Mama Gena's School of Womanly Arts - Sister Revolutionary: Debbie Rosas
By Mama Gena | Mama Gena's School of Womanly Arts :: March, 2009
"Debbie [Rosas] is a fitness pioneer. She has been incorporating pleasure into exercise for over 30 years, creating a new movement form that is an incredible workout as well as a pure joy to the body."
Mama Gena interviews Debbie Rosas about Nia, what she wants most women to know, and what she means by the "wisdom of the body." View the interview in its original post, or read the full transcript below.
School of Womanly Arts: You have a unique understanding of the body as it relates to pleasure and fitness. What would you most like women to know?
Debbie Rosas: That your body really knows how to move and if you start moving, your body will then guide you. If you connect to pleasure, it will guide you in a way that is perfect for you. It’s not about us waiting until a given day to bring movement into our life, to bring pleasure into our life. What is most important is that we recognize from the moment we open our eyes to the time we go to sleep that we have a day laid out before us which offers us the opportunity to move and to choose pleasure as we move, so that we don’t have to wait to go to the gym at five o’clock. We can actually be moving and be connecting to sensation every single day. Accumulation of movement is what really creates sustainability of health in our bodies. That is why in Nia we say, “through movement we find health.” This is true whether it’s someone who is ill with a short or long term illness, or someone who is healthy. Movement will bring the body into a greater state of homeostasis and well-being, and can also help one feel calmer or more peaceful. When that movement is expressive, uses sound, and can be personalized to meet one’s personal needs, then that movement becomes not a workout, but movement as medicine. That is how we like to look at Nia: really providing women movement as medicine to fall in love with their body, to really treat their body in loving ways, and to really step into living life with pleasure in a body, regardless of their shape or size.
SWA: Can you tell us about Nia?
DR: Nia is a movement method that addresses the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual parts of ourselves. It blends the martial arts (where you put your attention on precision and on truly gaining what we call personal power) and the dance arts (where you learn to connect with personal expression and passion). And it also integrates several movement forms from what we call “the healing arts,” and this is where one learns to connect with the body. Those three arts make it possible in a one-hour class to feed the body and address physical needs in relation to conditioning, energetic needs in relation to holistic conditioning, as well as their own personal needs. About 25 years ago, we decided that we wanted to address the body in a more peaceful way. We took off our shoes and began to move in a grounded way where one moves through what we call three planes or levels – midway, lower to the ground, and then rising up to the balls of the feet. Instead of dropping body weight, what we do is move energy along spiral lines, which can often feel like ballroom dancing -- you are basically ballroom dancing with an imaginary partner, your partner being the space around you or your breath. You begin to move more fully and fluidly. The movements that you begin to experience are not exercise movements, but movements based on the design of the body, or the body’s way. The body is designed to open and close, to reach, draw in, to shape, to twist, to turn, to look down, to look up, to look over the shoulder, and also to make sounds. In a Nia class, we move by combining stepping motions, which is like walking with heel leading and stance motions, where you stop for a moment as the music, rhythm, melody, and harmony connect to the stance artistically. The five sensations we ask people to connect to [flexibility, agility, strength, stability, and mobility] are sensations that balance the body, sort of like the food groups; when you have a balanced meal, the body receives the nutrition that it needs. When you move and you feed your body with the five sensations, you are basically feeding your nervous system the sensations your body is actually circuited to use, to keep you healthy. Pleasurable sensation is the body saying, “What you are doing is right for me, and what you are doing is going to make me healthy.”
SWA: What do you see in your students as they begin to practice Nia?
DR: Most people come to class to address something physical. Maybe they came to lose weight. Pretty soon, the joy and pleasure of moving takes over so much that they don’t even care about losing the weight. They do lose the weight, but their attention has shifted to, “I emotionally love dancing. I emotionally, for the first time in my life, love my body. I accept my thighs the way they are. I love my breasts. I love feeling who I am as I move.” I think people begin to realize that they are not victims to their body, but that they really are in relationship to the body. You start touching your body with tenderness, care, and love. Start spending time with your body. Start writing love notes to your body. You are not only going to see your body change, but all your relationships are going to change.
SWA: In Nia you talk about “the wisdom of the body.” Can you explain what you mean by that?
