I’ve just returned from my semi-annual pilgrimage to New Mexico where my husband and I study with our teacher, Martín Prechtel, at his amazing school, Bolad’s Kitchen.
Every morning we listened to fantastic music from all over the world – from Finland to Sudan to Uzbekistan.
In honor of the great, beating, courageous hearts of all peoples, all plants, all animals, all rocks, winds, soils and waters, we’ve been dancing all week to this playlist – hot off the press from Bolad’s Kitchen.
On the plane back home, I went through all my new CDs and measured the tempo – or what in Nia we call the 8BC time – for each song. Then I plugged those songs into choreography from an existing Nia routine, Opal, and voilà! A new routine is born.
Here’s the rockin’ play list:
- Koro Koni by Rail Band - Album: Belle Epoque Vol. 2: Mansa
- Diby by Rail Band - Album: Belle Epoque Vol. 3: Dioba
- Biriya by Mory Kanté - Album: Sabou
- Chatma by Tinariwen - Album: Amassakoul
- Konowale by Rail Band - Album: Belle Epoque 2: Mansa
- Madan by Salif Keita - Album: Moffou
- Im Nin’alu by Eliyahu Sills and Qadim - Album: Eastern Wind
- Adolat Tanovari by Sevara Nazarkhan - Album: Yol Bolsin
- Soixante Trois by Tinariwen - Album: Aman Iman: Water Is Life
- Assoul by Tinariwen - Album: Amassakoul
Rail Band built its fame upon the mid-20th century craze for Latin and Cuban jazz which came out of Congo in the 1940s. Their amaing sound stems from the Mande Griot praise singer tradition, Bambara and other Malian and Guinean musical traditions that, as distinct castes, were not allowed to play music together. At their height of fame in the 1970s, the Rail Band played to sold out venues across West Africa, and launched solo careers for many of its members, including the legendary vocalists Salif Keita and Mory Kanté.
Listen to Rail Band play Konowale here.
Salif Keita is an afro-pop singer-songwriter from Mali. He’s known as the “Golden Voice of Africa,” has albinism and is a direct descendant of the founder of the Mali Empire, Sundiata Keita. His royal heritage means that under the caste system, he should never have become a singer, which was deemed to be a griot’s (bard’s) role. Fortunately for us, Salif’s vision and destiny was otherwise.
Listen to Salif Keita sing Madan here.
Mory Kanté is a vocalist and player of the kora harp, born in Kissidougou into one of Guinea’s best known families of hereditary griot oral tradition storytellers and musicians. He was sent to Mali at the age of seven – where he learned to play the kora, as well as important voice traditions necessary to become a griot.
Listen to a medley of songs and as well as an interview en français with Mory Kanté here.
Tinariwen, meaning “deserts,” is a band of Tuareg Nomads from the Sahara Desert region of northern Mali who fell in love with the electric guitar. The roots of the guitar, the banjo and the blues are in back-and-forth slave trade between Africa and the Americas. The band was formed in 1979 in Tamanrasset, Algeria, but returned to Mali after a cease-fire in the 1990s. Ashland has been blessed with several Tinariwen concerts over the years.
Listen to Tinariwen play Assoul here.
The Qadim Ensemble plays sacred and folkloric music of the Near East. Qadim is a word found in both Arabic and Hebrew meaning “ancient” as well as “that which will come.” Their repertoire includes Arabic, Jewish, Turkish Sufi, Hebrew-Yemenite, Armenian, Greek, Ladino and Moroccan music, celebrating common musical and spiritual heritage while honoring great diversity. We’ve been honored to have Qadim play here in Ashland at Havurah Shir Hadash.
Listen to Qadim play Im Nin’alu here.
Sevara Nazarkhan from Uzbekistan plays the dotar – a two-stringed, Central Asian lute that is plucked not strummed. Nomadically, dotar strings were made from animal intestines. As the Silk Route became established and the dried fruits and animal skins that Marco Polo carried were traded for gems and Chinese porcelain, the strings were woven from silk.
Listen to Sevara’s beautiful song, Adolat Tanovari (Song of Adolat) here.
