Maria Skinner

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Archive for June, 2011

I am a Living Sculpture

During my fist Blue Belt Intensive back in 2000, Debbie Rosas, my Blue Belt Trainer, noticed that many of us at the Intensive were  not incorporating much Martial Arts when we were first asked to teach.  What exact words she used, I don’t recall. What I took away was that the only way we would change the shape of our bodies was by embodying the Moves and embodying the Movement Forms. I think back then, I still thought of Nia as primarily a cardiovascular practice. I had not yet tapped into the way in which the 5 sensations could condition my body in a multitude of ways.

I remember the exact moment in a Nia class that I was teaching when I noticed he sensation of strength coming from inside of me and felt like I was watching myself mold my shape from the inside out. This was a sensation primairly linked to my core and specifically originating in my psoas muscle. It was a real WOW sensation. That was the day when my body truly began to consciously take shape. It was the day when I realized that ,not only was I dancing through life with Nia, I was also sculpting my body from the inside out. Life As Art took on a deeper meaning.

Since then, I have experienced again and again the truth of Debbie’s words. When I execute the Moves in The Body’s Way, my body changes. I become more balanced and shapely. It is this precision, the gift of the Martial Arts, that when I bring to the relationship with all of the 52 Moves creates the sensation of body as sculpture.

Diving in to anatomy has also helped to enhance my relationship to body as living sculpture. Anatomy made no sense to me when I was just looking at the books so I created and Experiential Anatomy class at my studio. Each week I focused on on muslce, had the class look at pictures, palpate the muscle (if possible), and then move the muscle. We sometimes worked in partners, one person touching the origin and insertion point of the muscle (when possible) while the other person moved, using touch to stimulate awareness. I taught a Nia class right after this class and brought the muscle we were focusing on in the Experiential Anatomy class into the focus for the Nia class. I took one year to go through this process and by the end of the year, I felt like I could sense my body as a three dimensional sculpture and had more definition than ever before. I also felt more emotionally connected to my body from the inside out. Familiar, had traversed it’s inner landscape. The power of sensation ~  imagination ~ expression.

Enter Brown Belt and Principle #10, Symbology. Fill my body with energy. If I had accomplished the sensation of filling my form with physical energy with my anatomy class, Brown Belt initiated me into the world of shaping and reshaping my light body. I actually love working the relationship between all the #10’s, X-Ray Anatomy, Floorplay and Symbology. They all remind me to view myself as a multi-dimensional being. Using X-ray anatomy, I can consciously explore loosening and tightening to change my form, to find more balance, ease, grace and strength. Using Floorplay, I can consciosly explore my relationship to gravity and use the floor, the earth as a place to grow in and out of. Using Symbology, I can explore my body moving as one whole living organism and allow the shapes that I take on to be full and passionate and fulfilling.

When people ask me what is is that I do when I move that make my movement feel so full, I tell that that what I do is fill my whole movement with me. Systemic for sure. And emotionally connected. And spiritually authentic. I fill it with me. I become the sculpture and I become the artist and I become tha audience in the for of the Witness taking it all in.  One thrilling shape seamlessly becoming another, each breath, each movement another chance to be fully alive in my body, my home.

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A Moment Worth Smelling

“Smell the Moment”. This is one of my favorite Debbie Rosas phrases. In  Nia class, this invitation is one of the ways to guarantee that students will take a deeper breath and use their whole bodies to do it. Smell the moment, take it all in. Just for fun, and because it is potent, sometimes I ask students in my Nia classes to smell the moment at the very end of the Get-Moving cycle when we are all sweaty. Usually people laugh and take a big whiff! Yeah, we’re usually pretty stinky by then. But what better way to build community than to take each others’ scents in at the height of joyful expression. That is a moment worth smelling.

My sense of smell reminds me, more than my other senses,  that I am an animal.  Unlike my eyes, which tend to take me to  words or my ears, which take me images, my nose takes me to a primal gut place. The sounds I make in relation to smell bypass my mental realm.  Sounds like “Mmmmmmm” or “Ahhhhhhhh” or “Eeeewwwwww”.  I can even venture to say that these sounds are beyond my conscious control. They are made by my larynx, but they come directly from my gut brain.

The way something smells is always more important to me than what it looks like. I once had a crush on a guy who smelled so good, I would get light headed around him. Turns out it was not his manly scent but his laundry detergent that got me excited. However, I still can’t smell that detergent without thinking of him.  There was another guy that I really liked until I got up to close to smell him. He smelled like bologna and I had to hold my breath around him. That was that.

Like the phrase “smell the moment”, scents can be used to encourage deeper breathing, more prana, more life. Things that smell good make me feel more alive. If I am really loving the smell, really wanting to smell the moment, I will fill my body with breath again and again and again. Even imagining things that smell good will do this. In Nia classes I sometimes invite the class to imagine they’re smelling roses, cookies baking, wet grass or city streets. These olfactory images can be more powerful that visual ones to bring the movements I am doing to life since they invite my whole body to fill.

Conversely, I find that when I do not like the way something smells, I hold my breath or take more shallow breaths. This creates contraction in my body, less life.  So I go about my life adjusting the pillows and the scents in my environment. Flowers and essential oils and fresh air are my tools.  What I choose to bask in may not be what my dogs love  (dead snake, for instance) but then, we are different animals.