Guest writer Jennifer Hicks: Gradually my way of thinking about my body changed

Image by Jennifer Hicks.

When I came to Nia, it’s safe to say I was pretty broken. My anorexia and exercise addiction had taken over my life and my body, and I was in the most physical and mental/emotional pain I have ever experienced.

When I discovered Nia I began learning what it meant to truly listen to and take care of my body. During the time I was embodying Nia, I created a network of supports to lean on and learn from – friends, books, meditation, blogs, therapists, mentors, music, teachers, my journal, creative writing and more. I spent so much time examining old stories and entertaining new perspectives about my body.

Another key for me during this time of self discovery was receiving a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder. It was a long road to get to a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder and it was vital – it laid the foundation for my ability to move forward. In concert with embodying Nia and unlearning/relearning through my network of supports, my diagnosis helped form my personal recipe for wellness and movement towards self love.

Gradually my way of thinking about my body changed and I began repairing my relationship with my fractured self. I’m grateful that Nia was part of my wellness plan then and continues to be so now. Physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually I am on the path to learning to be my best self!

Jennifer Hicks

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BACKGROUND:
The Finnish word for October is lokakuu. Earlier this fall, I decided to declare October LOVEMYBODY-lokakuu, as the two L:s went so beautifully together. Via social media, I announced that I was looking for stories about relating to one’s body – stories about bodyshame, and bodylove, and everything in between. I was lucky enough to get a few responses, which I have had the pleasure and honour to share. Thank you to the contributors!

Minna

PS. Should you be inspired to share your story, please do – through me, or via your own channels. Good bodytalk is precious, and healing.

Guest writer, Nia White Belt Boróka Erdélyi: I was the happiest when I completely forgot that I had a body 

Dancing at a wedding.

I was overweight since the age of 14. I was struggling with disordered eating, had distorted body image and an official permission to skip P.E. lessons. I avoided mirrors at all cost, wore baggy clothes and hated all kinds of sport passionately. I was the happiest when I completely forgot that I had a body.

My psychologist had heard of Nia and pushed me gently to at least give it a try. Finally I gave in, mainly so that she stops asking me about it. I signed up for Kinga Brezina’s class in The Shift studio in Budapest, being 100% sure that I would have to fight my way through 60 miserable minutes. I was expecting to hate Nia just as much as anything else… 

We were well into the cycle of cool-down when I first glanced at the clock, shocked to find out that so much time had flown by. Here I quote my e-mail to Kinga the following day:

It was incredible!!! I left the studio floating above the ground, I’ve not felt this joyful and energized for a long time. I wish I could take all girls and women to your class, this is a real miracle.

So, I started attending her classes, and never stopped. I turned 22 in May this year, and soon after that I took my White Belt intensive. I taught my first class recently.

When I look in the mirror, I might not be completely satisfied with every tiny detail, but what I see is a dancer’s body. My body, one I’m grateful to have, happy to move and excited to get to know more and more as I continue on my Nia journey.

 I’m not so focused on pounds and clothing sizes any more, I’m more interested in having the ability to learn new movements, and to dance with strength, grace and joy. And not too surprisingly, my reflection looks a lot prettier when I’m beaming with happiness during or after class. (A guy told me the other day that I have a figure of someone who dances really a lot, and honestly, this was the sweetest compliment ever.)

Instead of being ashamed of my body and trying to go unnoticed at all times, I’m feeling blessed to be a woman, and I enjoy playing with this feminine, sexy side I never knew I had, swaying my hips, spinning around the room, almost swinging with each step when I walk in the streets. I have more confidence, more trust in my body and certainly a lot more appreciation for it. Nia has definitely changed my body, but more importantly, it changed me and my life in it. 

Sharing the joy!

Text by Boróka Erdélyi, who also provided the pictures.

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BACKGROUND:
The Finnish word for October is lokakuu. Earlier this fall, I decided to declare October LOVEMYBODY-lokakuu, as the two L:s went so beautifully together. Via social media, I announced that I was looking for stories about relating to one’s body – stories about bodyshame, and bodylove, and everything in between. I was lucky enough to get a few responses, which I now have the pleasure and honour to share. Thank you to the contributors! .

Minna

PS. Should you be inspired to share your story, please do – through me, or via your own channels. Good bodytalk is precious, and healing.

Guest writer Lisa Sandin: What is the truth we tell ourselves about ourselves?  

The completion of the Nia Black Belt Training.

In our journey towards knowing ourselves we gently, or not so gently, peel away the layers of self illusions to discover our true selves. We learn about our beliefs, the stories we’ve been fed by others, often stories about ourselves that we’ve chosen to believe. Belief and truth are not always the same. What is the truth we tell ourselves about ourselves? What do we believe about ourselves?