Tags: Great Music · Ongoing Nia Classes
The word “ankle” means “angle,” coming from proto-IndoEuropean meaning “to bend,” thus describing both the form and the function of this body part.
The ankle connects your foot to your shin. All joints are connectors. Joints connect two or more bones with each other. Your ankle’s purpose is to join the horizontal energy of the foot on the earth with the vertical heavenly energy of your shin.
Like every joint, the ankle joint is a space – the space between two or more bones. Joint space is sacred space. In Nia, sacred means “dedicated and devoted uniquely to a specific purpose, person or thing.” In this case, the ankle is dedicated to providing your body with three things: stability, mobility and balance.
Stability and Mobility
The Body’s Way demands simultaneous mobility and stability and your ankles give you exactly that!
Your ankles provide stability to your whole body. Somehow, the long, vertical person that you are does not topple over on your two itty-bitty feet. We have our ankles to thank for that.
Your ankle also gives you mobility to run, walk, dance, skip and walk on tippy-toes. But without the ankle’s stability working in tandem with mobility, we’d fall over when we do those very things.
Balance and Your Ankles
Along with your eyes and your inner ear, your ankle forms one third of your body’s neurological balance mechanism.
Your ankle has specialized nerve cells called proprioceptors – that means “self-perception.” Proprioceptors give you the ability to sense your body position in space.
Try balancing on one foot. Notice how your ankle wiggles around. You don’t have to think about making these movements. This is just what your ankle does to keep you balanced.
When people sprain an ankle, they often resprain the same ankle again. That’s because the injured ankle proprioceptors aren’t communicating clearly with the brain.
But it’s easy to retrain your ankle proprioceptors! Once the sprain is healed enough that you can stand without pain, balance on the injured foot. Hold on to something at first. Gradually, it’ll get easier. Once you can balance for 60 seconds without holding on, your balance is normal.
Tags: Etymology · Form and Freedom · The Body's Way · Through Movement We Find Health
February 10th, 2013 · 2 Comments
The focus of today’s Nia class was Connection.
The intent: Consciously Embodying the Mystery.
They were chosen by the delightful seven-year old Aurora from the basket of cards we created New Year’s Day.
The etymology of “connection” is from com- “together” + nectere “to bind, tie, ” as in nexus, net, knot and node.
What makes a net powerful is not just the knots, but the spaces between the knots. Indeed what makes a knot powerful are the spaces between the cords and fibers.
Kahil Gibran said: “Let there be spaces in your togetherness, and let the winds of the heavens dance between you.”
In the human body it is equally the spaces in the connective tissue and its gluey, fastening properties that give our bodies their shape and their flexibility.
Our joints are spaces between bones – nodes where bones are knotted together by the connective tissue we call ligament and tendon.
As with bodies, so with hearts and minds. Without the knot, space is formless. Without space, the knot becomes rigid. They need each other. Like yin and yang, the capacity of the one resides in the belly of the other.
Some say the connective tissue web of the Universe is the dream of the great god, Indra. At every knot is tied a pearl reflecting the light of every other pearl and reflecting the stunning mutuality of all things across time, space and consciousness.
Seek the sensation of connection in your body and your life – connecting with space, and connecting by joining with what you love.
Tags: Etymology · Nia Class Focus · Ongoing Nia Classes
As part of my Nia Next Generation Trainer (NGT) training, I have an assignment to adapt the choreography of an existing Nia routine to new music. I chose the routine Canta, by Nia co-founder Carlos AyaRosas. You can listen to the original music of Canta here.
My adapted Canta routine is called Oasis. Oasis because by traveling on the musics of Earth-based cultures from around the world, no matter where we are from, no matter where we are in any moment, our nomadic hearts can rest, dance, and receive nourishment from the old-style songs and stories that inspired and buoyed our ancestors to keep going in order to bring us to this very moment, this very spot where we can be at home.
“Oasis” from the Greek through the Arabic, is originally from the Afroasiatic Hamitic language group. It means “dwelling place.” My hope is that through the oasis of Nia we can each be at home, dwelling in the oasis of our bodies on the Earth on the Island of Now in the Ocean of all Time.
The music for Oasis was inspired by my teacher, Martín Prechtel, who uses music from all over the world to teach what the modern ear may have temporarily forgotten but the body remembers at his school Bolad’s Kitchen.
