For this month's continuing education focus on the hip joints, we're excited to feature the following masterful voices from the worldwide Nia community. Read on to hear what they have to say about sensing rocking and rolling by exploring The Body's Way. Be sure to also register for the November 5th telecourse with Nia Co-Creator Debbie Rosas and Nia Trainer Kelle Rae.
Debbie Rosas, Nia Co-Creator, says:
On the heels of last month's continuing education focus of the pelvis, I'm excited to share November's month-long focus with you: Awareness of Hip Joints.
No other joint provides as much comfort, conditioning and energy flow as the hip joints. If you're in my Nia class, you will hear me frequently say, "Keep your balls alive." People laugh when they hear me say this; however, as the largest ball and socket joint in the body, the hips are responsible for balancing our energy from below and above. The hip joints are the conduits for mobility and stability. With every step you take, the balls of your hip joints beg to move. When they move, they rock and roll the energy, sending it from left to right and around your spine from the tail to the crown. Keep the balls of your hip joints healthy and you will breathe more deeply, have more resilience in your legs and more strength in your abdominal muscles and back. Not to mention, you'll look and feel better!
It took me ten years to let go of the tension in my hip joints. There were several things standing in the way of my having free and mobile hips. First, there was the attitude, "good girls don't move their tails." Second, there was the belief system, "If I walk down the street with a loose pelvis, I'll look a loose woman, and I might even get attacked." Yet once I understood the science of The Body's Way, I gave myself permission to move my pelvis - which is the way of the body. I am happy to say I no longer carry those stories and attitudes. With knowledge and practice, I have freed my body and my mind to allow a full range of motion in my hip joints. Of all body parts that provide immediate pleasure, my hip joints are the ones I can always rely on. Whether I'm sitting, standing, or walking in heels or flats, sensing my hip joints and "keeping my balls alive" keeps me happy and healthy. It gives an extra "pizzaz" when I walk down the street in a pair of pumps!
- Practice Heel Lead and make a connection between the ball of the foot and the ball of the hip joint. Sense energy transferring from the feet to the hips.
- Play with transverse motion. As you step forward with your right foot, allow the left arm to swing easily across and in front of your torso, and vice versa with your other leg and opposite arm.
- As you sit down, sense the rolling of the hip joints lowering your body into the chair.
- Resting on all fours (hands and knees) circle your pelvis and undulate your spine to stimulate mobility in your hip joints.
- Practice the Figure Four hip opening stretch. Do this by resting on your back and crossing your right ankle over your left thigh. Interlace your hands between and around your legs, drawing your left leg in towards your chest. Breathe deeply as you open your hips. Switch sides and repeat.
- Exhale the sounds "Oooh" and "Ahh" as you practice the Nia Pelvic Circles.
Maria Skinner, Nia Trainer, says:
The hip joints form the junction where the base of the body (feet, ankles, knee joints and leg bones) meet the core of the body (pelvis, chest and head). Anatomically, the hip joint is formed by the ball of the femur (the thighbone) rolling in the socket of the pelvic bones, or the acetabulum. Although the hip joint is fairly large in size, the movement available in this joint can feel very intrinsic and intimate, as if the movement is coming from a place deep inside of us. Because this joint has the potential for so much mobility via the ball and socket, it also requires a very strong and layered ligamental structure. Numerous muscles surround and connect to this structure that articulate the hip joint: the gluteal muscles, psoas, adductors and lateral rotators.
From Nia's 52 Moves, Hip Bumps, Pelvic Circles, and Spinal Undulations (starting at the base of the spine) activate the aforementioned muscles, as well as the pelvic floor and abdominal wall. When I move my hips, I sense intimacy in the way this movement activates my visceral organs. When I feel relaxed and safe, my hip joints feel fluid, juicy and powerful. When I feel angry or fearful, my hip joints feel tight and stuck. This is the way my emotional body speaks to me through my hips. When I become aware of the "stuck" sensation in my hips, I can breathe into this area and bring movement to release the tension and change my emotional state. This is how I cultivate a more intimate relationship between my body and mind. Awareness comes from my body and the choice to move comes from my mind.
- Practice Hip Bumps, Pelvic, Circles or Spinal Undulations when you need to stand for long periods of time. Small movements can be done in public without attracting too much attention.
- Practice Nia's pelvic moves in Closed, Open, "A", Sumo, Bow and Cat Stance.
- Practice the yoga pose called Pigeon to create more flexibility in the muscles surrounding your hips.
