By Laura Burns
The Body Positive movement has created a shift in how we view the relationship between our bodies and our minds. Body positivity affirms that each of us deserves to love and respect ourselves regardless of our size, race, ability, and gender expression. For some who have been taught they’re less because of their body, this may be a complete reversal of thought! Yogis struggling to accept and love themselves can truly benefit from asana class steeped in body positivity. The change in perspective can help them reap the benefits of yoga to improve their mental and physical health for life-changing results in and out of the studio.
When I began to explore yoga I couldn’t find instructors trained in working with folks in bigger bodies like mine. I desperately wanted to improve my connection with my body, learn about yoga, and create a lasting practice to benefit my health and wellness. I attended class after class with instructors who didn’t know what to do with my body, so they either ignored my needs completely or over-highlighted me in a strange attempt at making me feel comfortable. Spoiler alert: it didn’t work. These experiences were incredibly disheartening. I wanted the yoga high after class, the epiphanies my friends were having mid-down dog, the joy of experiencing alignment and strength in my body! Instead I had negative experiences time and again, ultimately deciding that I just wasn’t made for yoga and spending the next 10 years avoiding yoga completely.
I eventually found my way back into yoga class, teacher training, and created Radical Body Love Yoga to bring accessible body positive classes to people who don’t feel comfortable and safe in traditional yoga spaces. Radical Body Love Yoga combines body positive philosophy and accessible asana options to create a comprehensive practice that helps foster students’ love, respect, and acceptance for their bodies. Through body positive cues, sequences, and pose options, I encourage students to explore and honor what their bodies can do in each moment without comparing themselves to other people or their past selves. The following are 3 tips for incorporating body positivity into your yoga practice!
It’s about the benefit of the pose, not how it looks! Every pose is challenging for someone. Your pose doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s. You may easily slide into Child’s Pose and feel comfortable, safe, and happy while the student next to you is in pain, uncomfortable, or feeling anxious. There is always another option to reap the benefit of the pose. For example, Child’s Pose is a resting pose designed to help you feel calm, comfortable, and safe by creating a delicious C-shaped curve of the spine. Folding forward can be challenging for folks with larger bellies and feel unsafe for those dealing with trauma. That same C-shape can be achieved by sitting comfortably and gently tucking chin towards chest. For more support the forehead can come to a stack of yoga blocks to create a restorative posture that suits most bodies.
Props are your friend. It sounds simple, but many classes are not taught from a supported starting point. Try flipping the script and starting from the most supported version of the pose and then adjusting as you go. Start with a block, dial the height down, and let go when you’re ready. The important part is that you’re in control. For teachers, starting everyone with props means that people can try it with support and then continue or opt out. There’s no awkward walk across the room when you realize you really do need a strap for this Extended Big Toe, and many seasoned students find that they enjoy using props as well. Props are not for ‘those who can’t’, they’re a great tool to enrich everyone’s practice.
You’re the expert. Often there’s an emphasis on pushing through, working harder, or finding the full expression of the pose that can lead you past your edge and mean a physical injury or feeling like you’re not doing enough. Give yourself permission to recognize that you’re the expert on your body. You know when you’re at your edge, when you don’t need to push any harder, and when you need to not push at all. It doesn’t matter what the teacher says, if you trust yourself to know your own limits and needs you will gain more from class and have a better experience.
These tips are just the beginning! There’s a whole world of body positivity and yoga out there for you. Remember to be kind to yourself and always give yourself permission to give your body what it truly needs.
This article is published in September 2017 issue of Natural Awakening magazine. To learn more about Radical Body Love Yoga, visit radicalbodylove.com. Laura teaches four classes weekly at Studio NiaMoves in the Houston Heights. Register online at niamoves.com.
Prior to moving back to Houston four years ago, I worked with the Children's Partnership in Austin. As a child and family therapist I engaged with kids identified as "most at risk." From previous run-ins with the law, these kids had multiple agencies involved in their lives such as Child Protective Services, foster care and juvenile court. Many had unmet mental health needs and often had problems staying engaged in school and staying engaged in treatment, as well as in life.
I enjoyed working with this unique and challenging group, because for the first time in my career I was encouraged to use "non-traditional" or "alternative" methods of therapy and skills training including Dialectical Behavior Therapy and dance and art therapy. These alternatives teach individuals healthy self-expression, self-observation and greater awareness. Further, they help guide adolescents to be in their bodies and physically present in the world.
