Why fun is fundamental to your health and happiness

Why fun is fundamental to your health and happiness

Why fun is fundamental to your health and happiness

Nia - Now I Am - positive affirmations with Sophie Marsh
Nia with Sophie Marsh dance for health

“Having fun is not a diversion from a successful life; it is the pathway to it… written in the language of joy.”
~ Martha Beck

When was the last time you felt light-hearted, connected, and alive with joy?  What were you doing?  Who were you with?

Maybe you’ve been crazy busy… or stuck in a loop of everyday life… or weighed down by difficult circumstances… or overwhelmed by change and uncertainty. There are serious, sad, and confronting things happening in the world around us, contributing to general stress and an epidemic of mental health issues. In these tough times, fun may seems frivolous.

But what if fun was the secret to health and well-being?

Recently I came across a book “The Power of Fun: How to Feel Alive Again” by science journalist Catherine Price. (She also does a great TED Talk.) She says having fun is a like a health intervention that can bring you back to life.

Catherine explains there’s a big difference between what she calls “fake fun” and “true fun”. Fake fun gives a quick fix of pleasure – like fast-food, binge-watching Netflix, scrolling socials or a few wines – it ultimately leaves you feeling numb and unsatisfied.

By contrast, true fun is a relaxed and open state that makes you feel nourished and refreshed.  Through her own research and experience, Catherine defines true fun as a congruence of three psychological states – playfulness, connection, and flow.

  • Playfulness means being spontaneous, light-hearted, and doing something just for the pleasure of it, without striving for a goal or outcome.
  • Connection means having a special shared experience with someone (or something) else. Meaningful relationships and human connection are vital for our physical and mental health.
  • Flow state is a feeling of effortless attention where you’re so fully immersed in an activity that you lose track of time. Your skills meet the challenge, and you feel deeply satisfied.

How to fill your life with more playfulness, connection and flow.

  1. Increase playfulness by embracing your inner 5-year-old and giving yourself permission to be more spontaneous, expressive, and free of judgment.
  2. Increase connection by interacting more with others in real life… face to face, soul to soul, human to human. Notice how our differences disappear when we connect through fun.
  3. Reduce distractions to increase flow. Replace mindless screen time with more purposeful presence, doing what you love.
  4. Commit to daily rituals and weekly activities that nourish your body, engage your mind, and liberate your spirit.

Make fun a priority… 

Scan your daily life and make 2 lists. Write down

  1. activities (or people) that take up time and result in feeling empty or drained.
  2. activities (or people) that help you get into a state of playful, connected flow and leave you feeling energised and alive.

Set your intention to invest less time on #1 and more on #2. Sounds easy, but think about how much time you spend on your phone. Taking action on this can be a powerful habit breaker.

When you feel like you’re getting your joy back, you’ll know you’ve got the balance right for you! Research affirms you are more resilient, creative, persistent, present, and productive when you are engaged in pursuits that bring us maximum fun.

Want more fun… do more Nia!

Nia is a serious practice that reminds you not to take yourself too seriously! Every Nia experience offers opportunities for playfulness, connection, and flow. With contagious joy and community at its heart, practising (and sharing) Nia brings you meaningful connection, a sense of purpose, and sustainable health and wellbeing… the FUNdamentals of feeling alive!

If you want more joy in your life, why not (re)commit to coming regularly to my online or in-person Nia classes or immerse yourself in a week of fun and self discovery with the Nia White Belt?

“Fun is important. Fun is what keeps you ageless.” ~ Dr Christiane Northrup

MOVEMENT IS MEDICINE – PLAYFUL NIA PRACTICE

First, tune in to your body and notice any places that feel heavy or tight.  Take this 3 minute dance break with me and then afterwards, notice what feels better and give gratitude for that. Thank you body!

Sophie Marsh © 2022 • Web Design Seedhead

How body awareness can change your mind and boost your wellbeing

How body awareness can change your mind and boost your wellbeing

How body awareness can change your mind and boost your wellbeing

Nia - Now I Am - positive affirmations with Sophie Marsh
Nia with Sophie Marsh dance for health

“In order to change, people need to become aware of their sensations and the way that their bodies interact with the world around them. Physical self-awareness is the first step in releasing the tyranny of the past.” ~ Bessel van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score

Changing your body changes your mind!

