While I have been diving into 5Rhythms lately, attending as many classes as possible, simultaneously swimming and drowning in Wave after Wave, I’ve only just begun to skim the surface of another movement modality, Nia.

Last week was my first Nia class in nearly two years, and—as I described here—it.was.GREAT! I overcame a mental barrier to get there and gave myself fully into the class, despite it not being 5Rhythms. Yes, it was different than what I am used to, but the bottom line was that I had fun. I couldn’t wait to return.

What I wasn’t expecting this past Friday was how open my heart would be. But there was a lot going on: I had just come from dinner with the widow of my former middle school principal, whose anguish over her husband’s death was still very evident; the “supermoon” was hours away from its monthly fullness; and a lightning storm was buzzing through the clouds. It was the perfect backdrop for an evening of raw, uninhibited movement.

Suzanne, the instructor, structures each class around a theme; this time, the focus was resistance, the dance of fear between holding on and letting go. To demonstrate, she had us clasp our hands together, fingers clutching onto fingers, pulling, grabbing, tension. Then, she told us, “let it go.” Feel the freedom in your hands and arms. What are you holding onto that doesn’t serve you anymore? she asked. Suzanne invited us to think simply, maybe in terms of your kitchen junk drawer. If you keep holding onto something you don’t use, there will never be any space for new, more functional items.

In a very staccato fashion, we executed chopping motions with our hands, banged on drums near our heart center, made punching motions with our arms. As we thrust our legs forward in martial arts-like kicks, I realized I haven’t kicked like that in a while, maybe because I’ve feared hurting my hip or because nothing like that has come up in 5Rhythms. I felt the motion coming from my core, my powerhouse. I felt like a warrior: Grounded, focused, steady. I was onto something.

Photograph provided by Nia Technique (www.nianow.com).

What I think I was doing was letting go, breaking loose the rigidity that often surrounds my heart. I was giving into the moment, immersing myself fully, no commentary about my insecurities running through my mind. It was at this point I began to feel empowered, surrounded and supported by my fellow classmates, my sisters. It was an all-women class, something that doesn’t occur often in 5Rhythms (especially since my main teacher is male). As much as I love exploring masculine-feminine energies through dance, I think the moment a man enters the room, women slip into a bit of a caricature: shoulders back, chest out, come-hither eyes, no matter how subtle and perhaps even unconsciously. But there was none of that Friday night in Nia. I felt unabashedly female.

As the class winded down, we all stood in a circle, swooping down to the earth, gathering gratitude, then releasing it up the sky with a nurturing “Ahhh” sound. I was standing across from an older woman who, during the previous class, was dressed in a blue sweatsuit and mentally struggled with the movements, still profoundly affected by the death of her mother. This time, she wore a short-sleeved pink shirt with sparkling sequins, and every time she lifted her face to the sky, I saw more light entering her spirit. It was beautiful to witness. It made me think of the woman I had just met for dinner, how much she would’ve loved this class; she wanted to attend but was hindered by a knee injury. When I lifted my arms to the sky, I sent my love her way. All I felt at that moment was love, love, love. I wanted to take the yoga studio owner—also a 5Rhythms classmate—in my arms and swoop her around the floor.

Photograph provided by Nia Technique (www.nianow.com).

Before our final moment of stillness, Suzanne closed class by guiding us backward through the “5 stages” of human life: walking, standing, crawling, creeping, and embryonic. We stayed in our “embryos” for a while, invited to move as though we were suspended in time. There on my back, I sunk deep into my essence, floating down, down, down into my true self, my root, my beginning. It was only appropriate, then, that this was when the playlist switched to the final song: Sarah McLachlan’s “Rainbow Connection,” a song with deep personal meaning for me, the song played often during my yoga teacher training, the song that always made me wonder, “Why am I studying yoga when all I want to do is dance?”

Like that, the theme of the class hit me smack between the eyes: Why are you holding onto all that junk instead of making room for new things?

The class stirred up a lot, and the longer I hung around the studio, the more intense things got. The studio owner must’ve sensed this “stirring,” looking me in the eyes point blank and asking, “So, what are you going to do?” as though she knew I have been longing to fly but afraid to take down the runway. She reminded me that my presence is strong, that she felt me in the room during 5Rhythms class last week (even though I was dancing elsewhere), that my “spirit has touched so many people.” The woman in the pink shirt was there as well, and she looked at me closely, as though she were examining my aura. “You have good energy,” she assured me. “I can feel it. Whatever you do, whatever class or practice you conceive, the energy is there. It will work.” And that’s what she said, just like that. Just like that? Just like that.

And just like that, I walked outside into a lightning storm, electricity circuiting through the sky every 20 seconds, a glimpse of the full moon captured with each burst of light. I could smell the ozone, I could feel the storm, and when I finally reached home, the thunder began rumbling the earth beneath me.

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