When I learned there was a residential treatment center in our local community focusing on youth with similar challenges, I felt instantly compelled to find a way into helping. Upon my first welcome into The Center for Success and Independence, I was impressed with the vivid artwork decorating the halls. The recreation area where I was to lead a Nia class, however, was filled with large couches and a big screen TV -- nice for some sedentary movie watching, but perfect for a movement/dance experience -- not so much!
Cheerfully, I introduced myself to the group of young girls and set us up to dance in front of the TV, which could act as a sort of reflective surface or "mirror" to engage them. I introduced the routine SACRED and invited them to step in. Many of the girls reacted shyly, uncertain about putting themselves in the "fish-bowl" situation created by the room setup The non-participants hung out on the sofas, watching the girls courageous enough to dance and move in front of their peers -- a potentially vulnerable situation for this age group. Still, a number of brave souls did engage with the routine and eventually some of the "observers" who saw us having a good time also joined in.
I was blessed to meet with a few of the young ladies after the session. Their excitement from having the chance to dance was visible, and they asked for more. Many of them said they yearned for the variety that such classes would bring to the center, as they spend so many hours a week in individual, group and family therapies around their school hours.
It is my deep hope that our upcoming celebration and gala raises the $6,000 in funds to bring Nia as an alternative therapy and healing movement form to these kids learning to heal their minds, bodies and spirits. Please join me Saturday, April 29th at 7 p.m. for our community dinner, auction and Dare to Dream, Dare to Dance fundraiser. Purchase your tickets before they are gone. Online donations, especially if you cannot attend, will be heartily welcome.
In gratitude for our community,
Cambrey Lindsay, MA, LPC
Nia Brown Belt Teacher
Pictured from left: Cambrey, Marylou (seated), Angela, Sue and Yvonne
Currently, I volunteer as an art teacher at The Center for Success and Independence, a residential and outpatient treatment center offering adolescent trauma therapy and treatment for teen substance abuse and co-occurring mental health issues in Houston, Texas. Before that, I met Marylou Erbland, the co-founder of the center at a mutual friend’s home. At the time, I was volunteering with an organization that was preparing to open a residential treatment center for female minors who had been rescued from the sex trafficking industry. In discussing our opening and the girls who would be living there, I learned that four girls who were being successfully treated at TCSI were being considered for transfer to the new center.
Eventually, I began volunteering at TCSI as an art teacher. In reality, I'm more of an art project manager. I design a plan, collect needed supplies, instruct and encourage the young clients. My passion for living out my faith by serving motivates me to give my time. Plus, I love kids, young people and art so, this is a natural extension of who I am. I receive joy when I'm in the company of the clients. It's not always easy but, I always leave feeling I've learned something from them. It is a privilege to see a reluctant client who doesn't feel they are "good" at art, complete a project with satisfaction and pride.
In my time working with these kids I have observed that young people can become profoundly lost on their journey and lose their sense of self-worth. It takes time but, with the intense level of support and therapy provided at TCSI, they slowly make their way back to believing in themselves again and realizing they have worth, and that it has value!
These days, the sheer intensity and volume of life-threatening habits young people must be able to discern and make choices regarding is overwhelming. It saddens me how many children don't have a healthy and encouraging support system to lean on.
As for my connection to Nia, that began on May 21, 2011, when I picked up an airline magazine while traveling on American Airlines and read about it for the first time. When I returned home, I did some research and was surprised to learn Soma Ranch was 15 minutes down the road. On a Wednesday evening I phoned Helen Terry and two days later I became a registered trainee in the White Belt training! I have since completed both the White and Blue Belts, and I am an Ageless Grace instructor.
One day when visiting TCSI I noticed the lack of exercise the clients received -- especially the girls. It is widely known that conditioning the body also improves emotional wellbeing and cognitive functioning. What’s good for the body is good for the brain, leading to better results in recovery. I knew from my training as a nurse, camp leader, and missionary that Nia would be a perfect fit and could be accomplished by all fitness levels in a limited space. I affirm that dancing is good for the heart, mind and spirit....as well as being a ton of fun!
It is my hope that the Dare to Dream, Dare to Dance project with Studio NiaMoves will bring Nia to TCSI for one year, or maybe longer. And my prayer is there will be an increased awareness of this wonderful center and its mission. I believe Nia will be wholeheartedly received by the clients and staff and positive changes will result because dancing is embraced and practiced regularly. I have already seen the results from just a few classes. The participants love it, and the movement and excitement is contagious, moving couch-sitters to the dance floor!