For centuries we were programmed to live in our heads. The mind was seen as the fount of knowledge and rational thought, separate from the body, which was considered less significant or even reviled. Now anthropologists, philosophers, neuroscientists and cognitive scientists affirm that every cell and organ has its own intelligence and that the body plays an integral role in thinking and decision making.

The gut-brain connection is a burgeoning field of mind-body research. Did you know, gut bacteria manufacture about 95 percent of the body’s supply of serotonin, which influences both mood and gastrointestinal activity? And hormones have a huge impact on your mental wellbeing. (Just ask any teenager or menopausal woman!) Yet in education, health and business sectors, the power of the body to affect the mind is still being under-utilised.

How can you unwind stress and fear patterns that keep you feeling stuck or anxious?

Google “best ways to manage stress, fear, anxiety, depression, overwhelm, trauma, distraction, or dementia.” The most recent answers will most likely include “pay attention to what you feel in your body and where you feel it, use conscious breathing techniques, and prioritise regular exercise”, as well as intermittent fasting a diet of unprocessed food, quality sleep, social connection, and balancing your hormones (I take Happy Hormones from HHY).

This evidence-based holistic approach aligns with what we teach in the Nia White Belt – how to access your body’s natural intelligence and use mindfulness and movement to feel better.  N.I.A = Neuromuscular Integrative Action!

  • Begin with developing the ability to notice subtle body sensations – listen to them, then respond in a way that respects your body’s needs. In Nia we call this body literacy. Notice and name the little things that make you feel good inside and out, throughout your day.
  • Commit to a daily practice that shifts your awareness deeper into your body and reconnects you with your inherent vibrancy and vitality – practices like Nia, 5Stages, conscious breathwork, a mindful walk, or a body scan meditation.
  • Make moving your body for your health and wellbeing a priority. It sounds simple (and it is once you get started), but the latest stats show that 50-75 percent of middle-aged women are insufficiently active. Put it on your schedule to make it real. Like most things, the more you do it, the easier it gets. 

A MIND-BODY EXERCISE

Try it out… Tell yourself a contracted thought like “I’m hopeless”, “It’s never going to work out”, “I shouldn’t… couldn’t… can’t…” and notice what happens in your body. Let your body response be exaggerated. For example, if your shoulders feel heavy, let them really fold in. Notice any tension, breath-holding, or dense energy. 

Now… lift your heart and open your posture. You might organically take a deep breath or two. Keep shifting until you take on a more powerful, expanded stance… now make it even bigger. Open your eyes, and with softness, look around and let the light in. What has happened to your thoughts?

NOW I AM…

Nia’s creator Debbie Rosas says that when you get stuck in the thinking mind you block your life-force and creativity. This is your ego coming from control and fear, and it shows up in your body as tightness. Living in your head depletes your energy, steals your joy, and restricts your potential and growth.

As you tap into your body intelligence, it shifts your mind in a positive direction – away from negative thoughts and towards creative connection and authentic expression. You learn to trust your intuition and respond from your sacred truth. Distractions and things you can’t control lose their power, freeing you to experience more joy and your natural state of being – love.

In any given moment you can decide… what do I want to embody? N.I.A = Now I Am…

Healing Affirmation – Going Beyond the Limitations of Fear

“Today I will let go of all fear. I realise that fear comes from my self image and not my Self. My ego is an image that I have created. By letting go of my ego I will embrace the truth inside me, which is fearless.

EGO = Edging God Out. Whenever my ego overshadows my spirit, it creates tightness in my body. I will witness the sensation of fear by feeling it, and then I will take the courageous step to do the very thing I fear. I will not fight my ego, I will witness it. This is the highest form of human intelligence – to observe yourself without judgment. Today I will observe my fear and my witnessing of it will transform it into love.” ~ Deepak Chopra

MOVEMENT IS MEDICINE – NIA DANCE BREAK

First, tune in to your body and notice any places that feel heavy or tight.  Take this 3.5 minute dance break with me and then afterwards, notice what feels better and give gratitude for that. Thank you body!

Sophie Marsh © 2022 • Web Design Seedhead

HOW TO HARNESS YOUR BREATH FOR TRANSFORMATION AND SELF-HEALING

HOW TO HARNESS YOUR BREATH FOR TRANSFORMATION AND SELF-HEALING

HOW TO HARNESS YOUR BREATH FOR TRANSFORMATION AND SELF-HEALING

“Our breathing is a stable solid ground that we can take refuge in. No matter what is going on inside us – thoughts, emotions, or perceptions – our breathing is always with us, like a faithful friend. Whenever we are carried away by our thinking, when we are overwhelmed by strong emotions, or when our minds are restless and dispersed, we can return to our breathing.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh 

Inhale, exhale, repeat. Breathing – it’s an autonomic reflex and the foundation of life.

