Paddleboarding & The Nia 52 Moves

Kathy is a Black Belt certified Nia teacher and Nia 5 Stages teacher. She has an M.S. in Exercise Science, a B. A. in Psychology, and currently teaches a variety of group fitness classes, including Nia, at Moorpark College and the Ventura Nia Center.

My first week since the Nia 52 Moves Training has been full of sensational experiences. I cherish the way my Nia practice crosses over into multiple aspects of day-to-day life as well as into the sports and recreational activities I enjoy. I started the sport of standup paddleboarding in 2009 when I learned my father had cancer. It was a wake up call not to put off fulfilling my desires. I now paddle long distance races as a Team Duke athlete, raising money for cancer research in my father’s memory. I apply my Nia practice to paddleboarding, setting a focus each time I paddle, connecting to sensation, being in the moment, and dancing with the ever-changing music of ocean. Just prior to attending the 52 Moves Training, I took a short pre-race paddling clinic with one of the world’s most accomplished elite paddlers. I received one little piece of feedback: “move energy through the entire body as if falling onto the paddle, rather than using the muscles of the arms alone.” I gave it a try, and paddled one of my best events ever, finishing first in the 50 and over wahine class. Some strokes felt like dynamic ease, while many were sensed as much effort as I practiced connecting to a shift in my paddling style. After the race it was back to pre-training for the 52 Moves.

The Nia 52 Moves Training was now just a week away, and I felt like I had come to a sticking point with my skills practice. I was doing my best to honor the pre-training practice schedule, and some days combined with my work and commitment to my sport, I was doing 6-7 hours of physical activity. My moves started to feel very mechanical and lacked any quality of playfulness or creative expression. I kept reflecting on a paragraph in the Nia Technique book that cautions about doing conventional, repetitive movements, as they do not support The Body’s Way. I was falling into a state of confusion, not knowing how to repeat these moves over and over without becoming complacent. Feeling emotionally deflated and physically in a place of disconnect, I came to Portland trusting that everything would turn out okay.

The way Debbie Rosas orchestrated the training was beautiful. It was clear to me that adaptation was happening along the way as she and the trainers, much like a rock star and band, fed us with what best fit the moment, rather than sticking to a pre-determined playlist or agenda. I rode the ups and downs of the "on the mat tests" and was in a place of self-doubt as the session for the upper extremities approached. Finding the joy of integrating the hand and finger techniques into may dance has been a slow and steady learning process since my first class in 2006. Over two decades of teaching traditional fitness formats with no attention to these fine motor movements has left me with many neuromuscular pathways that need to reunite.

On the third and final day of the training, I showed up feeling small. Kevin's suggestion to listen to the voice prompts and move and energize each move in our own way was helpful to me as I prepared for the mat test. In addition, I was prepared to embody the little tidbits shared by the team of coaches throughout the previous days. I had previously perceived I was really "in my base," as I sensed grounding and stability, keeping my knees soft. Yet in the days of the training I learned that I tend to over stabilize and that this blocks the energy from moving up and through my body (same as I was doing in paddleboarding). At a point early in the mat test for the upper extremities, Ken said I was doing the correct move but needed to energize my hands. Suddenl,y as if he turned on a light switch, I was able to connect to a different sensation. This new connection flickered on and off throughout the mat test, and I danced the most pleasing 52 Moves my body has ever experienced. With this positive experience, I approached the end of the training with great enthusiasm to put to practice all that I am learning, and to share that with my students.

Since home, I had a chance to jump on my paddleboard and had an interesting experience. I sensed my stance on the board in a new and different way. Instead of bracing my feet on the board I sensed my weight dropping into my heels. As I prepared to press the paddle into the water, the energy moved up through the back of my legs and my pelvis rotated towards where I was reaching with the paddle, my arm bones extending to receive my body weight. Boom! The paddle went in smooth with a sense of power. As I continued repeating this action I glanced at my GPS that tracks my speed, and I was moving faster than usual. Thinking there might be a current moving my board along I reversed direction and had the same result. I am truly tickled how dancing Nia and taking the 52 Moves Training has the potential to improve my performance in a sport I enjoy. Thank you, Debbie Rosas, for brightening the joy, grace, power and potential in me. Now it is off to practice, refine, and study the details of my library of DVDs... to discover what my post-training will bring... and to maybe even squeeze in an audit!