Hopefully, the Nia community will also benefit from engaging with TCSI. Perhaps lifelong Nia students, instructors and educators are waiting for their own such time as this with TCSI to change their lives!
by Sue Korthauer, Nia student and TCSI volunteer
I have had the same dream my whole life. I see a large tsunami form in the distance. In panic, I wonder, should I run? Should I hide? Each time in my dream I am either engulfed and wake up, or I survive only to find another one starting to form.
I have had depression from a very young age. Slowly, and only quite recently, have I learned how to manage it. One of the more difficult parts for me is the struggle for friendship and acceptance. Meeting new people can be hard when the voice of depression insists "of course they won't like you" or "they are just being nice to you because they feel sorry for you." To aid in my journey, I knew I needed a safe place to meet people. That is how I found NiaMoves.
I walked into my first class and wondered, why are people wearing costumes? Then, OMG, what is this teacher talking about? And then with free dance..."WHAT DO I DO WITH MY BODY?"
But for some reason I stayed. At the end of my first Nia class with the loving and talented Yvonne, I felt alive and at peace. When I left that day all I could think about was that I wanted to be part of this community. I tried to understand...what made me feel so good? Was it the teacher's soothing voice? The music? The mind-body connection? Or the way that I was treated when I walked in, as well as the way everyone connects to each other?
Here I am, back from Puerto Rico with a Yoga teacher training under my belt, and I've started teaching Yoga at NiaMoves! I lean on Angela for support if I am having a bad day; I take Helen's upbeat and energetic Nia classes if I am feeling lazy; I pull myself into Laura's Radical body love class when I am feeling sad. Then of course there is Yvonne's class and whatever secret magic she sprinkles on the senses when I am feeling out of touch. I give my yogis the gentle reminders of self-love, and tenderness towards our body and soul. And the best part of walking into a class is knowing that someone is there for the same reason as me, for community, support and friendship. I am a part of a loving community and that feels so good.
Last night I had a dream. There was an approaching tsunami like always, but this time it was different! Yes, it was still coming, still looming larger than life and unstoppable. But the panic I usually feel wasn't there! I knew I was supposed to be afraid, but I wasn't. For some reason I knew however hard the wave hit I could handle it.
For me, NiaMoves is a powerful step on the way to self-love and acceptance. It is different for everyone, but expect to find something you may not even know you needed.....that and a lot of genuine hugs.
- Esther Tell (Yoga Teacher at NiaMoves)
Seventeen years ago I stepped into my first Nia white belt training, and my life has never been the same. As a Nia white belt graduate, I am connected to a beautiful web of people around the world who share my passion for dance and speak the same language of sensation and healing movement. Because of Nia, I have traveled to and danced in India, Germany, Scotland and Wales and never failed to make new friends.
Stepping into a Nia training is like peeling an onion -- without the tears! The White Belt training teaches you practical tools for living life in your body with joy, ease, grace, power, fascination, pleasure and balance. With every training I take, I leave with a deeper understanding of the philosophy and tools of Nia and greater appreciation for the moveable structure that is my body. And yet, there is always more!
In late September, Studio NiaMoves will host its first Nia White Belt training in many years, featuring two incredible Nia faculty members, international Nia Black Belt Trainer Helen Terry and Austin-based Trainer Julie Wylie. Nia has continued to evolve over the last 17 years, which is why there is always something new to learn!
Many of our longstanding students at Studio NiaMoves are themselves White Belt trainees. Like me, some have even gone on to teach. Others simply use what they’ve learned to enrich their own in-class experience and their lives. Whether you plan to teach or not, or have even taken a Nia class, this is an incredible opportunity to learn what Nia truly is. You’ll also learn about your body, and how by moving it you can find joy, create conditioning and heal. Nia is so much more than a fitness technique. It’s an enriching educational system and lifestyle practice.
Maybe I'll even step in again to begin my journey anew. Won’t you come too?
Yvonne Myles, Nia Black Belt teacher at Studio NiaMoves
I am the founder of Chakra Body Dance, but in a way, I could almost say that Chakra Body Dance found me, bit by bit.
What is Chakra Body Dance? It’s a practice combining movement and music that allows you, your physical body and your unseen, yet vital energy body to flow through life with greater ease and awareness. Chakra is a Sanskrit word meaning wheel or disk. From a body perspective, chakras are wheels of swirling, invisible life force energy, seven of which align along the spine from top to bottom. It is our life force energy that keeps us feeling vibrant, healthy and alive.