- Practice Creeping, from the Nia 5 Stages practice. Get on the floor and motor around on your belly, using your legs to help push you forward and backward.
- Practice "Legs up the Wall" to release the muscles surrounding the hip joint. Do this by lying on your back with your buttocks against a wall, then extend and rest the legs on the wall perpendicular to your spine.
Philippe Beaufour, Nia Trainer, says:
When I watched the 2012 Olympic Games, I remember how amazed I felt when I saw the athletes walking at a running speed, just from the power of using their hip joints at an incredible rhythm. I used to think that only ballet dancers or circus professionals could demonstrate these feats, as they look so far from one’s natural abilities in terms of flexibility and pliability. In fact, the more I observe athletes participate in various sports, the more I enjoy moving my body while dancing.
In my Nia practice, I perceive the benefits of using my hips in kicks, steps, walking motions and in the free, spontaneous movements inspired by the music and sounds. The hip joints are here to remind us that our human physical structure is exactly balanced to allow us to move in space, to shift our weight, and to even play with gravity and stability. All this occurs thanks to these two big joints that connect our base to our core. It is quite impressive to sense the two round balls in the hips and to explore the wide range of motion their design provides!
Our thighbones get their strength from the way they are attached to the hips and from how our ligaments are kept supple and resistant through movement. A great sensation to access while dancing is to sense the hips being as light and open as your shoulders and to sense your legs flying like wings in space. It is a totally different experience to dance and take advantage of all the 52 Moves that Nia offers, including Bow Stance, Sink and Pivot Table Wipe, Traveling in Directions and all types of kicks.
When I practice Nia, I feel more like Ninjisky (a Russian dancer and choreographer, and one of the greatest male dancers of the early 20th century), just by playing with my hip joints safely and joyfully and by exploring the three planes of movement (high, middle, low) and intensity levels (Levels 1, 2, 3). All of this helps me reach new levels of sensation. I no longer view the hip joints as just a link between upper body and lower body, but rather as two wheels of dynamic function that never cease to surprise me while dancing, playing with kids, riding a horse bareback, or sparring in Kung fu with a friend. In class, I love to engage with the students and play with our hip joints using Hip Bumps, Hip Circles or Spinal Undulations to create interaction and fun.
- Move your hip joints and picture your hara (the energy center located approximately two inches below the navel) moving along a "smile line."
- Practice undulating in different directions and stances.
- Visualize the hip joints as balls you can oil to maintain flexibility and suppleness.
Sabine Zweig, Nia Trainer, says:
Born with a chronic lymph system disease, I have always felt numbness in the left side of my body, incapable of holding my body in balance. Consequently, my hip joints never felt the same. One was very open and flexible, able to perform all the yoga asanas and dance techniques, ballet to modern dance, jazz and African styles, while the other seemed to always resist and tighten, like it was afraid to allow movement to happen. This has affected my whole physical structure, from the way I stand, to the way I walk and even the shape of my spine. Thanks to fourteen years of practicing Nia, I can say I have gained so much more balance and awareness that my hip joints have almost reached a point of deep friendship. Today, I sense them moving with each other and not against each other. I can stand on my left leg thanks to more strength in my hip. I can kick much better with my right leg and go deeper into Sumo Stance or Bow Stance on both sides, a feat that was impossible before.
I have to mention the life changing experience of practicing the Nia 5 Stages of self-healing for the last three years. Practicing the stages of embryonic, creeping and standing and experiencing an infinite variety of natural hip opening movements has led to even more suppleness in my lower back and vertebrae. I feel better, I move better, and both my right and left hips are now engaged so that I can walk my path with pleasure and balance. I like to motivate my students and inspire them to sense mobility and stability in both hips, to trust their body and The Body’s Way so that their occasionally frozen hip joints develop in butterfly wings, as they dance with the picture of a spherical dynamic.
Nia's ability to provide immediate pleasure and self-healing has taken many hip joints from pain to pleasure, and I see it in my students as they play with moving their hip joints. It makes me think of my student Priya, who, after having had surgery on both hips, returned to Nia and discovered that she could dance the jazz square with ease - something that was impossible before.
- Spend time playing with Standing from the Nia 5 Stages, going up and down like a monkey, looking around and embracing space, and shifting weight using your hip joints.
- Sense the movement of your hip joints while performing Creeping from the Nia 5 Stages.
- FloorPlay (Cycle 6 in Nia class) is a great time to sense ease in your hips and explore new ways of using your hip joints with the friendly support of the floor.
- Practice yoga and Pilates postures to develop more openness in the hip joints.