Back Kick

Back Kick: Pull your heel up and back toward your buttocks into Ready Position, then kick backward, in a motion similar to a mule kick. As you kick, keep the knee of your supporting leg unlocked and spring loaded, using your hands and arms for balance. Imagine you are leaving a footprint on the wall behind you. To challenge your sense of balance, look backward as you kick. To kick high, rotate on the supporting leg’s hip joint. To bolster your balance, sound the word wheee! Alternate sides. Benefits: Practicing Back Kick is an excellent conditioning for the back side of your body. (From The Nia Technique Debbie Rosas and Carlos Rosas).

It is week 26 of the 52 week challenge, and that means that we are halfway there. Yay! Join me this week as we play with Back Kick and report back at the end of the week about your experiences. Incorporate this move into your daily routine, and allow yourself to play with the three planes of movement (high, middle, and low) as well as the three intensity levels. Let the five sensations of fitness, stability, mobility, flexibility, agility, and strength guide your exploration. Seek pleasure in this movement as you dance through life this week.

Last week we played with Side Kick, and it was a bit of a challenge for me. I was nervous about my hips. My hips are not as happy as I would like them to be and frequently make loud popping noises. While I started the week with some slight trepidations, it turned into a great opportunity to explore and learn from my body. For example, I learned that if I keep my kicks small I have no issues. If I do Nia 5 stages first, I have no problems. However, if I don’t keep the kicks small or allow myself to warm up with 5 stages my hips are not very happy. I don’t have any pain associated with this popping noise, but it is worrisome nonetheless. Even though I wanted to Side Kick with wild abandon this week, my hips would not quietly be ignored. The message from my body was loud and clear, and it was saying “take it easy, be kind to your hips”. The final lesson this week was about respect for my body and its limits.

I played with the position of my toes this week on my supporting leg, and I enjoyed having greater range in my kicks when my toes pointed out. I also thought a lot about anatomy this week (WB principle 10); I weighted the inside of my supporting leg so that the large bones (femur and tibia) were supporting my body, and I imagined my heel connecting with various imaginary targets. Bringing the focus to the bones helped me with form this week.

The five sensations were with me all week. As I pulled my foot in towards my buttocks, I sensed stability in my supporting leg, strength in my kicking leg, and mobility in my hip joint. As I extended my leg, I sensed flexibility, and I sensed agility with each kick as my leg moved in and out and as I alternated sides. It was a fun week, and although I encountered personal challenges with my hips, I feel like I made progress.

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Side Kick

Side Kick: Pull your heel up and back toward your buttocks as you did in Front Kick, into Ready Position. Then kick to the side, with the side of your thigh facing toward the ceiling. Keep the knee of your supporting leg unlocked and spring loaded. Imagine pushing a boulder. To kick higher, turn out the foot and toes of the supporting leg first. This opens up the hip joint and allows higher kicks. Sound the word yes or no with each kick. Alternate sides. Benefits: Practicing the Side Kick is excellent conditing for the buttock muscles, which powers your leg and kicking motions from behind and underneath. (From The Nia Technique Debbie Rosas and Carlos Rosas).

It is week 25 of my 52 week challenge, and the move this week is Side Kick. We will incorporate this movement into our daily routines and play with high, middle, and low planes of movement as well as the five sensations of fitness, agility, stability, strength, flexibility, and mobility. Seek comfort as you play with this move. At the end of your week you can report back on your experiences or journal about your findings. Have fun!

Here is a great video on Side Kick from Nia trainer Danielle Eastman: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rxa5vIcfpdo&feature=channel&list=UL.

Last week we played with Front Kick, and as I predicted it was just a really fun week for me. As I delved into kicks this week, I had a few interesting observations about myself. Originally I was attracted to Nia because I like to dance. I had never considered that I might like martial arts too. Over the years, I have had many favorite songs and routines, and they almost all involve kicks and blocks. I had no idea that I would find such joy in kicking. I also learned that I like kicks, and in particular Front Kicks, because I feel powerful when I kick.

