Blue Skies, Blue Belt

When is it time to take the next step?

During the fall season of my 57th birthday I had been listening and dancing to the Nia routine, “Soul.” The long blond braids of its creator, Britta von Tagen, and the rich and rhythmic sounds of Native American Indians stirred feelings and memories of my childhood in Colorado. When I saw Britta would be co-training the Nia Blue Belt with Casey Bernstein at the Center for Nia and Yoga in Albany, NY, the following May, I felt excited. This unique training, just hours away, would be a perfect gift to myself. So I put it in my calendar.

And then winter came. The most amount of snow in the shortest amount of time. The snowiest winter in history. Week after week of cancelled plans. White in all directions.

During one of the white outs, my 96 year-old mother suffered congestive heart failure and a stroke on the other side of the country. Between blizzards I flew out to be by her side, in the most intimate of circumstances. Communicating with my mother had often had the texture of gravel, especially during my adolescence and young adulthood. The greatest tension that strained us was that she brought a significant hearing loss to the relationship, and I brought a desperate need to be heard. As I gained more compassion for myself in recent years, I found my compassion for her had grown deeper than I ever could have imagined.

When I wanted to speak to her in the hospital room, I leaned into her good ear and spoke softly. She seemed to like the touch, and often it seemed she understood what I was saying far better than when others would shout at her, something I could not bring myself to do any more. One evening, as I left her bedside, she took my hand and told me clearly, “It was wonderful to see you.” She winked and said, “Be careful,” and my mother was my mother one more time.

When I returned home from her Memorial Service on April 2nd, there was still snow on the ground, a lot of it. But the calendar promised that spring, and the Blue Belt would come. Still, when I returned home I was tapped out: physically, emotionally, spiritually and financially. Instead of feeling excited about the Blue Belt, I felt frozen. I needed to reevaluate. After a snowed out winter and two unplanned trips to California, I had missed a lot of work and time with my husband and daughter. Did I have what it would take to bring and receive from an Blue Belt training? Like the cranky voice inside the GPS device I used when I got lost or confused about my direction, I found myself recalculating.

So I moved through my life, not thinking too much about it, but inviting information that would guide me. That first week back at work, there was an ample check, so the finances would work out. Then without thinking about it, I began preparing my clients for what could be a planned absence in the coming month. It wasn’t a conscious decision to do so, but my voice began the process of preparing, even though I thought I was still deciding. Later that week, while waiting in traffic, a limousine cruised by with a license plate with the tag letters B L U E.

It seemed others in the broader Nia community were also contemplating whether or not to step into this training. The numbers turned out to be perfect for me, but did not support a co-training with Britta von Tagen. Although she wasn’t physically present, we danced to “Soul” and channeled her spirit, the spirit of my childhood, and the Great Spirit. I found myself wishing more people could have shared in our experience: the joy of being in relationship with Casey, with her diverse and vibrant community, with music and Nia, with ourselves and each other, with springtime in Albany. At the same time, I came to treasure the intimate group that we would become.

One morning as I entered the studio, a woman called out to me from her passing car, “I love your (swirling mesh Nia flare) pants!” Complete strangers, we were connected briefly through Nia. I called back, “Thanks, I love them too!” It was a bright start to a morning that would include more of being in relationship with Community. The Blue Belt trainees were invited to join in the group that Casey had been running for women in recovery. I was curious about how this would go. Would I bring judgment or compassion? Would I be genuinely kind, or unintentionally condescending? What had addiction meant in my life?

After introductions, and some warming up with music and movement, the Women of the Next Step formed a soul train, which gradually we all joined: Blue Belt trainees and women in recovery. In essence, weren’t we all women in recovery? We were connecting, and healing together, under the spell of Casey and Nia, moving through space as one, hooked on movement and music, and craving a hit of life force energy. As I reflected on my time with these women, a flood of emotion surprised me. I found in each of them reflecting back so many different parts of myself: Joy and Sorrow, Fear and Courage, Hope and Promise, the grit of the singer, Iggy Azalea, and the tenderness of a song called “Precious Gift.”

During the Blue Belt training, I laughed a lot and cried a little, for balance. I danced a lot and taught a little, to reach. I noticed that when I step in, I sometimes lose my balance. I noticed that when I listen and sense, I somehow find my way. I saw that when I was teaching webbed spaces, my hand trembled. I found that I was safe with Iggy, Hope and Promise standing with me, and that all I need really is inside of me.

I am grateful to Casey for her Great Spirit. I am grateful for the entity of Nia and those gatekeepers who have guided me toward and along its path. I am grateful to my Blue Belt sisters: Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water; each one beautiful, each one powerful, and each one necessary. I am grateful for all of the relationships in my life, both elemental and personal, both confounding and sustaining, both sacred and profane, for they have shaped me like a river shapes a stone, and carried me to where I am today. I am grateful, to the one who gave me my body, and my sometimes daunting, often magical life. I am grateful for the enduring power of love.

Turn, turn, turn; the seasons change.

Blue Skies.

Blue Belt.

My blue eyed mother, winking at me from the Spirit Realm.

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Cindy Rehnberg Crimmins, Nia Blue Belt is also a Clinical Social Worker in private practice with children and adults. She specializes in early childhood development and parent child relationships. Cindy attributes profound healing and personal growth to the movement and lifestyle practice of Nia. She lives in Scituate, Massachusetts, with her husband and daughter, who are themselves avid Niasounds enthusiasts. Contact her at

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