The body knows how to do this simple act without our interference – we do it 23,000 times every day!  Yet our thoughts, feelings and perceptions can change the depth and rate of our breathing, setting off a cascade of physical changes that promote either stress or relaxation.

Right now, feel into your body and remember the worst that you’ve felt in this last week.  Yep… the worst!  What do you notice in your body?  Contracted slump, quickening heart rate, shallow breaths, tight chest?  Okay… shake that off (literally, give yourself a good shimmy.) Now, recall the best that you’ve felt in this last week.  Feel into a moment of pleasure or gratitude.  Embody the feeling and make it even bigger. Did you just take a deep breath? The quickest way to change your mind, is to change your body and energy. Conscious breathwork is a really easy way to do that. (So is dancing Nia!)

Breath has been at the heart of most meditation, mindfulness, yoga and conscious movement practices for hundreds to thousands of years.

It’s revered as a conduit of lifeforce energy, the movement of spirit, a way to anchor “monkey mind” and bring awareness into the body.  It was a central part of my training in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, Pelvic-Heart Integration, and Trauma Sensitive Yoga. As with many ancient practices, science is now affirming the powerful benefits of breathwork as a tool for transformation and self-healing.

Nia’s creator Debbie Rosas loves to say, “Smell the moment.” Try it out now… take a slow sip of air through your nostrils and softening your jaw, gently exhale through your mouth. Do it several times, extending your exhale a little more each time. As the relaxation response kicks in, you might notice a build-up of saliva in your mouth. That’s your parasympathetic nervous system being activated to calm the brain.

Another gift of focussing on your breath is that it brings you into the present moment and enhances your sensory experience. The senses are immediate, alive, here now. As you breathe and isolate each sense, it creates feelings of connection, purpose and meaning.

TRY THE FIVE SENSES BREATH TECHNIQUE (downloadable pdf coming soon)

In contrast, sitting for prolonged periods online can cause screen apnea – breath holding or shallow breathing. Over time, screen apnea can disrupt your sleep, lower your energy levels, interfere with your ability to focus and think quickly, lead to or exacerbate depression, anxiety and other mood disorders, and cause systemic inflammation and stress-related illness.

When you’re looking at a screen, your breathing changes. You’re like an animal in stalking mode.” ~ Dr. Belisa Vranich, Breathe: The Simple, Revolutionary 14-Day Program to Improve your Mental and Physical Health

It’s well documented that learning to relax is one of the most important keys to long-term health and vitality.

When you inhale, you receive energy and life; when you exhale, you let it go. Most of us have been under prolonged stress for so long, we’ve forgotten what deep relaxation feels like and according to psychologist Dr Belisa Vranich, 9 out of 10 of us have been breathing incorrectly since childhood.

Why does breathing correctly matter?

How we breathe deeply affects our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual fitness and wellbeing. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the lungs relate to grief and loss. Grief is a normal response to anger, loss, and violence. When the trauma affects an entire community, country or the world, it is known as collective grief and we’ve been riding it in relentless waves. Over time, our breathing, muscles, and posture can get stuck in fight, flight or freeze stress-response patterns, and so we’re unable to move through the stages of grief.

What can we do to self-heal?

Breathwork is one of the most effective tools to activate the vagus nerve and improve the mind-body connection. When we combine intentional breathing with Nia 5 Stages it’s an even more powerful way to re-pattern our breath, realign our core postural muscles and calm our nervous system. Of course, Nia’s blend of mindfulness, music, movement and community connection is also wonderful medicine.

It’s the practices that we prioritise every day that prepare us for when life throws us a curve ball or we feel generally overwhelmed. Being able to consciously control our breathing in times of stress and anxiety can improve how we feel and how we respond.

Experience the healing and transformative power of intentional breathing

Check out some of the many breathwork resources available or join me via YouTube for a 9 minute 5 Stages practice. In addition to integrating breathing techniques in our Nia classes, stay tuned for some upcoming online mindfulness and breathwork sessions with me or contact me for one-on-one appointments, in person or online.