This week as I Front Kicked through my days, I was reminded of Debbie’s wise words that speed is the illusion of mastery. When I am dancing, Front Kicks always seem so easy. I don’t struggle with balance, nor do I feel particularly challenged. I am just out there having fun on the dance floor. When I am standing in my kitchen and slowing the move down, I notice that I become much more aware of what my supporting leg is doing. I also notice that my kicks are smaller, and I struggled with achieving balance several times. The solution to my balance issues almost always come down to having or not having soft, spring-loaded knees.

I opted to keep Front Kick at home and in class over the last week. I don’t often care what people think about me, but I do enjoy being able to shop at the local grocery store and walking around my neighborhood without people pointing and being fearful of me. Because of these small conveniences, I decided against kicking my way through the line at the store and the bank or Front Kicking to the park. I did, however, really enjoy bringing my personal focus to class this week. Sharing with my students and co-dancers is really rewarding and fun for me. Having a focus of Front Kick allowed everyone to play with the move in their own way and in their own time. Hearing feedback was wonderful and insightful. Plus, I have it on good authority that sharing is caring. I think that the Care Bears said that.

Shall we review? We have played with six stances: Closed, Open, A, Sumo, Bow, and Cat; 8 foot techniques: Heel Lead, Whole Foot, Ball of the Foot, Relevé, Rock Around the Clock, Squish Walk, Duck Walk, and Toes In, Out, Parallel; 9 steps: Sink and Pivot Table Wipe, Stepping Back onto the Ball of the Foot, Cross Front, Cross Behind, Traveling in Directions, Lateral Traveling, Cha-Cha-Cha, Slow Clock, and Fast Clock; and one kick: Front Kick. This week we will explore Side Kick. Enjoy!

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Front Kick

Front Kick: Lift your thigh, tucking your heel in toward your buttocks into Ready Position. Look in the direction you intend to kick, and with your hands at heart level and your palms flexed, kick your foot out and to the front. Push down into the earth with the supporting foot, and use your hands and arms to maintain vertical alignment and balance. As you kick front, keep the front of your thigh facing the ceiling, and keep the knee of your supporting leg unlocked and spring loaded. Start with a low kick, then work higher. Imagine kicking a balloon. This move will build balance, coordination, confidence, and strength. As your kicks gain power, shift from sounding purr to pow! Alternate sides. (From The Nia Technique Debbie Rosas and Carlos Rosas).

It is week 24 of my 52 week challenge. This week our focus is Front Kick. The goal is to incorporate Front Kick into your daily routine for the next seven days, moving through high, middle, and low planes of movement and low, middle, and high intensity levels. Allowing the five sensations of fitness, agility, mobility, stability, flexibility, and strength to guide your exploration. Choose comfort as you explore your body’s relationship to this move, and at the end of your week, chronicle your experience. Don’t forget to play and have fun!

Last week the focus was on Fast Clock, and one comment that my beautiful blue belt sister and friend Elizabeth made really stuck out to me. She said that she likes this move because it really feels like you are dancing, and I would have to agree. It does make you feel like you are dancing, even if you are just attending to your daily chores and needs. How much more fun is it to cook dinner when you can dance and cook dinner? For me, it is a much appreciated dose of pleasure. I often thought about Betsy’s words this week as I danced through my day, and it made me smile every time. Thanks Betsy!

You may not know this, but even if you have a job that keeps you chained to a desk and computer, you can still dance a fast clock while sitting at your desk. Like many artists (ok, Nia teacher really, but striving to see myself as an artist), I have a day job that allows me the financial stability to do what I love. This job is very sedentary, and because I work from home my work station is less than body friendly. I often sit for hours at a time without much opportunity for movement, and, more often than not, I am also talking on the phone and typing. This week I increased my pleasure and my work experience by playing with Fast Clock. Although my movements were small and limited by sitting, it was still so much more pleasurable and interesting than my normal work experience. I noticed that my posture improved when I was playing with Fast Clock at my desk, and I was in a much better mood.