Having been on my own spiritual, healing journey, I was naturally open to new ways of stimulating healing. In Chakra Body Dance, I use essential oils, music and intuitive energy healing to guide my students in peeling away stagnate energies that may be keeping them from fulfilling what they hope to achieve. I call it, “jumping into your juiciness!” Each move is presented to move energy through or around a particular chakra that may need clearing or may just need some attention. Energy and healing follow attention.
It was in Bali that I first envisioned the five beautiful dancers that are highlighted on the Chakra Body Dance logo. I feel their presence in every class. I offer weekly classes and private healing sessions. I am able to provide a more in-depth experience during the private sessions.
Are you feeling stuck mentally, emotionally or physically? Or do you just want to move your body in a relaxing, yet stimulating way? Join me for an hour of music and intuitive movement. No previous dance experience is required. Please feel free to email me with questions or inquiries about the classes and/or private sessions.
JoAnn Scott, Chakra Body Dance Founder
“Walk beautifully, talk beautifully, live beautifully”
-- quote from a Yogi tea bag
How do you start your day? Every day is an opportunity to start something new. The quote from my Yogi tea bag reminded me that I can step into my power of choice and that power is always available and ready for launch. A Saturn 5 mega rocket launch!
What does that look like? What can it look like? Only you can initiate your launch sequence.
Walk command center to self: “Hey you. How did you start your walk today?”
Your “walk” can be a physical exercise or taking an action aligned with your goals and vision. The walk on your path to manifesting your personal legacy is your beautiful walk. Walk beautifully!
Self to command center: “Walk is good to go!”
Talk command center to self: “Hey you. How did you start your talk today?”
Your talk is the inner dialog that sets you up for success, for failure or for just getting by. What’s it saying? It happens every moment. Your talk launch sequence can get reset and restored anytime you choose. Say “Stop it,” when that inner dialog serves up negativity that takes you off your center. Speak to yourself with a sense of vibrancy, compassion and encouragement. This your beautiful talk. Talk Beautifully!
Self to command center: “Talk is good to go!”
Live command center to self. “Hey you. How did you start your life today?”
Your life is that rich, endless, fountain of energy we call our personal legacy. Your personal legacy is happening right now! Is your rocket -- your personal legacy -- carrying cargo that is not your own? Is it navigating to destinations not chosen by you? You are your own rocket! Clear it of cargo that weighs you down, creates unbalance or takes you away from your charted destination. Clear the cargo keeping you in a stagnating, wandering low orbit! You already have what you need, and you already know where you want to go! Cargo cleared... navigation reset! Live Beautifully!
Self to command center: “Live is good to go!”
Are you ready to start something? Initiate count down.
...10…9…”Walk is good to go,”
…8...7... “Talk is good to go!”
...6….5…”Live is good to go!”
…4….3…”You are so ready!”
Frank Zendejas is a certified Lightyear Licensee and offers group and individual training of Lightyear Leadership Personal Legacy program. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (832)541-6904 to inquire about his training services.
Given the popularity of Valentine’s Day, it’s truly surprising how little is actually known about the man (or woman) for whom the day is named. While many differing legends exist, all at least agree that one or more people named Valentinus existed and that romantic love and devotion were central to his or her life.
These days, Valentine’s Day revolves around roses, balloon bouquets, chocolates and expensive dinners with loved ones. But what if we could expand upon that? What if we extended it throughout the month and indeed for the entire year? This Valentine’s Day, consider these six unique ways to show yourself, your loved ones, and even those you don’t know that you care.
1. Show your own heart some love. February is Heart Month. Feed yourself and family heart healthy meals. Explore the art of vegan cooking with the Ayurvedic Cooking for Spring class. Enjoy one of the many feel-good movement classes we offer such as Nia, belly dance, hooping or Doonya Bollywood- style dance to condition your heart and lungs.
2. Love your mind when you engage your brain in a new way. Make up a riddle, work a crossword puzzle, do some simple math in your head, or read a book. Consider attending an Ageless Grace demo with founder Denise Medved to learn how to keep your brain pliable and strong, here at the studio Feb. 21, or Soma Ranch Feb. 22.
3. Give yourself some emotional release. Take a day off for a mini stay-cation. Indulge in a Chakra Body Dance class for energetic clearing with simple body movement and essential oils with founder JoAnn Scott. Or sign yourself up for a free therapeutic massage!
4. Nurture your spirit. Forgive yourself. Use gentle language with yourself and others. Take the time to appreciate the beauty of simple things. Noticing someone else’s attention to detail is like giving a tiny gift. Plus it energizes your senses. Meditate. Book a Spirit Session with Carlos AyaRosas for guided personal inquiry or experience an evening of Trance Dance with Cambrey Lindsay.