Here is the playlist for Oasis:
A Nia Routine by Rachael R. Resch and Carlos AyaRosas
1. Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World
by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole from Hawaii. Album: Facing Future
2. Pè Bawon
by Ti-Coca & Wanga-Nègès from Haiti. Album: Haiti Colibri
3. Chaos Of Paradise
by Axiom Of Choice from Persia. Album: Niya Yesh
4. Zayy El Nhardah (The Canal Song)
by El Tanbura from Egypt. Album: Between The Desert And The Sea
by Edwin Starr from the United States. Album: The Best Of Edwin Starr
6. Sar A Lay
by El Tanbura from Egypt. Album: Between The Desert And The Sea
7. Msho Geghen
by Eliyahu Sills/Qadim. Song form Armenia. Album: Eastern Wind
8. Inana Raya Thauba
by Jahanara Laura Mangus. Song from Israel. Album: Aramaic Sound Pilgrimage
9. Don’t Ask Me
by Djivan Gasparyan from Armenia. Album: The Art of the Armenian Duduk
Here’s a great video of the Egyptian band, El Tanbura (although it’s not one of the songs from Oasis.)
Many thanks to Nia student Shelley Hovelman for coming up with the name Oasis.
Tags: Ongoing Nia Classes · The Road to Becoming A Nia Trainer
My journey of remembering that I am a sensation scientist began in the spring of 1995, when, by chance, I walked into my first Nia class in a fitness club in Portland, Oregon, and my life changed forever.
At the time, I was totally disabled by asthma. I was a physical therapist but unable to work. I was a dancer, but unable to cross the room to answer the phone. With the highest doses of medications, including prednisone, I could barely breathe.
But after two years of Nia, my breathing improved 50%. After seven years, I was off all asthma medications. Today my respiratory function is 130% of normal.
Nia gave me the medicine I needed — the medicine of awareness, allowing me to discover my body’s way to heal. But asthma is the sensation of suffocation, the last sensation I wanted to be aware of.
I needed more than awareness. I needed the incentive to become aware and stay aware. Nia provided that, too, through the medicine of the joy of movement. Even when I was wheezing, the joy of movement and all around me during a Nia class was my reward, giving me an immediate return on the awareness I was investing in my breath and in my body.
Over a two-year period I conducted rigorous, trial and error experiments as a sensation scientist in the sacred laboratory of my body.
My principle finding was this: There is a specific sensation in the lungs just prior to an asthma attack. Like an aura before a seizure or migraine, but extremely subtle, this faint sensory precursor can be used as a signal to immediately stop or reduce movement intensity and thus avoid an asthma attack. This reduces the inflammation in the lungs and generates the anti-inflammatory effects of exercise. In this way I was able to sustain and gradually increase my tolerance to exercise and strengthen my lungs.
Secondly, I determined micro-movement was the best way for me to exercise. I could maintain easy, comfortable breathing without aggravating my asthma. Micro-movement also reduced sensory input to my nervous system, so I could put more awareness on the subtle sensations of my breath.
Finally, my breath also benefited from Nia’s emotional expressiveness. Intuitively, I knew inflammation in my lungs was unexpressed anger and unexpressed tears. Pleura, the membranes around the lungs, means “to weep.” But ironically, I couldn’t weep or yell without provoking asthma. The dance and martial arts that comprise Nia provided a safe, gradual way to move my emotional body.
Every two seconds, the breath is a teacher and an indicator of the health and wellness of the body, the mind, the emotions and the spirit. In Chinese medicine, the lungs are associated with both grief and with joy. I believe the joy of movement, the foundation of Nia, is essential medicine for everybody to experience the full vitality of the breath.
Here are my tips for becoming body literate by reading the voice of the body as breath:
(1) First, simply notice your breath. Notice your inhale. Notice your exhale. Notice if your belly is expanding when you breathe in, and relaxing when you breathe out. After a while, notice the pause at the end of your exhale, before your inhale happens. Just notice. In this pause, the homeostasis of the whole body resets itself.