When I wasn’t sitting or doing my normal chores, I was working on learning Birth, a newish routine that is the current object of my ongoing procrastination. I love that this routine has Fast Clock, and as I practiced I realized that it will be the first routine that I teach that does incorporate this move. That really struck me because I recall dancing this move as a student all the time. I suddenly felt deprived and sad, and I had the realization that I clearly need to learn more routines! I really don’t like to feel deprived, so this new found sense of loss also motivated me to take a song out that I have been keeping in a special folder called “new routine” for over three years and start working on choreography. As you may have guessed, this song does incorporate Fast Clock. I shall not be deprived!

So, to sum up my week with Fast Clock, I would have to say that increasing my pleasure at my day job (because artists don’t have jobs; they have day jobs) and feeling motivated to work on learning more routines and my own choreography was extremely satisfying and awesome. As I step into the new week with Front Kick, I am feeling optimistic. Plus kicking is fun. Really, it is. Try it!

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Fast Clock

Fast Clock: This is similar to the Slow Clock, but this time you’ll be stepping from one number to the other, combining two or more numbers before returning to the center. Begin by marching in place in the center of an imaginary clock on the floor. Maintain a rhythmic pace, and on 1, step to the front with your left foot, landing on 12:00; then with your left foot, step over the center of your clock and onto 6:00, as if stepping over a puddle; then with your left foot, step over the center of your clock and out onto 9:00; the step back to the center of your clock. Now change sides, leading with your right foot, stepping to 12:00, 6:00, and 3:00. Sound 12:00, 6:00, 3:00, center as you move. Alternate sides. (From The Nia Technique Debbie Rosas and Carlos Rosas).

It is week 23 of my 52 week challenge, and for those of you playing with me, our move for this week shall be Fast Clock. The goal for the week is to incorporate this move into our daily routines. We will use the three planes of movement, high, middle, and low, and the three levels of intensity to gain insight into our relationship with this move. Allowing sensation to be our guide, we will seek comfort as we play with agility, mobility, flexibility, stability, and strength. At the end of the week report back on your experiences with this movement or journal about your experiences. Have fun!

Last week I played with Slow Clock. Slow Clock is a move that I absolutely loved as a student even though I struggled initially with the footwork. It was always my favorite move to energize. I liked covering a lot of ground, and when I add a Cha-Cha-Cha to change the leading foot, I enjoyed adding a little hop. It is a move that allowed me to connect to the Joy of Movement reliably. Little tweaks to Slow Clock kept the move fresh and alive. So, I am sure you can imagine how excited I was to dive deeper into my relationship with Slow Clock over the last week.

I began my week by “walking” my Slow Clock around the house. I played with high, middle, and low planes, and I played with speed. When I stepped to 12:00, I would dip my hands into imaginary pools of water, and at 6:00 I would shake the water from my hands as I held them over my head. Sometimes I would add an arm circle at 12:00 and reach into the clouds and sink to my lowest plane at 6:00. Other times I just “walked” my slow clock as though I were in a trance or stuck on some imaginary moving sidewalk that abruptly ended at the window.

I played music that was both fast and slow and danced my Slow Clock to the music. What I discovered is that when I slowed things down, I had a much greater awareness of the combination of movements that form Slow Clock. I was no longer stepping to 12:00; I was heel leading to 12:00. I was stepping back onto the ball of my foot at 6:00. While I did already understand that these moves that we covered weeks and weeks ago in the challenge were combined to make up the Slow Clock, the slower movement brought a different awareness to my experience of Slow Clock. I wasn’t just waiting for the little hop at the Cha-Cha-Cha that I enjoy so much; I was enjoying the playfulness that slow movement allowed. I sensed agility as I changed directions moving towards and away from the center of my clock. I sensed stability and mobility in my ankles, knees, and hips. As I sank to my low plane, I sensed strength in my legs. When I reached for the clouds, I sensed flexibility. The lesson that I learned and keep learning on this 52 week journey is that slowing things down always changes how I experience and view a movement. I will always love to energize this move, but I have a new-found appreciation for a slow Slow Clock.

