How I Do My Day

Quarantine Epiphany: How I do my day is of equal if not greater importance than what I do in my day.

How I do my work is more important than the actual work itself.

How I teach my class is more important than the songs or movements I teach.

How I interact with my partner, my family, my friends, is more important than whatever subject we’re talking about.

Showing up and being fully present is literally the most important thing right now – and always.

The options of what I am able to “do” in a day may seem more limited than they were before, but there is a subtle gift there…

I no longer go to Peets when I’m stressed or spend extra money eating out because I’m too exhausted to cook.

I no longer buffer with things to make myself feel better.

Instead, I go inside myself and explore how I am being, who I am being, and choose how I want to show up.

Focusing on my “how” doesn’t make the “what” irrelevant; instead, it brings what-ever I’m doing alive with mindfulness and intentionality.

Focusing on my how makes me a better partner, family member, teacher, friend, and colleague.

Managing my mind and my energy mindfully helps me show up as the person I want to be, which will always enliven what I do.

Years ago, I remember sprinting through Central Square in Boston in the middle of winter to catch a bus to go to a Restorative Yoga Class. I nearly ate it on the ice at least three times just trying to reach the bus stop. I remember getting there, stopping and thinking, “What the hell is the point of going to yoga if I turn myself into a stress case doing it?”

How I do my life is of equal if not greater importance than what I do in my life.

Thank you quarantine.

Trading in Good for Great

You have to give up good for great.

– Jim Collins

Recently, while driving to my Monday night Nia class, I asked myself:

“What could I do in class tonight that I’m afraid of that would boost my self-confidence?”

A few things came to mind: teach to music I don’t know, wear something outside my comfort zone, or teach class facing an entirely different side of the room. I laughed, as I realized all of this inspires me more than it scares me. What could I do that would push my own comfort zone and improve my teaching?

Then it hit me:I could ask my students for feedback.”

Now here’s the thing: Whenever I ask my students for verbal feedback, 95% of the time all I get is praise. Praise is lovely and I appreciate it, but it does not actually help me address areas that need improvement! There was a specific kind of feedback I wanted – raw, honest, and constructive feedback.

I got to the club, cut up a bunch of pieces of paper, grabbed a handful of pens, then walked upstairs to my class and said the following:

“I have a favor to ask. Before you leave tonight, you’ll find small white cards and pens by the door. I would deeply appreciate it if you would take two minutes to write down ONE THING I can do to improve my classes and/or be a better teacher. My only rule is that you can’t say “nothing”, nor can you offer praise. And, I want you to keep the feedback anonymous so you can say whatever you really think and feel. Bring it on – whatever you have to say, I can handle it and it will help me.”

I always know something is my next level of growth because it scares me as much as it excites me. That’s why I chose to ask for this. That’s also why I took time beforehand to work on my mind and think through how to use this “ask” to best serve me…

My biggest fear and what made me most nervous was that someone might say something that hurt my feelings and I’d take it personally. Again, it’s one thing to receive positive feedback. Constructive criticism, on the other hand, requires a conscious openness and sincere ability to listen. So I examined the fear, dissected it, and decided to replace the thought “This might hurt my feelings” with “This will make me an even better teacher”, which was one of my desired outcomes. I repeated this thought in my brain from that moment in the car all the way up to the actual reading of the feedback later that night.

I also reminded myself of what life coach Brooke Castillo says about self-confidence. “Self-confidence is something you create with your mind. If you’re willing to experience any emotion, you’ll increase your self-confidence.” Rather than pretend I was fearlessness, I allowed myself to feel my nervousness and fear, recognizing it as a part of the process of pushing my own edge.

After all, why can’t self-confidence and fear co-exist?

When I got home that night, I held the feedback cards in my hand, reminded myself of my new intentional thought, and flipped the cards over one by one.

Here is what they said – every single one, unedited!

  • Occasional more somatic moves

  • Would love to have a little more review/guidance of proper form to be nice to knees. Maybe once through slower before going fast. You did that a little tonight and it was nice.

  • This only happens infrequently, but sometimes while we’re dancing a repetitive move you talk more than necessary to give instruction. It can be distracting.

  • I have no idea how to deal with this and never have, but I’m dyslexic and can’t tell right from left. So I always get the foot/leg wrong on just listening.