(2) Understand that the rate, length and quality of your breath varies from moment to moment, and has a unique optimal pattern for every situation. What is your breath telling you about the moment? Are you energized, anxious, excited, tired, inspired, relaxed, hurried, grounded, timid or confident?
(3) Respond. Often, we can exhale longer. We can sigh. Often, the belly can gently expand more when we inhale. In our high-speed world, we need the relaxation to the central nervous system provided by a softly breathing belly, a longer exhale and a pause before the next breath.
Tags: Essays on Self-Healing · Lungs · The Body's Way · Through Movement We Find Health
This morning I flew up to Portland from my home in Ashland, nestled in the Klamath-Siskiyou mountains of southern Oregon. Every where I look I am reminded of the story of my life, interwoven in these streets, layered in space and time and memory. I lived and loved in Portland for eighteen years, after growing up in Brooklyn and going to college in Ohio, before I moved to Ashland in 1999.
On the cab ride into town from the airport, we pass Providence Hospital, where I taught my first regular movement classes as part of a dynamic physical therapy and endocrinology team.
As we cross the Willamette river I see an old stern wheeler, reminding me of my cotton-peddling ancestors who lived on the Mississippi at the turn of the nineteenth century.
From my hotel room on the fourteenth floor I can see south and west across the city, my old stomping grounds. The south window looks up the Park Blocks toward the Oregon Historical society, where my father, George T. Resch, worked as book designer at the Press, and talked with my then future husband, Richard Seidman, about planting trees to offset paper used in book production, a desire to honor trees and the Earth that would lead to Richard and my meeting and marrying, but only after my father had died and himself returned to the holy ground.
Past the Historical Society is Portland State University, where I danced in PSU’s The Company We Keep and studied science on my way to becoming a physical therapist. Through the west window, about a mile away, I see the neighborhood where I first lived in Portland in 1981, my old block on Osage Street marked from afar by the historic large pink Art Deco Envoy apartment building.
For lunch I order gourmet deli take-out from the young, artsy, urban wait staff across the street, and remember when I was a young, hip, artsy, urban wait staff in one of Portland’s first gourmet delis, Savoir Faire, a few blocks east. That’s where I first met Jeff Stewart, now Nia’s CEO, when he had just arrived in Portland and was looking to start a restaurant delivery business on a shoe string. Jeff and I met in 1983 – the year Nia was born in San Rafael, California.
Across the street from my hotel is the elegant central branch of the Portland Public Library, with its wide stairways and wide ears, holding all those books inside its big, old, intelligent head, a favorite hang out in my early days dancing in the dance studios of the nearby Pythian Building, where, tomorrow, gods give us life, I will begin the much-awaited, seven-day Nia Next Generation Trainer Summit at Nia Headquarters.
They call downtown the heart of Portland. And I feel Portland in my aching heart, and to Portland I bow for making me who I am today.
Tags: Dancing Through Life · The Road to Becoming A Nia Trainer
Today I am grateful for my body and for life. Thank you, body. Thank you, life.
Thank you, body, for your innate wisdom, your brilliant body know-how, your splendid, spirally, multi-tasking intelligences, that always know where and when and how to go, in the best, in the most difficult and in regular, everyday circumstances. Thank you, body.
Thank you, bones, my flexible foundation, crystalline fluid matrix, uniquely dedicated to supporting me as I walk through life. Thank you, joints, whose tiny spirals in the spaces between the bones move me. Thank you muscles, the yin and yang of the body, in love with contracting and in love with lengthening.
Thank you, four-roomed house of my heart — room for love, room for grief, room for joy, room for fear, room for peace — right inside my chest. Thank you, heart, for being devoted to beating all day, every day, never forgetting, and for being dedicatedly uniquely to me, to my body, to my life, to my purpose, to my loves and my griefs.
Thank you, lungs, for your dedication to breathing in and breathing out long spirally whisps of air, air from trees, air from plankton, each breath so intimate with the vast world.
Thank you, endocrine system, biological genius air traffic controllers, dedicated uniquely to coordinating the life of my physiology: ”Incoming from thyroid to protein synthesis at 10 o-clock.” ”Roger.” ”Outgoing HPA runway from hypothalamus en route to adrenals.” ”Roger.”