MBSR meditation with Jon Kabat-Zinn – 4 minutes

LETTING GO – 9 Magic Breaths meditation with Tara Brach – 6 minutes

WIM HOF METHOD – free mini class of power breathing

BREATHWORK CLASS – with Chris Keener – 45 minutes

HOW TO BREATHE and why most of us are doing it wrong – Dr. Belisa Vranich TEDx – 10 minutes

BREATHE – Joe DiStefano TEDx (at 12 minutes – learn how he uses 5 Stages with professional athletes) – 17 minutes

10 Physical and Mental Health Benefits of Breathing Exercises
  • feeling calmer, more focussed and non-reactive
  • lowers blood pressure and heart rate
  • improves immune system functioning
  • better balance of oxygen and CO2 in the blood
  • increases physical energy
  • improves metabolism and digestion
  • more compassion, less rigidity
  • increases inner peace and mental clarity
  • decreases symptoms of trauma and PTSD
  • helps release suppressed grief

Sophie Marsh © 2022 • Web Design Seedhead

5 WAYS TO MOTIVATE YOURSELF TO GET MOVING WHEN YOU DON’T FEEL LIKE IT

5 WAYS TO MOTIVATE YOURSELF TO GET MOVING WHEN YOU DON’T FEEL LIKE IT

5 WAYS TO MOTIVATE YOURSELF TO GET MOVING WHEN YOU DON’T FEEL LIKE IT

“The patterns that you repeat on a daily basis will eventually form the identity that you believe in and the actions that you take.” ~ James Clear, Atomic Habits 

We all know how important moving your body is for your physical, mental and emotional health and happiness. But that knowledge may not be enough to create a new habit or move you out of inertia, especially when the weather turns chilly or it’s raining again or your energy is low or your “off days” have turned into “off weeks”! 

If you’ve fallen out of your routine and are feeling a bit blah, make time today to check in with yourself and re-prioritise the areas of your life that are calling for the medicine of your attention. 

I acknowledge that many of us are facing personal, family, and financial struggles as well as feeling the heaviness of world events. My desire is to support and inspire you to make healing choices that create more joy, presence and vibrant wellbeing. 

Here are 5 ways that may help you over the hump to find your movement mojo again.

5 tips to turn on your inner coach + motivate yourself to get moving. 

1. Visualise how good you’ll feel afterwards

Sometimes when you’re stressed or depleted in energy, you can forget that moving body helps to release tension and leaves you feeling uplifted and mentally engaged, especially when you to tune in to your needs and integrate the whole body, mind and spirit (like Nia does).

Picture just how good you’ll feel when you make the time for yourself and give your body some movement medicine! It’s almost impossible to not feel vibrant, awake, and energised when you’re Nia dancing.

2. Find your why

Give yourself a compelling reason to get moving. What’s a fitness or lifestyle goal that is motivating to you?

If feeling better isn’t enough of itself, maybe it’s that you want to reduce the symptoms of menopause, be able to get up and down from the earth with ease, fit last year’s jeans, make new friends, or go for coffee with your community after class! Keep this goal in mind anytime you want to skip a class.

3. Mix it up

They say variety is the spice of life! Variety and consistency are also essential to keep your body systems and your mind healthy. For both physical and mental fitness, we need to keep learning and change things up.

That’s one of the (many) benefits of Nia… there are so many combinations of music and movement plus a different class focus each time, it’s never the same way twice!

4. Make it fun!

In Nia we say “Stop exercising to get fit. Start moving to feel good!” The joy of movement is the secret to sustaining your commitment. If it feels like a chore or a bore, you won’t want to do it.

Find an activity you enjoy, and if you’ve lost that loving feeling, ask yourself what you need to put the FUN back into your movement routine. Learn how to get more from your Nia class experience by taking a Nia FUNdamentals workshop or the Nia White Belt training.

5. Make it so easy you can’t say no

If you’re committed to doing things better than you are now – in other words, if you’re serious about sticking to good habits – then you have to start small. The path to wellness, presence, joy, fulfillment, meaning, and vitality comes through thousands of daily decisions. Those tiny daily habits turn into your routine. Become the kind of person who moves more everyday. Make it part of your lifestyle.

If you’re struggling to find motivation, set a minimum bar for yourself to just get going again. What’s ONE SMALL THING you can do today… and the day after tomorrow… and… before you know it… you’ve… got… momentum!