Just over decade ago, in August 2007, I wrote an article for National Public Radio’s show This I Believe. I was in the beginning of my yoga training/teaching, and I was learning how to move my body in new ways. My wonderful yoga mentor had helped me to discover new and inventive ways to support my foreshortened left arm. I was learning about my body and my beliefs. I intended to teach yoga to people like myself, people who didn’t live in a perfect body, who weren’t accepted in typical studios. My attitude was “I am not my body.” That was my belief and my defense against years of striving to prove myself equal to able bodied peers. When NPR chose to publish my essay I was just starting to teach yoga. I didn’t understand then that I didn’t love my body or myself. I believed what I wrote, then.

From NPR’s This I Believe:

I believe I am not my body.

Every day, we see images of perfect bodies we can never have, and we become convinced our bodies are who we are. Passing through puberty, into adulthood and now into middle age, I’ve wasted a lot of time lamenting the size of my hips, the gray in my hair, and the lines in my face. Finally, as I approach my 50s, I believe my parents were right all along: I am not my body.
I was born in 1959, at the tail end of the baby boom. Unfortunately I arrived without all my body parts fully intact. My left arm is a short stub with a small hand and three fingers, reminiscent of a thalidomide defect. To my good fortune, I had superb parents. They were fighters who struck “I can’t” from my vocabulary, and replaced it with “I will find a way.” They believed the development of the mind, heart and soul determine who you are and who you will become. My body was not to be used as an excuse; instead it was a catalyst.
My body was not neglected, though. It endured surgery; it was dragged to physical therapy, then to swimming, and finally to yoga. But it was not the focus of my life. I was taught to respect my body, but to remember that it was only a vehicle that carried the important things: my brain and soul. Moreover, I was taught that bodies come in all shapes, colors and sizes, and that everyone was struggling in some way with their physical inadequacies. Infomercials have convinced me this must be true, although through adolescence I found it difficult to believe the cheerleading squad had any self-doubts.
In my alternately formed body, I have learned lessons about patience, determination, frustration and success. This body can’t play the piano or climb rock walls, but it taught all the neighborhood kids to eat with their feet, a skill it learned in the children’s hospital. Eventually it learned to tie shoes, crossed a stage to pick up a college diploma, backpacked through Europe and changed my baby’s diapers.
Some people think I am my body and treat me with prejudice or pity. Some are just curious. It took years, but I have learned to ignore the stares and just smile back. My body has taught me to respect my fellow humans — even the thin, able-bodied, beautiful ones.
I am my words, my ideas and my actions. I am filled with love, humor, ambition and intelligence. This I believe: I am your fellow human being and, like you, I am so much more than a body.

As I moved through my fifties, I continued my yoga training, embraced yin yoga, studied many forms of healing and meditation, opened a yoga studio, and raised my kids. In other words, I continued on my journey towards self discovery. I’d taken one Nia class and didn’t think it was for me. Then through a convoluted series of disruptions by the Universe, I found myself agreeing to take Nia classes from teacher I’d hired to teach Nia at my yoga studio. When she relocated to the west coast, my classmates elected me to take my White Belt training so that I could teach Nia. To say this was out of my comfort zone is an understatement.

I usually danced with my eyes closed, I avoided looking at myself in the mirror and if forced, I didn’t look at my arm. I’d never taken dance as a child because at my first attempt at ballet at age four, the other girls wouldn’t dance with me because my arm was ugly. The instructor thought it best I didn’t return. I stopped dancing in public after that.

I was terrified to step into the Nia teacher role, but my classmates insisted I’d be wonderful and were extremely supportive. They believed in me. So off to White Belt I went. What a transformational experience! I learned so much about myself, and of course about Nia. Who knew Nia was a spiritual practice? I thought it was about dance. At the end of my White Belt, here is the TRUTH I could finally tell myself about myself; although I respected my body, I didn’t love myself. As I write that, it shakes me to the core. I was ashamed I felt this way. After years of yoga, therapy, healing work, I had not released those ugly beliefs I still held about myself. I didn’t know how to love myself and my arm was ugly, just as those girls had told me decades ago. What I had learned in White belt helped me to see my beliefs about myself weren’t true, but they were deeply held.

I still believe I’m not my body, my spirit resides in this biological unit and I am so much more than my biology. And most assuredly, I am my body, every cell speaks to me, influences me, teaches me about being more authentic. We are dependent upon one another, spirit and body, along with those playmates mind and emotions. This journey hasn’t been fast or easy, but I’ve kept on dancing. Nia has taught me to be inside my body with love, attention and awareness, one belt at a time, and one class at a time, one step at a time. Nia taught me not only to love my body, but to love myself.