I have been incorporating my weekly focus into my teaching, and this week was no different. I found songs that worked for Slow Clock, and we danced them in class. My favorite variation was the addition of Toes In, Out, Parallel. At 12:00 we turned our toes in, as we marched through the center of our clocks, we had parallel toes, and at 6:00 we turned our toes out. It added a little spice to the movement for me, and hopefully for my students and fellow dancers as well.

So far in this challenge, I have played with: Closed Stance, Open Stance, A Stance, Sumo Stance, Bow Stance, Cat Stance, Heel Lead, Ball of the Foot, Whole Foot, Relevé, Rock Around the Clock, Squish Walk, Duck Walk, Toes In/Out/Parallel, Sink and Pivot Table Wipe, Stepping Back onto the Ball of your Foot, Cross Front, Cross Behind, Traveling in Directions, Lateral Traveling, Cha-Cha-Cha, Slow Clock, and now Fast Clock. Next week we move on to kicks. Yay!

One last note: It was an exciting week for me. I signed up for my next Nia training and next step in my personal and professional development; The Nia 52 Moves training in Portland this June. I had been contemplating waiting for some mythical future date to arrive when I felt like I would be ready to take this on; presumably some future time in which I would not be over committed in my life and would have piles of money sitting around that I had to labor to spend. I know that day might never arrive, and I just felt the urge to plunge into the deep water and see what happens. I am beyond excited about this training, and I hope that it makes my future blog posts about this 52 week challenge more interesting and insightful.

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Cha-Cha-Cha and Slow Clock

Cha-Cha-Cha: Cha-Cha-Cha is like the cha-cha dance step. In place, step left-right-left, then right-left-right, a one-two-three count. Keep your feet close to the ground. Feel free to use your hands and arms to express yourself in many playful ways. To help keep your rhythm, sound cha-cha-cha. This helps develop athletic skill, lower-body speed, and coordination. (From The Nia Technique Debbie Rosas and Carlos Rosas).

For week 21 of my 52 week challenge, I played with Cha-Cha-Cha. The goal was to incorporate this move into my daily routine, and allow myself to play with the three planes of movement (high, middle, and low) as well as the three intensity levels. Using the five sensations of fitness, stability, mobility, flexibility, agility, and strength as a guide, I was seeking pleasure in this movement throughout the week. THEN, I was supposed to blog about it. As is becoming my pattern, I did not blog about my experiences at the end of my week. With the week of Cha-Cha-Cha ending, that brought me to week 22…

Slow Clock: Begin by marching in place, in the center of an imaginary clock on the floor. Starting with your left foot, march at a rhythmic pace and on 1, step to the front with your left foot landing on 12:00; then back to the center of your clock. Then step back to 6:00 and return to center. “Slow” clock refers to always returning to center after stepping to any number. Sound 12:00, center, 6:00, center as you move, and then try stepping to other numbers. This move adds precision and grace. Alternate sides. (From The Nia Technique Debbie Rosas and Carlos Rosas).

It really is week 22 of my 52 week challenge, and if you would like to play along with me this week, here are the “rules”: Incorporate Slow Clock into your daily routine. Play with high, middle, and low planes of movement and varying intensity levels. Use the five sensations of fitness, agility, mobility, stability, flexibility, and strength as your guides as you play with Slow Clock. At the end of your week, journal, blog, or report back on your experiences. The goal is to gain insight into how your body likes to move and how you can find pleasure in any one of the 52 moves that Nia is based upon.

It was another week of neglect for my little blog, but this time, it really was not my fault. I blame the sun. I fully intended to sit down last Friday on my day off to write, but the sunshine was truly insane (if you were inside of my head right now, you would hear the Brady Bunch singing “Sunshine Day”. I accept that this song may be responsible for the insanity). The sun forced me to play outside on my bike instead of writing about the delightful time that I had on week 21 of my challenge. I frequently suffer from vitamin D deficiency (no joke, I do!), so when the sun came out I knew what I had to do; I had to leave my cave and go absorb some of that insane sunshine. I am sure that my doctor would back me up on this one. So, here is what I would have written if I didn’t have to play outside.