A 2009 study published by health psychology researcher Phillippa Lally found, “on average, it takes66 days before a new behaviour becomes automatic. And how long it takes a new habit to form can vary widely depending on the behaviour, the person, and the circumstances – anywhere from 18 days to 254 days.”  Why not start today?

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”  ~Aristotle

Sophie Marsh © 2022 • Web Design Seedhead

10 TIPS FOR TAKING AN ONLINE NIA CLASS

10 TIPS FOR TAKING AN ONLINE NIA CLASS

10 TIPS FOR TAKING AN ONLINE NIA CLASS

Nia has been a lifeline for me many times over the past 22 years, and the pandemic has taken that to another level. Nia positively engages your body, mind, emotions and spirit, and can offer a much needed respite from external stress and your own mind-chatter. I am deeply grateful to offer online Nia classes and connect people through movement with the invitation to stay on for a chat afterwards. Can’t make it live… catch the replay available until the next day!

 New to Nia online?
These 10 tips will help you get the most out of your class.

  1. Set up your tech. 

    • If you can, turn off other devices that are using the WiFi or even better, use an ethernet cable to plug directly into your router to ensure a more stable and stronger connection.
    • Close all your other browsers/apps
    • Improve sound quality by using bluetooth headphones or speakers, or plug in computer speakers, like Logitech or connect to your tv screen
    • make sure your microphone is on MUTE (bottom left corner), especially if you come on late. I will unmute everybody at the end of class for our chat.
    • STOP VIDEO (bottom left corner) means you won’t be seen, but will still see me during class. This can help if you are getting lag or freezing.
    • If there’s a lag between the visual and audio, look away from the screen as often as you can, listen to the music and follow your own body’s way
  2. Safety and comfort come first. Find or claim a clear floor space where you can see whatever device you are using for the Zoom classes, and are able to move your whole body without running into furniture, walls or other people! Make sure the room is well ventilated and a comfortable temperature. Maybe you have a verandah or outside space, like Deb in the Adelaide Hills who dances on a garden deck under the camilla tree.

  3. What’s on the floor matters. Nia is designed to be done barefoot on a floor with some yield. While I have taught weekly classes for over 13 years on linoleum/concrete (Sherwood Neighbourhood Centre) and carpet/concrete (Pure Health clubs), it requires a higher level of attention to minimise impact on the bones and joints if the flooring doesn’t “give”.

    If you don’t have wooden floors, here are some ideas…
    – Put a rug (or 2) over the floor to give you some padding,
    – Create a dance area with yoga mats gaffer taped together (so there’s no risk of tripping over edges) or even better with foam play-mats – $10 from KMart (4 mats 60x60x 1cm thick) or $19.50 per mat from Southern Cross Mats (100x100x 2 cm thick)
    – Wear a soft sole shoe. Thick soled running shoes are not ideal for Nia as they stiffen the foot and change your natural movement. Shoes that have more “give” in the sole and allow your foot to articulate are better, but whatever you’ve got is better than sore joints from impact!

  4. Life As Art. Nia’s lifestyle practice for altering your perception and seeing the everyday as extraordinary, brings inspiration to your body and life. Most of us won’t have an ideal or dedicated dance space. So what can you do to make your at home dance space more visually and energetically pleasing to you? Is there a meaningful object you could add, like Tracy from Adelaide who changed her dining room into her Nia space, and decorated it with treasured pieces from Bali; or Anthea in Brisbane who hung a crystal in the window and dances with the rainbows in her room as the sun shines through.

  5. Do you need to declutter? If your space feels busy or chaotic, can you remove some clutter or arrange things so that your nervous system feels calmer. Jeanette from Brisbane shared after her first online class, “I used to prepare for Nia by getting in the mindset while I drove to class where the space was already created for us to move. Now I’m motivated to do some clearing and cleaning to prepare my own space so I can move without distractions.”
  6. Use all your senses. Surround yourself with things you’ll love to see, smell, hear and touch. I’m blessed to live where there’s always birdsong and there have been a couple of times when butterflies or mating dragonflies have flown through the space while I’m teaching! In my space, I have plants in the corner, and a treasured painting gifted to me by the 2014 Ocean Shores White Belt grads. Before each class, I light candles and add different essential oils depending on what I need. I’m loving my Doterra Frankincense (to strengthen and invigorate the respiratory system); Balance blend (to feel grounded and centred); Citrus Bloom (to feel happy and invigorated); Lavender Peace (ahhhhh…)

Science-based reasons to “Smell the Moment”… and mood enhancing aromatherapy.