By the end of White Belt I learned to dance with my eyes open. I could look at my students. I could see their joy of movement and sense my own. Blue Belt taught me to look in the mirror and talk with love to my left arm, and watch myself move. I installed mirrors in my yoga studio. Brown Belt taught me to forgive myself for not loving myself. I apologized to my right arm for making it work so hard and to my left arm for not seeing it’s beauty. I added jewelry to my left wrist and thumb. Green Belt taught me to share what I had learned with confidence and joy. Move It taught me my body could do more than I thought. By embodying the glorious power of Nia over the last seven years I’ve learned the dance of joy. I can honestly smile into the mirror at myself and at my students.

My sixtieth birthday is a month away. A decade of self discovery led me to complete my Black Belt training just a week ago. My goal was to strip off that last layer of self doubt and criticism that I wasn’t enough. Honestly I’m not sure I have the words as yet to fully convey how I feel and to share the depth of what I learned. First, let me share that my classmates were amazing, supportive and filled with so much love that I felt completely safe to be among them diving into the river of uncertainty. To say that Debbie Rosas is a remarkable teacher who walks her walk is an understatement. That I was sharing the space with my previous belt teachers, Winalee and Caroline certainly helped. I am grateful.

Here is what I learned about myself. I am stronger than I knew. Loving yourself is a choice. When you love yourself suddenly everything is transformed. I am a black belt. I did it. I plunged into the river and let go. When I chose love over fear, my spirit, resting inside this body, experienced real joy. When I am the dance, present, aware, grounded, and intentional, there is no separation between spirit and body. It just all is. I can move my body with complete love, connected to the music, to the space, and to my classmates.

Debbie Rosas’ first question to us at Black Belt was, “Is there anybody here who doesn’t love their body?” Full disclosure, I raised my hand. Now, post Black belt, in the truth I tell myself about myself, I can say I love my body and myself. I finally let go of those last fears, shame and judgments that made me feel less. I plunged my body into the river of uncertainty and discovered at I am so much more than I ever imagined and my body is just fine as she is in this moment. I am grateful beyond measure to all my teachers and students who share my journey. I am grateful for this wondrous journey. I am excited to share our Nia dance with joy and love.

Dance On,
Lisa Sandin

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BACKGROUND:
The Finnish word for October is lokakuu. Earlier this fall, I decided to declare October LOVEMYBODY-lokakuu, as the two L:s went so beautifully together. Via social media, I announced that I was looking for stories about relating to one’s body – stories about bodyshame, and bodylove, and everything in between. I was lucky enough to get a few responses, which I now, to crown this long month, have the pleasure and honour to share. Thank you to the contributors! A few more remain.

Minna

PS. Should you be inspired to share your story, please do – through me, or via your own channels. Good bodytalk is precious, and healing.

LOVEYOURBODY-lokakuu | Vieraskynä: Nainen, joka tanssii häpeänsä kanssa

Kello on 6.06 ja minä tunnustelen häpeääni. Hetki sitten möngin sängystäni viisin askelin ja huomaan häpeän. Tein vain niin vähän. Voinko mainita asiasta. Tämän suorittamiseen liittyvän häpeän jättäisin muuhun lokeroon kuin kehon häpeään joskin se kehossani tuntuukin.

Mieli hyppää seuraavaan. Nautinnollinen. Mmmmmmm… kehon tuntemukset. Mieleni vie Minnan ohjaaman aistimusten ja kehon kuuntelun äärelle tanssimaan. Hyvä olo lämmittää kehoa. OMG! Mähän kehuskelen. Taas häpeää. Hyvältä tuntuvien asioiden tekeminen ja niiden julki tuominen nostattaa näköjään omituisuuksia ilmoille. Hymyilen ja kumarran moiselle. Kiitos ystävä.

Vaikea kaivautua nimenomaan kehonhäpeän äärelle. Kuiskaus sisälläni; “Tyhmä”. Hymyilyttää – ajattelen sinua, lukijaa, ehkä arvaatkin.
Niin, häpeää. Sieltä se vieläkin nostaa päätään vaikka olen sanan jo muuttanut itselleni sopivaksi: yksinkertainen. Sitä minä olen. Se on minulle arvokasta, kaunista, aistikasta ja siinä on hyvä liike. Rytmi josta saan kiinni. Ja mainittakoon vielä, että jostain Einsteinista kertomasta tai kertomana ymmärsin, että yksinkertaisuus vaatii älykkyyttä, joten olen aikaa sitten jo tyhmyydelle anteeksi antanut.
Asioiden tuominen ymmärrettävästi esille saa mieleni kiertämään kehää, joten teen päätöksen ja aloitan alusta.