  • Provide some hands-on, personal pointers/corrections during yoga poses. Also, you’re awesome and never stop teaching!

  • I used to feel uncomfortable with so much opportunity for freedancing (feeling self-conscious, not pushing myself mentally/physically during this time) but I have grown to appreciate it 🙂 Maybe good to include more “themes” or “instruction” during free dance?

  • You are a very nearly perfect Nia teacher in my opinion but since you asked maybe some silent meditation at the end?

  • I really appreciate you and your class! One thing that comes to mind is to stick with one movement for longer time and dig into it feels great! So maybe some more of dig in and free movements.

  • More dancing as opposed to martial arts

  • I thought of something a few weeks ago but can’t recall what it is now 😦 When I remember I will tell you (promise). Meantime I love you.

  • But you do rock! Ok one thing – it would have helped me to name the foot technique – grapevine – although not everyone knows what that is.

  • There was a class once when you were recovering from illness and it was a “silent class”. It was very refreshing. Maybe you can have more of those!

  • I love your classes. The best dance teacher I’ve had in 20 years. I’d love if you taught here 3x week. I would also love to know more about the floor exercises “We do this because…”

  • Keep reminding us what our breathing should be.

  • I think you’re great. What if you tried a routine where you used the same kata for every song?

  • I wonder if a missing link in your teaching of Nia is no specific inclusion of H.I.I.T. The way this aspect of fitness is delivered conventionally does not appeal to me so I avoid it – yet it is a valid feature of functional fitness for all ages. I sense you would have the skills to both educate about its efficacy (science, art, craft) and bring it in with an approach of effortless fun plus disciplined mindfulness.

  • Spirituality

Ok, so some of them broke the rule and offered praise, but these were amazing gems of feedback!

I could see myself clearly in each suggestion. Yes – I’ve been really heavy on the martial arts this year and more dance moves would balance out my classes. Yes – I have a habit of over-speaking when we sustain movements for a while. Yes, I could bring more spirituality. Yes, yes, yes!

My heart also felt an overwhelming sense of compassion for the areas my students struggle with that I may not always be as attuned to – dyslexia, confusion on how to breathe, or discomfort during freedance. All of these were great reminders of things I could pay closer attention to.

Every card I read increased my self-confidence because I was willing to experience any emotion around it, and that made me feel brave. I also felt more self-confident knowing what my students wanted more and less of. Knowledge is power, my friends!

It was such a valuable practice, I will be doing this more regularly to help me grow and stay at the top of my teaching game.

In her book The Last Word on Power, Tracy Goss writes, “The power that brought you to your current position of prominence and responsibility as a leader – the power that is the source of your success in the past – is now preventing you from making the impossible happen in your life and work.”

Asking for constructive feedback ripped me out of my comfort zone of “goodness” by introducing 17 powerful tools that could evoke greatness in my teaching and take me to my next level.

To grow and evolve, I must be willing to bust through my comfort zone again and again, reinvent myself, and seek new challenges. Because let’s face it: If I keep doing the same things I’ve done before, I will keep generating the same results.

Am I willing to trade in good for great?

Sign me up.

P.s. If you want a surefire way to increase your self-confidence, check out The LifeCoach School’s mini training.

How Dog Training is a Lesson in Natural Time


Whenever we’re learning a new skill, each of us has a unique learning curve for how long it takes us to embody it. Whether it’s learning to surf, cook a new desert, or speak a new language, honoring the time it takes us to learn and embody something new is essential, because the bottom line is that embodiment cannot be rushed.

In Nia, the principle that explores this concept is called Natural Time.

These days, I’m inspired to describe Natural Time by sharing a story about our two 4-month old golden retriever puppies, Luna and Suri, who so beautifully embody this principle.

Luna and Suri are similar in many ways: they’re sisters from the same litter, are being raised under the same roof, and have roughly the same daily eat, walk, play and sleep schedule. They also have the same positive-psychology dog trainer and their training practices are put into action somewhere in the neighborhood of, oh, 5 million times a day. I should also add they are also both INSANELY cute and will do anything for a treat!

Now despite all of these similarities, each pup learns things at a slightly – and sometimes significantly – different pace.