  • A small 2015 study done on women in Japan found that inhaled bergamot oil mixed with water vapour reduced feelings of anxiety and fatigue.
  • A small 2013 study concluded that peppermint essential oil is effective for preventing fatigue and improving exercise performance.
  • A 2016 study concluded that the inhalation of sweet orange (Citrus sinensis) and spearmint (Mentha spicata) essential oils could improve athletic performance.
  • A 2012 study first showed the stimulatory effects of rosemary oil and how it impacts mood states as well as brain wave activity and the autonomic nervous system. A 2018 study on school children confirmed that rosemary could help focus and memory, potentially boosting memorisation in school.

An older study in 2008 concluded that lemon oil reliably enhances positive mood.

Let me know if you’d like to order any Doterra oils. I’m happy to pass on wholesale prices.

7. Sound Advice. A big part of Nia’s magic is the music. Having quality audio at your end can make such a difference to your experience, so if you can, connect your Zoom device to a Bluetooth or computer speaker set, or use a set of Bluetooth headphones. There are settings you might need to change in Zoom Preferences under “Audio” to optimise the connection and volume.

If you share your home with others, you might need to be mindful of who else is at home, though you never know… you might inspire your loved ones to join you! Theresa shared Nia with her partner Peter for the first time when they Zoomed on his iPhone, shared the screen and then cast it to their Smart TV. He loved it!

8. Creating the Space is a mindfulness practice we learn in our Nia trainings to eliminate internal distractions. We sit and invite stillness into our body, mind, emotions and spirit, waiting for the sensation of being centred in embodied presence to arise. A minute can make a big difference.

You might create your own ritual for removing distractions and preparing your space to dance, like lighting a candle, or set an intention as you enter the space, choosing a card for your daily practice, or smudging some sage to clear the energy. Maybe you’ll get dressed up to dance… or maybe you’ll stay in your PJs! Make choices that light up your life-force and help you slip into a sensation of sensuous sacred self-care.

9. Arrive early to do a sound check.  Set yourself up for success by linking in 5 minutes before class begins to set your volume and troubleshoot any problems. You’ll step in feeling relaxed and ready rather than rushed and frustrated.

10. Dance like no one’s watching. Magic happens when you listen to the music and move in harmony with your own body’s guidance, feeling connected to a greater source of aliveness. Many students are sharing that they are experiencing a deepening of their awareness and becoming more in tune with their own body sensation and Joy. Dancing online at home, they are able to let go of getting it right and relish the liberation of literally dancing like no one’s watching.

The best way to get the most out of Nia online is to do it!! Your FIRST WEEK is FREE.
Connect with Sophie if you have any concerns or questions.

Sophie Marsh © 2022 • Web Design Seedhead

7 TIPS FOR NIA BEGINNERS

7 TIPS FOR NIA BEGINNERS

7 TIPS FOR NIA BEGINNERS

People all over the world have fallen in love with the way practising Nia makes them feel – joyful, empowered, lighter, inspired – like themselves again. While the moves are simple, the practice is deep, and the transformation profound.  But first… you need to get started! 

 New to Nia?  Here are 7 things you might like to know.

  1. Nia welcomes everybody, whatever your age, body shape, fitness level, or ability. Leave your worries at the door, step in with a “beginner’s mind” and tune into your own way of moving. Simply relax and be yourself. You belong here, just as you are.
  2. Take a deep breath – “smell the moment” – and come home to your body NOW.  Throughout the class you’ll be invited to pay attention to sensations in your body. This mindful aspect of Nia helps anchor you in the moment, moving with purpose, and without judgement.
  3. Go gently and give yourself time. It’s natural to feel a bit nervous or un-co when you start something new. You’ll receive guidance that is supportive and inspiring, without any push. Play with a slower speed or moving in a smaller range of motion if that helps you find more pleasure and ease. Energise the moves when you feel ready.
  4. It’s all about the base! Start with the rhythm of the feet and leg movements. Listen to the music and find your groove.When you feel ready add the core, arms and hands. Nia gets the whole body moving from the ground up.
  5. Dress up, dress down, dress for fun. Wear anything that makes you feel free, comfortable, and excited to move. No shoes are needed as Nia is designed to be done barefoot. If you have any foot concerns or medical advice, you can always choose to wear a soft-soled shoe.
  6. Every Nia class begins with a FOCUS (what we put our attention on) and an INTENTION (a desired outcome).  For example, the focus might be on the breath with the intention to feel more centred and calm.The focus helps you get out of your busy mind and into your body and makes every class feel purposeful, pleasurable and unique.
  7. Towards the end of class, we move to the earth for FLOORPLAY to stimulate self-healing and conditioning. Again, options are presented so you can make choices that feel right for you. You are also welcome to use a yoga mat or chair or do the movement against a wall, or simply rest.

