Everything I Learned From My Right Foot
Long ago, when I first began my career as a group fitness instructor, my goals were driven by charts, measurements, distances, time, scales, and body fat percentage. These numbers, along with their ranking from poor to excellent, defined my reason for exercising and teaching aerobic dance classes. However, I had found my way into it all because I loved to dance. In fact I was a dance major in the Department of Theater at UT Austin for two years back in the early 70’s. The call was so strong for me to study dance I couldn’t put it aside. Two years later I left that program due to mental and physical stress that felt like it would kill me. I buried my dream and passion, not knowing what else to do with it at the time. Fortunately for me, some years later, aerobic dance was born, and in many ways saved me. It took very little for me to step in and become an instructor. I was teaching at my local gym before the industry organized itself to create standards and certifications. I educated myself as the field developed, ultimately earning two degrees from UT Austin in Kinesiology and Health Education. Looking back, I can tell you none of it felt easy. It all required effort, commitment, and follow through, no matter how I was feeling in my body.
Fast forward to 1993 and Nia arrives in my life. In my first week of training and practice it became clear to me that my body and movement were rigid and controlled; tight and uncomfortable. I launched into every class and freedance with the same fierce and forceful energy I had learned from the competitive environment of conventional fitness. Ultimately it led to a stress fracture in my right foot that I now know taught me everything I know about dynamic ease.
Returning to the dance floor after the injury, when my foot was still tender and vulnerable, only recently healed, I had to step with a new sensitivity and gentleness. My vulnerability was foremost in my mind, and body, as I took my first step without my supportive shoes. The step was soft, melting, and somewhat hesitant at first. The shift and glide I was sensing was new to me. It felt something like floating, the buoyancy in the arches of my feet rising up through my whole skeleton. I stayed in the back of the class that day, exploring this new approach with conscious carefulness. I had to check myself a number of times as the music and crowd pulled me towards my old habits of hitting the floor with my feet. I felt hope that I could learn a new way of moving and recover from my injury while dancing.
Fast forward again, to 2020, and I still explore this sensation of dynamic ease in all my movement. I search for the comfort and direction in my body that will yield the maximum result with the least amount of effort in my being. I can get so much done when it feels like that. I’m experiencing it right now as I write this blog and sense the words pouring easily through my fingers into the keyboard. When the time is right, it never requires effort. At least that’s the way it works for me.
I am so grateful for the incredible music we have in the world that provides the timing for my movement, driving it with the elegant arrangement of the music. The layers and sounds help me feel like I am floating, gliding, and flying through the soundscape that is a Nia class. The floating is seasoned with precision and sharpness that can masquerade as effort, but never is; not if the timing is right. Dynamic ease feels good in my life and in my body. It’s my goal, moment to moment and day to day, to sense dynamic ease. The practice I do in my Nia class each day supports, sustains, and grows the ease. I thank my body for its wisdom and guidance, and in return, it finds the right timing for me to float.
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