Suri, for example, learned not to jump or bark at other people or dogs almost immediately. Her learning curve in this department was short. For whatever reason, it just seemed like an easy skill for her to learn what to do when she approached humans or other dogs: sit quietly.

Luna, on the other hand, just couldn’t help herself. Even if I was standing there with treats in hand, using the same commands we used for Suri, she would jump and pull, and get overly anxious about meeting people. It’s taken Luna 3x as long to learn this skill as Suri. The good news is after tons of practice, she’s learning that “sit” is the first action she should do upon approaching someone, and of course this is transforming much of her anxiety into calmness.

Now when it came to house-breaking the dogs, Luna was quicker to learn how to communicate that she needed to go outside. We hung sleigh bells by our front door and worked at training the dogs to ring them whenever they needed to go out, and reinforced it with an insane level of treating and praise. (Whatever brilliant human came up with the idea to hang bells by a door – bless you. It works!)

Luna learned quickly to hit the bells, so that no matter where we were in the house, we’d hear them and run down to take her out. Suri had a slightly longer learning curve in this area – she would go to the front door, but didn’t always ring the bell…which often resulted in a nice surprise on our floor. Although it took Suri longer to learn this skill, I’m happy to say both dogs now use it 90% of the time.

The point I want to illustrate is that both dogs have their own Natural Time: the organic pace at which they learn to embody certain skills. Humans and choreography are no different…

If you placed 20 strangers in a room all with a dance background (or no dance background) and taught them the same choreography, I guarantee each person would learn it at different pace. This process is organic, and that’s why we call it “natural” time. Natural Time honors the unique learning speed of each person, recognizing that no two people have the same learning curve.

Natural Time is different from Mechanical Time. An example of operating under Mechanical Time would be telling everyone they’ve got 60 minutes to learn a brand new sequence of choreography. There are certain modalities of dance that operate this way and while the pressure of “restricted time” may work for some, the reality for many is that it creates an undue amount of stress that can impede learning.

Whenever I used to dance in routine shoots with my partner Vickie, I always marveled at the speed at which she embodied choreography. As a trained contemporary dancer, it’s almost second nature to her to see something, then repeat it. If you ever see us in a video together, it’s pretty entertaining to watch. My choreographic learning curve is definitely a few clicks behind hers. And to be clear: I am so ok with it, because that’s my natural time. If I tried to rush it, I’d feel anxious and it would take even longer to learn. By allowing myself time and space to learn things at my own pace, embodiment naturally follows.

My hope and intention as a teacher is that each person who dances with me connects with their own natural time and feels the sense of permission to learn at their own pace. Choreography offers us a structured map for movement, but how we follow and dance this map is guided by us.

Whether it’s a dog learning to sit, spin, and wait, or a human learning to perform a jazz square, Natural Time has it’s place in all species and styles of movement.

Grounding Amidst Un-grounding Circumstances

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For the last few months, my partner and co-teacher Vickie Saito and I have been selecting music and developing choreography for a brand new body of work we’re co-creating called “Ground“. Creating choreography is by far one of my FAVORITE things to do as it’s an immersive experience that’s equal parts fun and focus.

We developed all of the choreography around a central focus called GAP: get Grounded, pay Attention, and become Present. GAP is a concept developed by Yoga Therapist and Teacher Trainer Sarahjoy Marsh and is explained beautifully in her newest book called Hunger, Hope, and Healing. We were inspired by her mindfulness practice that teaches us how to remain grounded when life circumstances can take us far away from center. The following is an excerpt from Sarajoy’s recent blog called  The Language of Yoga, which provides a brief overview of this concept:

“Get grounded on an actual experience in the present moment (not the narrative you are telling yourself about the present moment, nor the story you have running in your head about yourself as a person or a yoga teacher). This might be the feeling of your feet on the ground, or the sensations of your hand holding your phone as you read this blog, or the temperature of the air coming and going through your nostrils as your body breathes you.” – Sarahjoy Marsh

In late January, we were immersed in the process of developing choreography for Ground when our (third floor) washing machine spontaneously overflowed and flooded water through all three levels of our home.

Note: Water travels FAST, especially when gravity is helping.

