It's important to push the boundaries of our comfort zones, and when we do, it can be scary. But what is our "comfort zones" exactly?
Nia, unlike many movement or fitness systems, is a practice. The more you do it, the deeper its teachings, and the more expansive its effects on our lives. Like any practice, Nia will sometimes ask us to move beyond our comfort zones. But what does this mean?
Moving past your comfort zone means different things to different people. It’s not always about doing something big and courageous, merely something that makes you a bit uncomfortable, whether it’s trying sushi or learning to salsa.
Although moving out of your comfort zone might make you extremely uncomfortable, it’s the best thing to keep the body and brain strong. (The paradox is funny, but true.) It’s wise to consider your choices. You have a sense of right and wrong, a set of values to guide you. Sometimes, the choices are not clear-cut and require you to dig deeper to determine whether you are compromising a value or merely being resistant to change and growth.
This was the situation in Nia class today when my friend held back from the martial arts movements because it didn’t feel right for her. She is a peaceful person who works to create a life free from conflict and stress. For her, fighting is never the right way to accomplish anything. She wanted no part of the punching and kicking in the routine.
Dance With Precision
Yet the martial arts give us opportunities to deal with disruptive or aggressive energies (our own and those of others) in powerful, creative ways.
For example, in Aikido the spiral dance allows us to redirect energies with strength and elegance. It is the compassionate martial art where “do no harm” is a basic tenet of the form. The movements give us opportunities for release, the spirals engaging us on a cellular level right down to the DNA.
Tai Chi, the slow dance, teaches us to stay grounded in our own centers, conserving our energies until they are needed and then using only the energy we need. It is a defensive art which turns the aggressor’s energy inside out causing the force of an attack to rebound to the attacker, leaving the tai chi master unscathed.
The third martial art we engage in Nia is Taekwando, the dance of precision. This is the form most often uncomfortable for women; certainly it was for me. It’s not nice, nor conciliatory. It embraces power and appears violent. I’ve been hurt physically in the past by people wielding power, by violence, and never want to use force in that way. When I took the Nia White Belt training back in 2004 I decided I would leave out most of the Taekwando parts of the routines or soften them. Little by little though, I learned to respect what this martial art had to teach me. Taekwando offers me the opportunity to harness my aggressive energies as a positive force. I get to see myself physically strong, emotionally, and mentally focused and directed. I set my sacred space and refuse entry to heavy or destructive energies by learning to block. I burst through barriers by learning to punch and kick. As my movement becomes more precise and clear, so does my thinking and my emotional life. Nothing is squandered or wasted. I am in charge of my life and direction, responsible for myself and the life I create. Now, Tae Kwon Do is one of my favorite parts of a routine both to dance and to teach.
Movement is Movement, Just Move
By not judging the movements, you have the possibility of breaking out of your comfort zones and break your movement habits. Plus, the first principal of Nia is the Joy of Movement. If you limit what you feel is acceptable movement, you limit your joy.
I don’t take personally the choices people make in my class but I have seen amazing changes happen when someone decides to move out of the moves wholeheartedly, and beyond their comfort zones. If you’ve been holding back in class in any of the nine movement forms I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone. In Nia, less judgment equals more joy!