Thank you, nervous system — central, peripheral, sympathetic and parasympathetic — for your never-ending little lightning storms dedicated uniquely to the purpose of thinking, tasting, smelling, hearing, wiggling, laughing, peeing, blinking, hurrying, sleeping, pondering, beholding.
Thank you, warm coat of my skin, largest organ of the body, dedicated to holding me in your arms, so that I’m not just a pile of shmutz on the floor. Thank you reproductive system, thank you, creativity, dedicated uniquely to creating something for a time beyond our own.
Special thank yous to the diligent digestive system on this holiday of Thanksgiving and season of feasting, dedicated uniquely to the purpose of transubstantiation, chomping up other blessed lives so that the turkey or the tofurky or whatever you’re eating becomes . . . you! We don’t generally think about it; but we do it every day.
And thank you, excretory system, for being dedicated to releasing from my body all that’s no longer needed following all my fantstic feasting.
Somehow, made of heaven and made of Earth is this third thing, the miracle we call the human body. 75 trillion cells dedicated uniquely to me. 75 trillion cells dedicated uniquely to you. Thank you, body.
What are you grateful for? Chocolate? Peace? Friends? Immerse in it. Bathe in gratitude. Feel the waves of gratitude in your body. Feel the ocean of gratitude, the interstitial fluid of the body, that bathes every cell.
Gratitude has a sensation. Notice the sensation of gratitude itself, apart from whatever it is you’re grateful for.
Gratitude itself has a heart, a mind, a spirit and a body. Let it in. Gratitude is soft and big, but in its softness, it’s very strong. Let it in. Let it out.
Breathe in gratitude to each of your 75 trillion cells. Breathe out gratitude from each of your 75 trillion cells.
The mitochondria in your cells are the generators and the regenerators of gratitude, dedicated every single day to making the energy of gratitude available for your whole body, and for your whole life.
Thank you, body. Thank you, Earth. Thank you, sun. Thank you, moon. Thank you, ancestors. Thank you, rain. Thank you, snow. Thank you, air. Thank you, night. Thank you, day. Thank you, now.
Thank you to every whirling subatomic particle in my body for being so dedicated as to make it all the way from the Big Bang to now, this very moment, right here in my body, the echo of creation creating itself again and again.
Say to yourself out loud, “Thank you.” It’s good to say it out loud, so they can hear you. It’s good to think it, too. But when you say it out loud, you embody it, and thus your message travels farther — and deeper. The body can hear you, people can hear you, the Earth can hear you, Life can hear you — saying, “Thank you.”
I am grateful for: The ones I love, Nia, food, rest, joy, love, dance, existence, peace, nature, the trees and the lichens on the trees, delight, radiance, blue sky, this morning, healing, the god in all of us, friendship, possibility, wonder, Life.
I’m grateful for the ability to say, “No,” and I’m grateful for the ability to say, “Yes.”
I am grateful for the body and the body’s way.
See the path before you, the path that is uniquely yours to dance through life on, and take a moment to bow in gratitude to that path, whether you know what it is or not, and to the mystery of your path unfolding step by step, dedicated uniquely to you. May you be nourished, healthy and happy.
Tags: Nia Class Focus · Ongoing Nia Classes
Today, at the end of class, we listened to “A Good Day,” the words of Brother David Steindl-Rast, the 84-year old Benedectine monk who, in 1965, was sent by his abbot to pursue Christian-Buddhist dialogue.
You can read more about Brother David here and his connection with many spiritual traditions working for peace.
Brother David Steindl-Rast co-authored The Ground We Share: Buddhist and Christian Practice with the late Robert Aitken Roshi, founder of the Diamond Sangha and one of the founders of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship. Robert Aitken died earlier this month in Honolulu at the age of 93. At a book signing at Looking Glass Books in Portland in 1997, my husband Richard Seidman, one of Aitken’s students, had the honor of reading Brother David’s portion of the dialogues while Roshi read his own parts.
Below is a video with Brother David’s words.
Today is a good day.
Tags: Dancing Through Life · Ongoing Nia Classes
“Kindness” was the focus of class on Tuesday.
In Nia, once we set the focus, we step into the practice. We can step into kindness again and again as our practice. Kindness is always present. The body is your cocoon of kindness. Kindness is inside the body. The body’s own kind. Your kind of kindness.