The best way to find out if Nia is for you is to try a class or 2… or 3…
In person and/or online, your FIRST WEEK is FREE
Connect with Sophie if you have any concerns or questions.  Start today!

 

Sophie Marsh © 2022 • Web Design Seedhead

STUDY AFFIRMS BENEFITS OF NIA

STUDY AFFIRMS BENEFITS OF NIA

STUDY AFFIRMS BENEFITS OF NIA

A 2022 study published in the International Journal of Social Work revealed physical mental and wellbeing benefits felt immediately after doing Nia.

This U.S study assessed 56 healthy adults after taking a 1-hour Nia class:

  • 98% agreed or strongly agreed that they felt better in their physical body.
  • 100% experienced their mood improve.
  • 100% felt they had released stress.
  • 96% agreed they had creatively expressed their unique self.
  • 89% affirmed they connected with at least one other person during class.
  • 69.3% of participants reported using Nia class skills in their daily life between classes.

READ MORE

Sophie Marsh © 2022 • Web Design Seedhead

WHEN THERE’S TURBULENCE IN THE WORLD, WHAT CAN I SOFTEN?

WHEN THERE’S TURBULENCE IN THE WORLD, WHAT CAN I SOFTEN?

WHEN THERE’S TURBULENCE IN THE WORLD, WHAT CAN I SOFTEN?

 “It’s the hard things that break; soft things don’t break.” ~  C.Joybell.  

With so much turbulence and trauma in the world – personal, local and global – I haven’t felt like writing a newsletter. Sometimes there are just no words…

While our home took in some water in the recent floods, I feel lucky compared to the utter devastation experienced by so many in our communities. My heart goes out to those who have lost their homes or loved ones, and breaks for those in the grips of war. These events affect us all.

As moments of anxiety and distress come up throughout our lives, it is crucial that we give ourselves the space to fully feel and move through them, rather than brace against them or store tension in our bodies. Softening helps our nervous system regulate and return to the calmest centre of our self.

Check in and ask your body now, “What can I soften?” Eyes… jaw… shoulders… heart… belly… legs..?

The practice of turning toward our pain and meeting our suffering with kindness and awareness can support us in opening to greater love, feeling to heal. As we soften and breath into our cells, we simultaneously self-heal and become more humane.

Personal connection with a community can help us feel supported that we are not alone in our feelings, and help us return to the innate goodness of our hearts.

More than ever, we need practices that can evolve consciousness from an “us vs them” mentality to a culture of “we” – practices that move us into our highest vibration and motivate us to act for our collective wellbeing.

Nia moves us into awareness of our sensing body and our energy centres so we can respond with softness as we feel “all the feels” and express our uniqueness. Nia also helps us mindfully connect with one another, to accept without exception, cocreate with joy, and remember that we are all here for something greater than ourselves.

As we raise our own resonance – from fear to curiosity, judgment to compassion, heaviness to aliveness – we uplift not only ourselves, but others as well. Let’s be brave enough to choose to find a way – any way at all – to be a light of hope amidst the darkness.

If you haven’t been to class for a while, I would love to welcome you back. I miss you.

A FEW OF MY FAVOURITE THINGS RIGHT NOW

PODCAST Stolen Focus: THIS is why you’re finding the world too much.  Sarah Wilson and Johann Hari (52 mins)

BOOK Sacred Rest: Recover Your Life, Renew Your Energy, Restore Your Sanity by Dr Saundra Dalton-Smith

TED TALK How to make stress your friend. Kelly McGonigal (14 mins)

CALENDAR Check the Nia class calendar for changes through April’s public holidays. West End Nia IS on Easter Saturday!

“BREATHE”  Enjoy breathing, stretching and softening with this cool down sequence. Gift yourself a dance break… 6 minutes of music and movement to feel better now!

