When you try something new, you get something new.
It started here, in the old warehouse turned dance/yoga/Nia studio above, where my friend, Deb, and I stood waiting for the class to begin and wondering what we had gotten ourselves into. One by one, other women arrived, too. Some were older. Some younger. All in varying shapes and sizes and all were veterans of this thing called Nia that was brand new to us.
Julie introduced herself first and told us about the class. Jean welcomed us and showed us where to pay. Lynda, one of the teachers, said she was glad we were there. Many more said hello. This tribe could not have been more welcoming.
We watched them take off their shoes and socks and followed their lead before stepping out into the studio space.
Here’s what I knew before I arrived. Nia combines:
dance (not my strong suit)
martial arts (no experience here)
cardio (I’ll do it, but under duress)
spirituality (A big yes to this… so I’m one for four here).
I dropped any hope of doing this new class well and that immediately eliminated performance anxiety. I didn’t care how I looked or how I did. But I felt good simply because I was willing to give this new thing a try. It turns out that fit perfectly with Nia. This exercise for your mind, body, and spirit is your experience and you can do it your way, regardless of abilities or limitations.
The group began by sitting in a circle. In the middle of us was a burning candle with tubes of lipstick standing like sentinels around the flickering light. Now I was even more curious.
Lynda, one of the teachers, began the class by explaining that a fellow member had been battling an ongoing illness that robbed her of sleep and caused her pain. The woman (for her privacy, I’ll call her Valencia) consistently came to class anyway. Lynda spoke of the ways Valencia had inspired her and as the two conversed openly, I became inspired, too.
Lynda presented Valencia with a bracelet that everyone passed around the circle and laid blessings on. Then our teacher placed it lovingly on Valencia's wrist and revealed the mystery of the lipstick.
Our teacher explained that Valencia often spoke of getting up, putting on lipstick and going out, no matter how she felt. It was something that Valencia’s mother had taught her when she was a girl. “Put on your lipstick and get on with it.” The symbolism struck me smack in the center of my heart.
Lynda asked everyone to pick a tube of lipstick and put it on in honor of Valencia. Deb and I, now wholeheartedly into this experience, not only glided it across our lips, we also used it to draw a heart on our chests. Our classmates were delighted.
The rest of our time was an explosion of fun. I followed the instructors’ dance moves. (Sort of. But no one judged.) I flowed with the music, embracing the times when each of us moved in our own way, following the lead of our bodies and minds and hearts. I let my inner child play for the first time in a long time.(So! Much! Fun!) I twirled and jumped and got a great cardio workout.
There’s also another component to Nia, a complement to the physicality of it. Organizers say this joyful movement is healing and I can see why. When you let loose and free your movement, it seems to free your mind and spirit, too. It is the most fun I’ve had exercising since… ever. And the culture, at least in this class, is one of extraordinary support.
With red cheeks and sweaty shirts, Deb and I looked at one another at the end of this first-time experience and agreed we had found our new favorite thing. Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, our classmates invited us to join them for breakfast, a post-class habit. We gladly accepted, honored to be received in this warm way.
On the way home, Deb and talked nonstop about how glad we were that we had tried this new thing and the many ways Nia and our classmates had fed us a rich banquet even before we went to breakfast.
Here’s the bottom-line thing:
One new experience. One class. One day. Twenty minutes from home. It doesn’t take much. But when we try something new, we get something new. And after, we are not the same anymore. We are fuller, richer, made more by awakening our inner adventurer and going where she leads. One new thing at a time.
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Curious about Nia? It started in Oregon in the 1980's as an alternative, holistic workout. Since then it has spread to many locations. Find one near you by clicking here. For an example of how much fun Nia is, watch a class here. Or check Nia out on Facebook here.
Big thanks to Linda and Javier who taught the class at The Joy of Movement in Pittsboro, North Carolina. You made our introduction to Nia great fun. And thank you to the class regulars for your incredibly warm hospitality. You make me want to come back. And you make me eager to try many more adventures.