Cultivate the strength to move toward kindness and away from fear.
Kindly hold your body in your arms. Touch the body with kindness. Touch kindness itself. Pour kindness into your body and your heart. Offer kindness to your head — kindness to the thinking mind and kindness to the physical head. Consciously carry your own kindness. You can choose how to carry kindness.
Let’s offer kindness to the past. Kindness to the future. Kindness to the parallel universes. Kindness to right now.
Let’s become warriors of kindness! Kindness is on the march! Sometimes it takes courage and ferocity to sustain kindness in this world. Let’s band together in kindness, with the beauty of our ancient, indigenous selves shimmering, to love the hell out of this kind of world and that kind.
Splash in the infinite pool of kindness. Splash and make a a giant mess with kindness. Splash yourself, splash each other. Kindness can make a ruckus! Kindness can be playful.
Why is it we call our species humankind? Partly, it means we’re the kind of being that’s the human kind. It must also be that the kind of human that we are is kind.
Here’s what the Oxford English Dictionary says:
kind Exhibiting friendly or benevolent disposition. From Old English cynde, cunde.
kind Birth, origin, descent. From Old English cunde, kunde.
kin A group of persons descended form a common ancestor. From kun, Aryan, “to produce, engender, beget,” related to Latin, genus, Greek genesis.
This tells us humankind is descended from a common ancestor — Kindness.
Breathe kindness into your bones — the marrow bone. Breathe kindness into your belly — soft belly, merciful belly. Breath kindness into the heart, the lungs, the skin, the endocrine system, nervous system, reproductive system.
Fill the alchemical cup of the body with kindness, that body who has been kind enough to bring us to this very moment, this very spot.
Receive kindness from the body. Kindness from the skin kindly enveloping the body. Receive kindness from the heart kindly beating the drum of love throughout our lives. Receive kindness from the lungs who bring spirit into and out of the body. Receive the kindness of the nervous system, little lightnings that make it possible to think and feel and be and go and do and rest. Receive the body’s kindness, kindly accompanying us and every step of our journey since conception.
Receive kindness from the food you ate and will eat today, sacrificing its own kind to kindly become the human kind. As life we are destined to eat other life. Kindly metabolize the grief of eating other kin into a kind of beauty for all kinds.
What kind of sensation does kindness bring to the body?
Look into the eyes of Kindness. Look into your own eyes.
Look out into your own life. Feel the river of kindness flow through your body and carry you forward, again and again into your kind of life.
Tags: Nia Class Focus
My body is exquisite. This was the focus of Thursday’s Nia practice, chosen at random.
Your body is exquisite.
Your body is exquisite all the time — not just when you feel good, happy, in love, healthy, look a certain way or are successful. Your body is exquisite all the time. Your body is exquisite when you feel depressed, angry, sick grief-stricken or lost.
Your body is the exquisite horse that carries you, like a Scythian lord or lady, with exquisite dedication and nobility across the exquisite steppes and mountains and streams of your life, up and down, in and out and through, sniffing the scent on the breeze and always knowing how go, when to rest, when to gallop, when to play and when to listen. Exquisitely.
“Exquisite” is from the Latin ex + quæere, “to seek out,” related to “query,” and therefore ”inquire,” “to seek within.”
Seek out the vast expanse of your body’s exquisiteness. Seek within the deep pools of your your body’s exquisiteness.
Your body’s way is exquisite. Like a jaguar slinking in its own natural, biological way. Like a rabbit twitching. Like leaves rustling. Each being moves its body’s way.
Bones, muscles, skin, beating heart, lungs, belly, brains, mitochondria, liver, hands, feet and knuckles are all exquisite. Your biological soul is exquisite. The Earth is exquisite.
Because in nature there is no verb “to be” you cannot actually say “My body is not exquisite.” (That’s a joke — but it’s true.) The verb “to be” is very convenient for bookkeeping, but not so much for living a somatic life.
Your uniqueness is exquisite. And it manifests in your exquisite body of 75 trillion exquisite cells — which is the Earth. Seek it out.
Tags: Etymology · Nia Class Focus · Ongoing Nia Classes