A Veteran Finds Vitality In Nia

I have been challenged by physical and psychological issues directly connected to my service in Vietnam. My first tour 1965-1966 began when I was 17 years old with the United States Marine Corp (USMC) infantry, lots of rice paddies and ill-fitting leather boots. In my second tour 1969-1970, I was attached to a Marine LRRP (Long Range Recon Patrol) unit as a Corpsman (Medic). It was a harrowing job – a 5-man team inserted into dense mountain jungle and extracted a week later.

Both of these tours set the stage for physical deformities and severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, defining me for many years. The jobs I took afterword were dangerous, illegal or risky – sometimes all three.

After I got out of jail I met my wife at the time, and began to overcome the feelings of disconnect, exclusion and guilt, and got a job in construction. The healing started. My studies included exploring the Tao Te Ching, getting a degree in Construction Management and improving my social skills (reconnecting).

Up to this point, I was unaware that I was in fairly good health. Veterans Affairs started yearly health checkups and each year my labs proved I was getting healthier each year. I had no excuse not to do the absolute best that I could do; good health is an astounding positive. How many billionaires would give up everything they own for good health? Mine, not for sale.

About 5 years ago I suffered from a dislocated shoulder. The emergency room doctor said it was one of the worst of its kind. Of course with this degree of trauma, most muscle movements have constraints. I took pain medications for a few days but stopped because of the side effects. Life is full of pain – minor stuff for everyone, major stuff for a few. I expected pain and did different positions to alleviate the discomfort. Knowing it was not a broken bone and would heal helped me deal with the pain; psychosomatic connection is a real device and can be enhanced using biofeedback.

I took my first Nia class with Sarah Love about 3 years ago and have continued without stopping since. Nia made an instant impression on me with Zen qualities of music and dance. Nia’s approach shows we can involve parts of the body that almost never get used, put them together with music and increase our physical potential. Other characteristics of Nia help my memory and allow coordination to occur, vital for systems operations. Oh yes, and the movements seem to be tailor-made for me.

Now it is apparent that my feet, serving me in a stalwart manner, are aligning in a more propitious posture. The feeling in my right leg is coming back, affecting my gait and movement positively. I cannot help but feel, through observation and biofeedback that Nia exercises are at the heart of this. My right and left shoulder, because of the upper body routines, are at almost complete range of motion. After years of doing Nia without my right arm, it has resumed its operational place. With disabilities rated at 100% by the VA, I am pleased that they are not as disabling as they once were.

Nia is an energy creator. To be involved with Nia is to be involved with energy. Like a really clean fuel, it powers up without letting down. If I come home tired Thursday night and want to feel good, I do Nia.

At nearly 70 years old, I am sometimes astounded that my life is so wonderful. I am having the best years at this age. In fact, I am at the beginning of a project that will have a profound effect on a traditional landscape of domestic design. The one thing that is needed in a venture of this magnitude is energy. And I have it.

Thanks for the dance.


By: Michael O’Reilly

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