Ah, Cha-Cha-Cha. You have been a delight; you filled my days with endless counts of 1, 2, 3 and helped me experience the sensation of agility. During class, you allowed me to move around the room, between moves like Cross Front or Cross Behind, to change feet proficiently and quickly, and to free dance through the space. I enjoy you most at a fast pace, but I also like to slow things down with you. Cha-Cha-Cha, you are truly versatile. I can’t say that it was fun to play with you at the grocery store though; I think people thought I needed to use the restroom. I did appreciate how much more fun you made doing dishes and cooking, and putting things away. You taught me to listen to my ankles and my feet more closely, and you also taught me a valuable lesson about picking up my feet even when I am tired (hot spots, be gone!). Thank you Cha-Cha-Cha.

And now, because I suspect that you need this, enjoy: 

Please do play with Slow Clock this week. I love it, and I am sure that you will too!

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Traveling in Directions and Lateral Traveling

Traveling in Directions: Move through the room and consciously change directions every few paces. As you change direction, move the position of your entire body at once. Think about the move before you make it, to heighten your brain-body hook-up. With determination, sound the word change as you do the move. Lead each change of direction with your eyes. (From The Nia Technique Debbie Rosas and Carlos Rosas).

For week 19 of my 52 week challenge the move that we will be working with is Traveling in Directions. The goal for the week is to incorporate this move into our daily routines. We will use the three planes of movement, high, middle, and low, and the three levels of intensity to gain insight into our relationship with this move. Allowing sensation to be our guide, we will seek comfort as we play with agility, mobility, flexibility, stability, and strength. At the end of the week report back on your experiences with this movement or journal about your experiences. Have fun!

Oh my, another two weeks have passed, and here I am returning to my poor, neglected blog. For those of you with the math skills that most people achieve by the age of 4, you will likely note that this is not the 19th week of my challenge. It is, however, the 19th move of the 52 moves that I am challenging myself and fellow 52 movers to take on and play with for a week. In the past, I would have just shuttered up any project that I had neglected this long out of sheer embarrassment, and I would have hoped that no one would notice. The new and improved (older and wiser?) Shelley will not allow that kind of behavior anymore, so here I am, red-faced and fairly embarrassed and owning it, posting again to my poor little blog. So, I am also posting the move that I played with in week 20 below.

Lateral Traveling: Begin in a Closed Stance. You’re going to repeatedly step to one side, practicing these two stepping motions. 1) step side, step together, step side; and 2) step side, step behind, step side, a move similar to the “grapevine.” For both variations, extend your hands and arms in the same direction in which you are moving. When you step behind, step onto the back ball of the foot and keep your knees spring-loaded and your spine vertical. To help get the feel of the motion, imagine you are a dancer and sound the word side. Work with various speeds to develop power and agility. Alternate sides. (From The Nia Technique Debbie Rosas and Carlos Rosas).

So, if you are following along in this challenge via my blog, please play with both of these moves this week. If you have been keeping up with me through some other means, I would love to hear about your experiences with these moves.

Traveling in Directions is a move I really enjoy in class. It seems like I am often facing the mirror, so I jump at the chance to move my class in other directions. What makes this move different from just walking (to me at least) is the intention that I bring when I am mindfully playing with this move. I am not randomly moving around in space but rather thoughtfully and intentionally walking in a specific direction. I use my eyes to guide my movement, and I seek the sensation of agility. When I move forward, I heel lead. When I move backward, I step onto the ball of my leading foot. Playing with speed allowed me to play with the sensations of stability and agility as I travelled through out the house and danced through my week.

Ah, Lateral Traveling, how fun you are! I have loved every minute of the week that I spent with this move. It is always fun to have options, and I love the idea that this move can feel completely different depending on which variation is used. When I step with my whole foot to the side it is a very different sensation than when I grapevine to the side. I find that with the whole foot stepping to the side, I tend to stay in my middle and high planes. When I grapevine to the side, I sink to my middle and low planes. In this variation, I can most easily experience the sensations of strength and stability. Stability is always present when I use my whole foot (as opposed to stepping behind onto the ball of my foot), but I don’t experience the sensation of strength in the same way.