In an instant, our entire home life got uprooted. From staying at a hotel for the first few weeks to moving back in and living in the house during a (messy) top to bottom reconstruction, we were presented with continual challenges that seemed to compound with time. There were countless choices we had to make on a daily basis related to how the reconstruction of the home was handled, and the only way to make each decision was to stay present and get as grounded as we could be.

When I realized the irony, I couldn’t help but laugh. Developing Ground while our home has been in massive reconstruction mode for the last 7 weeks has been a real test and lesson in how to get grounded amidst un-grounding circumstances. I quickly learned how vital it was that I created quiet space in each day (no matter where we were living), felt my feet on the ground, breathed deep, practiced yoga, and stayed present to what was happening in the moment. For me, feeling grounded meant being connected to myself and staying present to what was happening in the moment. Consequently, the entire experience has been like one giant teaching in mindfulness.

Co-creating Ground and bringing it to class has been medicine for my nervous system these last two months. Dancing through the reconstruction has helped me focus, stay light-hearted (most of the time) and reminded me that no matter what is going on around me, my body is the place I can ground into to find center and peace.

About Ground: This body of work features a variety of base movements that root you into the earth and consciously cultivate a connection with your foundation. Numerous songs offer challenging katas (sequences of moves) that build deep base strength and stability. There are also a ton of wild stepping patterns that can re-pattern movement tendencies, as well as arm motions that are creative, lively, and fun to express. Vickie and I consciously selected world music that features tribal base beats, some house and electro swing, and cool-down songs that evoke peacefulness as you bring your body to the floor.

May we dance Ground together soon!

Flow and the Art of Meeting Barriers

Lately I’ve been inspired to work with the focus of Flow.

Flow is so directly associated with water, fluidity, adaptability, breath, cleansing, and an ushering out of the old and in with the new. Flow creates continual renewal by respecting that nothing stays the same–there is a natural “current of change” that is an essential part of life.

What I discussed with my class on Saturday morning was the analogy of the body as a stream. Mountain streams are an exquisite example of flow because the downward motion caused by both the angle of the ground and gravity ensures that so long as there is water, movement will happen. At any given point, a giant boulder or tree trunk can abruptly fall into the stream, temporarily changing the course of it’s flow. Yet what does the water do? The water meets the barrier, then flows over or around it. Water does not stop and demand that the barrier moves, nor does it pretend the barrier does not exist; It just finds another way to do what it is inherently designed to do: flow.

Meeting the barrier, in a more transpersonal kind of way, means staying in the flow of life, taking in information, and even harvesting wisdom from the obstacles that I encounter. It’s the difference between playing Aikido or Tae Kwon Do with a barrier. The flow of Aikido creates a harmony that allows both myself and the barrier to be what we are without having to compete. By choosing to meet it, I get to dance with it, learn from it, receive insight, and go on my merry way.

Bringing this concept back to the body, when we discover a barrier–such as pain, tension, or injury- we are faced with an important choice: Will we “meet” the barrier, choose to fight against it, or just plain ignore it?

Interestingly enough, much new research on the science of connective tissue shows that one of the best techniques for relieving pain is not to “land” directly on the epicenter of the pain–what MELT Creator Sue Hitzmann calls the “victim”–but rather to meet the barrier by investigating and stimulating the tissue around the painful area. If we looked at a picture of a bull’s eye target, this would mean hanging out toward the outer rings of the circle rather than going straight for the red target. Applying light tension and compression in this way, we can create a fluid exchange that hydrates the connective tissue around the painful area without ever having to cause additional pain. Increased hydration, in turn, can reduce pain and create healing.

Water has flow and so do we. Barriers in the body and life are inevitable. Sometimes barriers are so big they feel like cement walls that are fifty feet high, insurmountable. Yet by focusing on flow, I look to my right or left, and what I discover are 50,000 ways to move with a given obstacle, rather than against it.

Barriers feel fixed; I am filled with flow. By connecting to this sensation, my choices expand and, just like a mountain stream, my vital life force energy is free to flow in the direction it’s destined.

Falling in Love with Sensation as a Path to Falling in Love with the Body

photoYou know that old adage that says if you want the right answer, you first have to ask the right question? Well just over a month ago, my Nia Trainer friend, Maria Skinner, called me up with just one of those questions.

“Do you think we really teach people how to love their body?”