Synnyin reilu neljäkymmentä vuotta sitten. Synnytys oli pitkä ja vaikea. Tästä en tietystikään muista mitään, mutta muistan pienen tytön hiukan isompana kuulleen tästä ja muokanneen sen päässään “Melkein tapoin äitini, minun olemassa oloni on tuottanut tuskaa”. Syntyi häpeä olemassa olosta. Tuolle perustalle olen elämäni pystyttänyt, häpeälle olemassa olostani. Ja Ou Boy se tuntuu jo kehossa kauttaaltaan.

Minun kehoni on ollut aina heikko. Se ei tuonut mielihyvän kiljahduksia koulun liikuntakilpailujen palkintojen jaossa. Sen sijaan opettelin vihaamaan. Vihasin itseäni. Vihasin aikuisia, jotka eivät nähneet minua. Lopulta opin vihaamaan myös muita lapsia. Vatsaan sattuu, pää on kipeä, selkä lyhistynyt, hartiat lysyssä, lonkat hakevat paikkansa ja jalat menevät längelle. Näin sen oletan tapahtuneen.

Heikko kehoni. Piiskasin sitä, jotta olisin jonkin arvoinen. Jos en itselleni saisin edes jotain aikaiseksi. Vatsassani pyörähtää, kuvotus nousee tuohon aikaan palatessani. Poltin itseni loppuun. Makasin sängyssä vasemmalla kyljellä. Muuta en voinut, jos muutin asentoani pääkipu yltyi hirveäksi. Eikä minulla ollut toivoa, koska jalkani tuntuivat unohtaneen kuinka viedä kehoani eteenpäin. Nyt kuiskaan kiitoksen vasemmalle kyljelleni. Kiitos, kannattelusta. Kannattelit koko kehoani ja sielun, sekä mielen rippeitä.

Keho jossa ei ole tunteita. Miltä se tuntuu. Puutuneelta, tyhjältä, lasittuneelta, turralta, heikkokuuloiselta, hajuttomalta, mauttomalta, ravitsemattomalta, harmaalta, vailla vuoden aikaa, aikaa ylipäätänsä. Ei ole aurinkoa nousemassa taivaanrannasta….. hiljalleen se nousi ja keväällä kukkivat krookukset. Kevät aurinko paistaa kristalleihin. Niiden spektrit tuovat väriä ja liikettä huoneeseen. Tunnistan leikin kutsun.
Kehoni seisoi keittiön ikkunan äärellä katsellen ulos. Kuppi kädessä. Kahvi höyrysi, ulkona oli ruskeaa, minä olin kehossani. Mietin miten tähän tultiin? Kuinka onnistuin kadottamaan kaikki tunteeni. Miten se edes on mahdollista. Tuon kysymyksen ääreltä lähdin tunnustelemaan pettänyttä kehoani. Tietoisuutta siitä, että minulla voi olla jotain tekemistä sen kanssa.

Tätä kirjoittaessani tunnustelen ajatusta voiko häpeän tunteita lokeroida. Onko olemassa laatikkoa kehon häpelle ja kehoni vastaa “Ne ovat linkittyneet toisiinsa. Keho, tunteet ja sinä, eli kykysi ajatella ja olla yhteydessä toisiin ja maailmankaikkeuteen, sekä itseesi”. Tuumailen, että jälkimmäiseen tarvitsee intuitioa. Uteliaisuuteni herää. Mistähän se on lähtöisin. Huomaan innostuksen kehossani. Sydän pomppailee kiivaammin, lämpö leviää , innostus tuntuu kutsuvan liikettä kehooni. Hermostuttaa, kun en liiku. Hetken mietin jos nyt vaan kirjoittaisin loppuun, koska tunne sen lähestyvän. Ympyrä on kohta kokonainen. Nousen ylös. Laitan puuron kiehumaan ja ajattelen kävelyä luonnossa. Kehoni rauhoittuu. Minä suljen ympyrän.

Minussa on niin paljon häpeää, liekö elämäni riittäisi sen “käsittelyyn”. Enkä koe paloa siihen. Minulla on parempaa tekemistä, kuten tanssia ja rakastaa.

Nainen, joka tanssii häpeänsä kanssa.

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TAUSTAA: sattuneesta syystä sain aiemmin syksyllä päähäni julistaa lokakuun LOVEYOURBODY-lokakuuksi. Pyysin tämän yhteydessä tekstejä kehokokemuksista, häpeästä rakkauteen ja kaikkea siltä väliltä. Ylläoleva on yksi niistä, joka tämän myötä löysi luokseni. Olen kiitollinen jokaisesta sanasta.
Ennen kuunvaihdetta ehdin jakaa vielä ne muutamat muut, jotka sain kunnian vastaanottaa. Mikä päätös pitkälle kuukaudelle!
Tanssimisiin taas,

Minna