I had an opportunity to dance with my lovely blue belt sister, Jennifer, in Seattle at her Nia class on Saturday. We danced Opal, a routine that I often teach. It was really the perfect routine for me last week because we had lots of opportunities to play with Lateral Traveling and with Traveling in Directions. It was such a joy to be her student, and I realized how different it is to be a student in a class rather than the leader of the class. I was free to play, and I didn’t know when Jennifer would be changing things up. It kept me alert. It also inspired my classes this week. I brought her tweaks to class, and we have been Traveling in Directions as we danced the song Opal all week. Thank you Jennifer!

A happy consequence of this challenge has been that with every new weekly focus, I find myself thinking about songs that use the move of the week or songs that could be modified to use the move. This awareness has allowed me to approach the same song from different perspectives and helps me keep the magic of these songs alive. As a student of Nia, it allows me to fine tune and deepen my relationship with each move. Bliss!

Let’s recap, shall we? Closed Stance, Open Stance, A Stance, Sumo Stance, Bow Stance, Cat Stance, Rock Around the Clock, Duck Walk, Squish Walk, Heel Lead, Whole Foot, Ball of the Foot, Relevé, Toes In, Out, Parallel, Stepping Back onto the Ball of the Foot, Sink and Pivot Table Wipe, Cross Front, Cross Behind, Traveling in Directions, Lateral Traveling, and next week, Cha, Cha, Cha!

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Cross Behind

Cross Behind:

Standing in Open Stance, step back and onto the ball of your left foot, crossing your ankles as if making a small “x”. Keep your back heel high, and practice alternating sides. Now, step back crossing your ankles, and this time rise up onto the balls of both feet. Maintain your small “x” by keeping both feet under your hips. To guide your alignment, sound cross. Alternate sides. (From The Nia Technique Debbie Rosas and Carlos Rosas).

Oh my, it has been about two weeks since my last blog post. Cross behind was the move for week 18 of the 52 week challenge. As a reminder, the goal is to incorporate one of the 52 moves per week into my daily routine and play with the move in high, middle, and low planes and vary the level of intensity. I have given myself the goal of not only focusing on one move per week, but also blogging about my experiences. So, it looks like I have slipped a bit over the last two weeks. Ugh! I HAVE been playing with the moves though, so I have only been remiss on blogging.

I think that I start every blog post by talking about how much I like the move that I am playing with. I love Nia, and I really do love each one of these moves. I find some moves more challenging than others, but overall, I love them all. In the last two weeks I played with Crossing Front and Crossing Behind. I was excited about focussing on each move for their respective weeks; we use these moves all the time in routines, so slowing down to play with each move was really fun and useful.

Cross Front: I spent most of the week thinking of the image of a clock. As I crossed front, I would step to 1 or 2 with my left foot or 10 or 11 with my right foot. I was conscious of my knees and hips and really worked on slowing down my movement and rolling through the heel lead that took me to each number. In class I was especially conscious of the placement of my feet and the subtle differences I noticed when I took this move to my lower plane versus my highest plane of movement. I felt graceful as I moved from one side to the other and incorporated more hand movement or more movement from the body weights. In my daily routine, it made my every day tasks like emptying the dishwasher so much more enjoyable. Good times with Cross Front.

Cross Behind: Ah, how I love to cross behind. This is such a fun move to play with. When you energize this move, you can cover a lot of territory. When you slow this move down, you can use your x-ray anatomy (principle 10) to check your alignment. By playing with your upper extremities, you can enjoy the feeling of grace as you experience the five sensations of fitness in your being. So many ways to play.

Every time I cross behind, I hear the voice of one of my favorite teachers reminding me to keep my hips parallel to the mirror. Every time I crossed behind making the little “x” with my ankles, I thought about my hips and their placement. My hips have been troublesome for a few weeks, so I am happy to report that I had no issues this week.

I used Cross Behind to pick up things that had fallen to the floor, to retrieve cat toys, to reach dishes on the top shelves, and just for fun when I was looking for something to do. I really played, and it did not feel like work. However, blogging did, so you will have to forgive me for the hiatus.

Onward!

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