We talked about it for a few minutes and shortly thereafter I found myself propelled into a several week conversation with my own body, a conversation that has sent me down the rabbit hole of sensation to rediscover and remember how I came to the place where I could authentically say, “I love my body.”

We use the phrase “Love Your Body” a lot in Nia marketing and classes. It’s on t-shirts, flyers, bumper stickers, and for a long time was the signature statement people saw on the website. And yet more often than not, the path to loving the body needs more of an invitation than a command to “love” it.

When I look back at my relationship with my body, I see that loving it was ignited first and foremost by falling in love with how my body felt, which, on the most basic level, came from sensing it. Body awareness did not come easily though–I had to consciously slow down, drop down, and learn how to pay attention to sensation. From this place of getting out of my head and into sensation, I inadvertently fell in love with my body’s design and shape–this incredibly complex thing we call “body image”. I sought only to love being in my body and the fact that I received so much more than I anticipated is a real blessing. Moving from the inside out has proven to be the gift of self-love that keeps on giving, since my body’s shape and health fluctuates over time and across my life.

To say I love my body means so much more than any superficial association. I love my body for how it supports and energizes me at every single second. I love my body for teaching me self-compassion and deep presence. I love my body for every sensation it provides me–even the painful ones that attempt to capture my attention. Most of all, I love my body because it’s mine. It is the vehicle that makes this journey and dance through life possible, and for that I am grateful.

There are infinite paths one can take to reach a place of body gratitude and self-love. No matter which path(s) a person chooses, all roads involve the awareness of sensation in some format.

So to answer Maria’s question…

No, I don’t think I teach people how to fall in love with their body. What I believe I offer–and what I seek to provide always– are invitations for people to fall in love with sensation–with the simple yet profound act of sensing their body.

More and more, I have discovered that falling in love with sensation is like a “secret back door” into loving the body. It’s a subtler, welcoming invitation that is always present and offers a type of love that is unconditional, one that requires no fixing or alteration of the body in order to love and appreciate it. ❤

The Sensation of Gratitude


“A happy person is not a person in a certain set of circumstances, but rather a person with a certain set of attitudes.” ~ Hugh Downs

At any given moment, there are so many blessings that surround me. There’s the external things and the internal things; from my beautiful apartment, to the forest behind it, to my car, to the heat that warms my apartment, to my laptop, my instruments, the food that stocks my fridge, the maple trees and the lush plants on my front porch that make me feel surrounded by aliveness; my job as a Nia Trainer; my job as a freelance writer. These are some of the beautiful external blessings that feed my body and soul every day. To balance this are all the many unseen, yet vividly palpable blessings that go even deeper than material objects: My resilience, self-awareness, inner peace, ability to transform, acceptance, openness to emotion, love, compassion, expression, self-healing, my healthy body; the Joy of Movement, present in my cells.

Finally, there are the blessings that bridge these two worlds: My family, my relationship, my friends, my students, and my connection to the sensation of life in every living thing. Adjectives don’t do justice to what these blessings mean to me. They are an essential part of my reality that reflect the sacredness of life back to me every day.

After writing all this, I’m left with a sensation that feels not only sustainable, but inspiring and fulfilling. It’s the sensation of gratitude. When I sense gratitude, I sense relaxation in my body, warmth, and I sense my nervous system shift into a greater state of calm as my breath deepens. Literally, gratitude helps me breathe in life more fully.

What is the sensation of gratitude in your body? What are your “go-to blessings” that you turn your attention toward when you’re wanting to choose and sense more of it?

Dr.Robert Emmons, professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, is one of the top researchers on the topic of gratitude in North America. According to Emmons, gratitude is a “chosen attitude.” What I love about this statement is that it so closely mirrors Nia’s process for sensing Universal Joy: we say that the first step is to choose it. Choice is a powerful vehicle for transformation because it puts the response-ability square in our lap. When I recognize that feeling grateful is a choice, my entire reality shifts because I see, feel, and experience my life through a lens of appreciation and abundance, rather than resentment and deficit.