DR: We have several different kinds of wisdom. There is physical wisdom, which is based on the voice of the body that arises from sensation, and sends you signals through pain and pleasure. Then you have a mental wisdom, which not only allows us to make decisions but to transform and continue to grow. Emotional wisdom means that we have the opportunity to feel and to connect empathically; this is how we learn to address our own needs and take care of ourselves by expressing and addressing our feelings. The wisdom of spirit is that unique part of us that makes it possible to feel we are truly living a meaningful life, that we are on a fulfilling path based on our destiny and our desires. Put all of those voices together, and you get a wisdom that is multidimensional, a wisdom that makes it possible to communicate with four different languages. By using the wisdom of all of these bodies, one taps into four different energy fields, which leaves one feeling balanced and refreshed. I think everybody can relate to the exhaustion that happens if you only address one body during the day. For example, overworking your left brain leaves you feeling completely exhausted physically, yet you haven’t done anything physically. That is because we are designed as a species to activate and use all four wisdoms in all four bodies. Our body is basically the ultimate mother who always wants to give to us, serve us, make us feel good. A cut your finger reveals this wisdom. Think about how quickly the blood coagulates and the body heals. The body’s job is to survive, and the wisdom of the body is that no matter how poorly we treat it, it has the capacity to heal itself.
SWA: Wow. For those of us who don’t yet have this incredible connection with all of these wisdoms, what would you suggest to begin developing that?
DR: Make a commitment to pleasure. It is no longer okay to say, “Oh, it just hurts a little bit,” because our body relies on us to say “no” to pain. This may mean getting rid of uncomfortable shoes, or leaving a painful relationship. Our body relies on us to be in relationship with it and to take care of it. It is a magnificent experience to live in a body that is loved, cherished, and nurtured. Begin to activate and live your life through all of your senses. The daily exercise would be to take a few moments to connect to physical sensation. For example, hearing throughout the day, so you can hear the horns honking, a child laughing on the corner, people behind you having a conversation -- and the world around you becomes an orchestra. When one begins to live life with the senses one begins to receive nourishment through them.
SWA: As you begin to let in sensations, how can you have them be pleasurable and nourishing rather than grating, like in your example of the horns honking?
DR: First of all, you have to recognize the sensation of pleasure -- that is key. You must begin with that. You have to develop an awareness of sensation, and begin to recognize sensation as both subtle and loud. They can all be good, pleasurable sensations. In our book, we have a pleasure journal—what gives you pleasure? How do you know what gives you pleasure if you don’t take time to, as Regena says, “research it”? As your body experiences more pleasure, it will activate a wisdom that directs you to things and decisions that are pleasurable to you. When we are not paying attention, we can end up in environments and wonder, “How did I get here?” When we train our body to choose pleasure, our body will automatically begin to show us the way. In terms of the horns honking—I can’t change the world around me, but I can change the way I perceive it. We have something in Nia that we call “dancing for life.” It is a three part practice that means , “I want to feel life as art.” I can see the trash on the ground as trash, or I can look at the way the light changes the color of the banana peel. I can look at the light as if I were a photographer taking a picture. This will change my whole experience. This is very different from standing there for 30 seconds and bitching about somebody throwing trash on the ground. It doesn’t mean that I might not pick it up myself and throw it away, but it’s how I perceive it.
SWA: You had such a grounding in pleasure through your work with the body and Nia even before you met Regena. How has being a student in Mastery affected you further?
DR: It has affected me personally. As someone who is responsible for teaching and guiding others, there was a deeper level of connection with myself and my own pleasure that I had not gone to. Mastery has given me an opportunity to reconnect and to spend time with myself and my own practice in a deeper way. It has given me an opportunity to be in the company of other women who are not teaching, and to really participate and be a part of the feminine gender, which is very nourishing to me. It has reconnected me with a level of joy and playfulness that really only for me occurs when I am in a group of women. From a mentor point of view, I cherish the act of surrounding myself with people that I can learn from. It’s amazing to be able to participate and witness someone so incredibly gifted as a facilitator and a leader, someone so committed to teaching women to be in pleasure -- Regena is that for me.
SWA: You’re running a workshop and writing a book about awakening the feminine spirit. What is that about?
DR: I believe the planet is asking for awakening of what I call the new feminine spirit. That is the power that we have as women to carry a new message not only through our bodies, but through our voice and actions. We are being asked to step into roles of leadership and different archetypal roles so that the feminine spirit not only heals the planet, but heals individuals to help us move to the next level. At the root of the awakening of a new feminine spirit is a woman recognizing her power and her beauty. It is a woman deeply understanding that fact as a sensation, not as a conceptual idea. Meaning that it doesn’t matter what I have on, I know how to access my sensation of beauty, I know how to get there. From these two sensations of power and beauty, women can begin to awaken their own feminine spirit and become aligned with the goddess energy or the feminine energy, which for us women is not only the most powerful but also the most healing as well.
Original Source: http://go.nianow.com/mama-gena