5. Practice compassion. Focus for a moment on those beings who may be less fortunate than you, then do something about it! Just one small thing can make someone’s life better. Pay it forward with a donation of time or money to a charitable organization. Attend a One Billion Rising event to end violence against women.
6. Express gratitude. Step into a yoga class. Be grateful for the beautiful, magnificent body in which you live. Bend it, stretch it, airbrush it, relax it. Your body is the temple of your soul. Let your gratitude shine from the inside out.
Have any other suggestions? Leave your ideas here. However you choose to celebrate it, have a great Valentine’s Day!
“We are basically fluid beings that have arrived on land. All living processes owe their lineage to the movement of water.” - Emilie Conrad, founder of Continuum Movement
I first discovered Continuum in 1999 as as a martial artist and body worker. Sadly, as my joints began to deteriorate from over use, I found myself in near constant pain. Feeling tired, toxic and stressed after painting my bathroom all day, I almost skipped my first class, but a friend was driving so I went anyway.
By the end of class I felt like I had completely renewed myself.
The goals of Continuum are the creation of health and wellness.
The movement of Continuum flows as water flows, with waves, arcs, ripples and spirals. This type of movement enlivens our own fluid system and enhances health, vitality and creativity. Through its practice we explore how maintaining fluidity within our physical tissues also benefits our mental and emotional well-being.
The practice of Continuum is very simple and accessible to anyone who has a desire to explore wide ranging movement possibilities. Anyone recovering from injury or illness that has affected their energy and movement capacity will find Continuum to be a gentle and effective practice for regaining strength, balance and mobility. Continuum has also been embraced by dancers, performance artists and writers as a practice for entering into a potent creative space.
Benefits of the practice are many. Continuum can:
* Increase vitality, health and healing
* Provide a spacious sense of well-being
* Develop core strength and flexible power
* Revitalize bones, joints, and skeletal health
* Release, relax and realign, much like receiving bodywork
* Heighten sensuality and increase receptivity
* Awaken creativity, innovation and play
* Facilitate trust in one’s inherent body wisdom
* Deepen spiritual connection
* Provide a safe environment for growth and renewal
I became a teacher because I feel that Continuum is a vital component for health in our stressful speeded up world. I love the emphasis on following your inner guidance rather than 'doing' what is modeled and the way that Continuum draws from so many other fields of science and the arts. As a body worker for many years, I shared Continuum with clients and saw such quick transformation of long standing issues for them that I felt compelled to share this work.
It is always inspiring to hear what participants get from the class. Come see for yourself, Saturdays Jan. 28, Feb. 4, Feb. 11 and Feb. 25. (No class on Feb. 18.) As an expert at keeping people in the flow of life, I look forward to bringing out the flow in you.
A revolutionary new approach to Nia is coming to Studio NiaMoves. It’s called Move IT! Incorporating the best elements of Nia - powerful music and playlists and simplified movement guided by precise, body-focused language, Move IT classes are designed to wow you! Skillfully delivered, these classes will leave you in what Nia Faculty Trainer and first degree Black Belt Kelle Rae Oien calls “exhausted joy.”
Imagine being coached to achieve your personal best, pushing to your body’s safe limits and discovering magically that you can do even more than you thought. Imagine having that experience with a group of friends in a welcoming, non-competitive environment with soul stirring, heart-pounding music. Imagine getting more functionally fit through flexibility, agility, mobility, strength and stability in a beautiful dance studio on a gracious street in the Heights neighborhood of Houston.
Now, imagine that it is all possible!
Having just attended an introduction to the approach while taking the 52 Moves of Nia training at Soma Ranch, I experienced first hand the jolt of joy a Move IT class delivers. I simply cannot wait to complete my training so that I can offer Move IT at Studio NiaMoves, along with my classic Nia and Nia with Flexi-bar classes.
What perfect timing, too, incorporating Nia’s Move IT classes during the studio’s breakthrough year. We’re off to a strong start with growing classes, community outreach and deeper connection through the Heights Chamber of Commerce. Plus, we continue to offer an impressive line-up of classes and workshops aimed at helping anyone who walks through our door feel good and feel better through movement and wellness.
It’s no accident we say, “Through movement, we find health!” Take a look at our weekly schedule and sign up for a class today. Then continue to watch this space for more from our teachers, students and guest presenters.
Then get ready to Move IT!
Nia Black Belt Instructor