One of my favorite authors, Dr.Joan Borysenko, has an entire chapter in one of her books called Champagne Suffering. Although the term has nothing to do with how to cure a bad prosecco hang-over, it does shed light on the topic of gratitude by recognizing the everyday things that can distract us from sensing it…

Champagne Suffering refers to the little inconveniences we encounter throughout the day that can easily work on the ego to feel like we are “suffering”, when in fact, we’re just experiencing the daily realities of living in a body on planet Earth. Some examples include traffic, broken appliances, sore muscles, lines (at the grocery store or otherwise), arguing with a loved one, undesired weather – you get the idea. They’re the kind of things, that, when put into the greater perspective of life, are small hurdles to overcome. My Nia Trainer friend Jill Factor told me such things have also been called First World Problems, a term I also love! Having an awareness of champagne suffering helps keep my feet on the ground while also widening my viewpoint of myself and the world. When I am unscathed by menial distractions i.e. when I don’t sweat the small stuff, the amount of positive, creative energy within me seems to multiply ten-fold.

Gratitude changes my cells, and being changed, I see the world anew. It brings out the best in me while also bringing the best to me, as I get to witness the many blessings that surround me. Sensing gratitude, I feel the depth of my aliveness and the infinite power of uttering two simple words, “Thank you.”

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” ~ Melody Beattie

Always Do Your Best…Even In A Chair


True freedom is being without anxiety about imperfection. 

~ Seng-Tfan, Zen Master

I’ve enjoyed having a number of new students join my classes recently. As they’re warming up before class, I always do my best to check in and offer some tips to simplify their movements, see what’s going on in their body, and find out if they have any questions. Being a person who is fascinated by patterns and synchronicity, I couldn’t help but notice that I’d received the same question from a hand full of new students at a variety of locations, all within the last two weeks.

“Do I need to have good coordination to take this class?”, they asked.

I can’t help but smile when I get this question, because the answer to it is so beautifully simple and is one of the things I love so much about Nia. “No, this is not a class where you need to have good coordination. This is a class where you come to learn how to develop good coordination, amongst so many other benefits.” Then this train of thought got me thinking…

Forget coordination, what do we do when when the body is not functioning at it’s ideal? What if it never has? What’s more, what if we’re not feeling emotionally joyful, and maybe everything in our life is falling apart and the last thing we want is for other people to see us in this state….

Does that mean we should not come to Nia? If you’re anything like me, I cannot imagine a more appropriate time to dance than when some part of me needs healing.

I’ve definitely had my fair share of moments when I came to teach and an area of my life – body or otherwise – was extremely out of balance. Whether it was an injury, a relationship break-up, or receiving a call from a hospitalized parent, I’ve had countless challenging events occur as I was walking in the door to lead a class. Life happens, and sometimes the timing is really inconvenient. What I have learned from being in these types of situations again and again is to embrace a concept that is already deeply embedded in the Nia practice. It’s from a book called The Four Agreements, a concept called Always Do Your Best.

Always do your best. It sounds so practical, yet there really is an art to living this way.  The way I see it, doing our best can be divided into two keys areas: action and self-acceptance. To do my best, I must first put forth a genuine effort towards my desired outcome. Keep in mind that “genuine effort” does not mean throwing my life out of balance to exceed in one area; it just means offering forth the most energy I can in this moment given my overall circumstances. Second comes self-acceptance. I list this second because once I’ve reached my level of “best”, it’s important, from a self-love point of view, I accept that whatever I gave was enough; it was the most I could do right now. In this way, if I gave 70% of my energy to something I normally gave 100% of my energy to, I see that 70% is actually my 100% in this moment. In doing our best, we stop comparing ourselves to the past and future and instead recognize the genuine effort we are putting forth right now.

Two weeks ago I had a beautiful opportunity to experience the power of doing my best. After a great day of teaching, my body felt supple and strong. I went to sleep and drifted off for several hours when I awoke suddenly at 3am with a stabbing pain in my knee. Shocked by the sudden onset of pain, I immediately began testing out my right leg’s range of motion. Nothing felt right. It was as if I went to bed with my healthy, stable knee, then had woken up with someone else’s severely injured knee. As I got up to walk to the bathroom, I discovered I couldn’t even bear weight on it. Something was very wrong.

A little perspective: Knee injuries are to a movement teacher what breaking your hand is to a professional piano player: a big f*ing problem. Our body is a key player in our livelihood, and if it’s not in good shape, our livelihood is in danger too.

