Mary Ann Mhina
Mary Ann Mhina
I loved dance as a child. Slowly though, as I grew older I was inflicted with the sense that I would never look like a dancer. My ballet teacher suggested I was too tall (ironic for a woman who ended up the shortest in her whole matrilineal family and stopped growing upwards around age 12 or 13!). By the age of 8 other kids were teasing me about my size and shape. They called it fat. I prefer powerful and strong but these weren’t things about my body that occurred to me in those days.
Since then, I’ve been looking around for a way to move and exercise that I enjoy like I’d enjoyed those early years of dancing. Something that felt natural and didn’t feel like a big effort.
It wasn’t that I couldn’t do effort. Actually I’m pretty good at doing effort. I first ran an adult 10k road race when I was at secondary school and since then I’ve complete a marathon and a triathlon. As if to stick my finger up to all those people that implied my body was unacceptable I’ve been a member of at least 12 different gyms, lapped up yoga retreats and tried all kinds of classes.
I love a challenge.
Rather irritatingly most health professionals seem to assume that, because of my wide frame, generous chest and curvy features I’ve never darkened the door of a gym. Nothing could be further from the truth. My personal trainer said that I had more stamina than most women he had trained. The way it feels to me I have lots of energy to put into moving my body and by and large it feels good when I do.
In all of the exercise challenges that I’ve set myself over the past twenty years I have always found that the buzz I get at the beginning wanes either after I achieve the goal (e.g. Run 26.2 miles in the case of a marathon) or after I feel like I’ve proved that I can do it if I want to. After that it some how fails to keep me mental and physically entertained.
Then a friend suggested I try NIA and I found that for me NIA felt to me like a return to the ease of movement I had as a young child. I began to find myself lost in movement in a way it felt like I had seldom been since I was very young. I loved the feeling of body freedom and joy NIA was starting to give me but there weren’t many classes close to where I lived and not that many at all really, in London. And so I decided, on an intuitive impulse to sign up for the training so that I could become a Nia teacher myself.
I’ve grown passionate now about the Way that Nia can help us to start to fall back in love and in touch with our bodies and about sharing that with the people who come to my class. To understand and listen inside instead of getting all our messages about how we look and feel from without. Nia is fun. It can help you re-learn to enjoy and celebrate your body no matter what it has been through, no matter how you have punished and criticised it over the years. Nia will meet your body just the way it is and move with it. And as far as I am concerned that is one of the most precious gifts for your body that it is within your own personal power to give.