finlayson. Although we came from four different states and diverse backgrounds, we bonded instantly, I think in part due to our maturity (we are all 40+) and the willingness to share openly and honestly from the moment we met.
I gained a valuable tool around body-centered, mindful communication. We defined communication as a two-way exchange of energy – one person is transmitting (speaking) and the other is receiving (listening). The goal is to communicate with 100% clarity and that often means slowing down, especially when you are the speaker. We have a tool in Nia called RAW – Relaxed (body)-Alert (mind)-Waiting (spirit). In White Belt, we learned how to use this method to listen to the music for each song in a routine. In Blue Belt, we expanded its use to everyday communication, whether in our personal or professional relationships. Taking a moment to pause before we speak – simple, yet so effective.
One of the simplest yet profound concepts we explored is the power of three in relationships. In any given relationship, there is the self, the other and the relationship itself. The self and other both bring things to the relationship and also have needs to be met. The idea is to establish peaceful and healthy relationships by creating clear agreements based on the needs of the relationship. In many ways, this is the art of compromise, but for me this principle provided a clear road map to help reach such compromise. And once again, it can easily apply to both personal and professional relationships.
The final takeaway that I want to share is that of applying the 7 Cycles of a Nia class to your everyday life.
I created this chart to show how the cycles are applied in class and how you could apply them to your day as well:
Cycle 1: Set Your Focus + Intent
Nia class: Where you place your attention during class and the desired outcome you want to achieve
Your day: Where you place your attention for the day and the desired outcome (set it before you get out of bed in the morning)
Cycle 2: Step In
Nia class: A way to leave behind distractions as you start the class (usually a physical gesture)
Your day: A way to help remove distractions before you start your day (e.g., meditation, journaling or other grounding practice)
Cycle 3: Warm Up
Nia class: Gentle movement to get energy flowing in the 13 joints
Your day: Some gentle movement or mental exercise to help get energy flowing (e.g., walking, stretching, or reviewing your schedule for the day)
Cycle 4: Get Moving
Nia class: Dynamically moving in the space, varying movement and intensity to condition the whole body
Your day: Moving through your day with awareness of your peak energy times and aligning tasks to them; varying your work tasks to help sustain your energy
Cycle 5: Cool Down
Nia class: Decreasing exertion to lower heart rate and prepare to move to the floor
Your day: Winding down your day in a way that allows you to prepare for a restful night’s sleep
Cycle 6: FloorPlay
Nia class: Energy of “play” guides structured and unstructured movement on the floor
Your day: Moving to the floor for some gentle movement (e.g., stretching) or play (your choice!)
Cycle 7: Step Out
Nia class: Physical gesture to consciously quiet down, center, self-reflect and prepare for next activity
Your day: Intentional gesture to quiet down as you close out your day (e.g., meditation, journaling, listening to soft music, reading for pleasure)
Some may think Nia is just an exercise class, but it is so much deeper than that. It truly is a lifestyle and a practice that promotes physical, mental and emotional health and wellbeing. I left Blue Belt inspired to find more ways to integrate Nia with my health coaching. Stay tuned to see what unfolds!