Wednesday morning rolled around and my leg was still in acute pain. So I went over to visit my co-trainer and anatomy guru friend Vickie Saito. She did some tests to determine whether or not I’d torn my meniscus, or worse, my ACL. Although my range of motion indicated that I was negative for both (thank goodness), my leg was clearly out of alignment as my knee was falling inward and my right foot was turned outward. Curiously, my IT Band and sartorius muscle were super tight too. Sparing you a long and fascinating journey into the world of anatomy, let’s just say this: I hurt my knee. It’s not clear how or why, but thank goodness I did not tear anything!

Without a clear sense of exactly what was going on, I had to make a choice about whether or not to teach my Wednesday night class at StudioNia. Missing a class is a big deal to me. So Nia-style, I asked my body some questions.

“Body, should I teach?” A clear “no” came in response.

“Body, should I dance?” “Yes, but you need to barely move your legs.”

Ok then, I will dance Nia in a chair.

Seventy percent of me liked the idea of doing this. The other thirty percent was racked with frustration and self-pity inner dialogue about not being able to move at my full range of motion. Emotionally, I wondered how I’d feel watching my best friend teach class and all my students dance behind her, yet not be able to participate at my ideal! Little did I know just how good things would look from that chair…

We got to StudioNia and I placed a chair at the front of the room. From the moment Vickie started teaching, I went into what I can only describe as a “Doing My Best” trance. It was as if the mere choice to show up and do my best had created a wave of empowerment through my entire being. Being in a chair was suddenly the coolest place I could be, as a new wave of expression and creativity moved through me. I also learned just how adaptable my movement vocabulary had become over the years, as I found modifications for nearly every movement. I tapped into such a deep level of Joy I actually felt acceptance toward the pain in my knee, grateful for the new awareness it was bringing me. Not to mention it was so much fun! It felt like one of the most connected classes I’d danced as pure student in a long time…

I am glad I chose to follow the 70%. As it turns out, this 70% was a 100% of my best that day.

What does it mean to always do your best? It means showing up even when we feel less than our ideal. It means bringing what we have, even if it is less than what is asked of us. When it comes to being a Nia practitioner, it also means letting go of the mindsets that keep us limited and our energy stagnated when we know there is a healthy level of “more” can do. A little bit of action is better than non-action. Consistency is key, for the more we choose to show up for ourselves and give something our all, the more likely we are to do it again and in different areas of our lives.

Whether dancing in a chair, sitting on the floor, or moving at level .5, do the best you can do and celebrate the courageous spirit you can bring to each moment of your life.

And do Nia in a chair sometime. It’s cooler than you think. Just check out the movie Flashdance 😉

Love & Community: Reflections on Traveling to Israel

Israel Group SS

14 days. 2 trainers. 8 trainees. 35 person classes and workshops…
And a 10 hour time change.

About 10 years ago I had a vision that someday I might be able to teach Nia, travel, and witness how the Joy of Movement had manifested overseas. Whether it was watching our trainees count Nia’s 8BC System in Hebrew (a music notation method), placing my hands on the Western Wall in Jerusalem with Vickie and our producer Adi Goren, or looking out as 40 people danced our Touch Routine in unison, I constantly found myself getting chills as I realized how the power of love and community had collaborated to help make one of my biggest dreams become a reality: We traveled and trained the Nia White Belt in Israel.

If you ever find yourself in the fortunate position to be able to travel to Israel, I only have one piece of advice: Go! This is a remarkable, ancient and inspiring country whose spiritual history is so beautifully diverse and ingrained in the landscape that everywhere we went felt sacred in some way.

Although I have traveled to South America, Indonesia and beyond, Israel had something I never encountered in such overflowing abundance: heart. Vickie and I were surrounded with a sense of love and community by the multiple Nia communities we visited, as countless teachers opened up their spaces and invited their students to dance with us. We taught in sweetly rustic community centers, high tech university gyms, a high school music room, an industrial and hip drum/dance school, and a personal home studio that supported our entire training. Did I mention the luxurious salt water swimming pool that came along with the training space?

If our trainees had been any more generous, I think we would have come back 10 pounds heavier! We ate the most delectable foods everyday (no hummus will ever compare) and enjoyed evenings out in Tel Aviv, where we walked along the Mediterranean. Tel Aviv is officially my new favorite city with its progressive attitude, colorful marketplaces, historical architecture, delicious cuisine, beach side restaurants, and cobblestone walkways. I could have easily spent an entire summer enjoying and exploring this incredible city…

More than anything, what I appreciated most about our trip to Israel was the sense of love and community. Family is such a center point of the culture, and this sensation was present amidst all our classes, workshops, and trainings. Whether it was the generosity and stellar producing efforts of Adi Goren or Nia teachers Amy Warshawsky, Hani Sade, Meirav Jones, Il’Il (sp?), and all of their students and fellow teachers, the sense of love was omnipresent. Many of these women I’ve danced with and known from my teaching days in Boston, and it was awesome to reunite after all these years. I am deeply grateful for each individual who shared in the Joy of Movement dance with us, and I eagerly await our next trip to this beautiful land.

Cheers to our 8 new White Belt graduates Adva, Mimi, Einat, Einav, Ravit, Yafit, Idit, and Hila!

May we dance together again and again…

Just Do It – Befriend Discomfort & Take Action


“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” – Neale Donald Walsch

It’s incredible how many little things and emotions get in my way of accomplishing something. Whether it’s the desire to be perfect, have all my ducks in a row, to find the “right time” to do something, or to be in the most stable emotional state to speak to someone, I am constantly in awe of the number of metaphorical boulders (and sometimes icebergs) my mind creates that prevent me from getting shit done.

Yes, I want to get shit done. Lot’s of it, in fact!

Over the last three months, I’ve been consciously increasing my awareness of these perceived roadblocks that seek to derail my ambitions. I say “perceived” because as I’ve studied them, I’ve found them to be nothing more than fabricated little barriers to my own success. And yet, there is a lot to learn from such a barrier. As I pushed my comfort edge in a variety of areas of my life, I began to get the sense that no matter what “iceberg” I was facing, it was always made of the same substance: Fear. Fear of rejection, judgment, the unknown, or not having enough, to name a few. After many semi-successful attempts at alleviating these fears – à la meditation, yoga, and long walks in the forest – the words of my mentor, Annette Franks, resounded though my mind:

“Are you willing to be comfortable being uncomfortable, Allison?”

This question has served as an incredible anchor and inspiration for me as I’ve moved through a variety of life transitions. To learn how to befriend  discomfort creates a state of pure allowance and acceptance within me, plus I’ve always loved the sensation of stepping in with a courageous heart; having fear but proceeding in spite of it.  Forget being 100% elegant. Authentic is enough.

So I asked myself, what if I just did it, whatever “it” was, and allowed myself to embrace whatever emotions accompanied the choice?

So that’s exactly what I did . I dove 150% into my position as a Nia Trainer, added more classes and events, began traveling, and booked my first international co-training in Israel. To activate the energy of action has been extremely empowering. In taking action, we sense our fire, our drive, and our ability to manifest. 

My co-trainer Vickie Saito has been an inspiration in this regard. I have never met someone who can get so much done in such small windows of time and still look radiant at the end of the day! What I have learned from Vickie is quite simple: Just do it. Want to lead retreats to the ocean? Drive out there and book it. Want to add more Nia classes? Pick up the phone and call studios. Want to publish a book? Write it first. Want to promote yourself online and don’t know how? Find a cheap website builder and start small and simple. Want to collaborate with other teachers? Reach out. Need help? Ask someone for it. Just. Do. It.

When I recapitulate my 10-year career teaching Nia, I find so many instances of how just doing something brought abundance. From approaching teachers I was initially intimidated by and asking them to mentor me, to building my own website, even to becoming a White Belt Trainer, abundance flowed every time I pushed my comfort zone and put myself out there. Taking action, as it turned out, was much more productive than standing still. Whenever I’m working with new teachers, I encourage them to add not 1, but 2-4 classes per week when they start teaching. Why? It’s the fastest way to get better. If you teach 4 classes per week, you’re going to get better four times as quickly than you would if teaching only 1. It’s a lot like learning to swim: You can read all the books on the topic, watch countless videos, but at the end of the day the only way you’re going to learn how to swim is to get in the water. Our skill and technique can only be refined by the act of doing. 

What do you want most? My invitation is to make like Nike and just do it.

“A year from now you’ll wish you had started today.” – Karen Lamb