If you enjoy it, I’d appreciate if you’d like or comment and while you’re there… SUBSCRIBE to my YouTube channel!

Sophie Marsh © 2022 • Web Design Seedhead

FINDING ALIVENESS + PEACE NOW

FINDING ALIVENESS + PEACE NOW

FINDING ALIVENESS + PEACE NOW

“Everything that I am stating is obvious. What is the obvious? That you are alive. This is obvious. That peace that you look for is inside of you. That is obvious. Everything else, in a moment’s notice, can change. The only thing that doesn’t change is your strength, your beauty, your joy. You, after all, are a human being.”
~Prem Rawat 

Bringing Your Awareness from outside yourself, into your body

To live in a human body is a precious gift. Our bodies are sacred vessels of aliveness and portals for peace. They carry the potential for self-knowledge, self-healing, love, and compassion if we are open to paying attention and learning. Coming home to the body with awareness can offer a refuge amidst the uncertainties of life.

In our disembodied society, we habitually seek safety and control by looking outside ourselves, avoiding our feelings, and living in our thoughts. We resist what is, and try and figure things out, all of which takes us away from being present in our body where our joy and inner peace reside.

Purposefully paying attention in the present moment, without judgment is the cornerstone of mindfulness. Nia as a mindful movement practice deepens our capacity to cope with anxiety and other difficult emotions by gently interrupting runaway thinking and feeling, and anchoring our awareness in our “Now Body”, where our deepest truths live.

BODY AWARENESS PRACTICE

Take your attention into a body part – your feet, arms, belly, heart, whatever you choose. Then hold your awareness there. Stay with it and notice what you feel, without judgment or commentary. With time  you might feel like there’s a space within this body part, or some warmth, tingling, or aliveness around it.

Keep your attention there and if you become distracted by thought, that’s ok. Just keep breathing and returning to body awareness. As you practise you might begin to feel a larger sense of spaciousness throughout your whole body. Be with the felt sense of your aliveness and peace now.

PUTTING MINDFULNESS IN MOTION

When practised with self-compassion and radical acceptance, mindfulness unites the body, mind and heart in remarkable ways. It creates a sense of spacious stillness that helps us feel more at choice than reactive in the moment. In Nia we practise choosing Joy in the face of fear (or any emotion). We invite possibilities alongside hopelessness. We seek connection instead of separating ourselves. We perceive more pleasure and peace, even when there’s pain. We cultivate calm in the chaos.

Mindfulness doesn’t mean sitting still. When we bring awareness to our body in motion, we can experience whatever we are currently doing as something we have never done before. The most ordinary activity – washing a cup, brushing our teeth, preparing a meal – can take on a magical, one-of-a-kind, never-to-be-repeated quality, that Nia calls Dancing Through Life.

By reawakening the skills of feeling, sensing, and intuiting, we can allow the wisdom of the body to emerge, to guide and inform us. Living through sensation we tap into our primal intelligence and access more physical vitality, heart tenderness, sensual power, mental wellness and spiritual presence.

WELCOMING 2022

As we find ourselves in another incredibly challenging time thanks to Omicron, many of us may be feeling pulled into a heady tailspin of anxiety, frustration, and resistance. We’ve certainly been thrown out of the nest! And I’m deeply grateful for the 4 pillars of Nia – Mindfulness, Movement, Connection, Joy – that support us returning to our body in the here and now, to find peace and freedom in the midst of this mess.

At a time when there is a plethora of changing and conflicting information, the ability to tune into our body and trust what we sense helps us take our power back, choose how we want to feel, and take our next steps. Here’s to being lifted by love and joy, and feeling alive with hope and lots of dancing in 2022.

“Peace is this moment without thinking
that it should be some other way,
that you should feel some other thing,
that your life should unfold according to your plans.

Peace is this moment without judgment,
this moment in the Heart-space where
everything that is is welcome.”
~ Dorothy Hunt

Sophie Marsh © 2022 • Web Design Seedhead

HOW RECLAIMING YOUR PLEASURE CAN HELP YOU REMEMBER WHO YOU ARE

HOW RECLAIMING YOUR PLEASURE CAN HELP YOU REMEMBER WHO YOU ARE

HOW RECLAIMING YOUR PLEASURE CAN HELP YOU REMEMBER WHO YOU ARE

“When barriers are put in front of you, it’s God or the Universe asking you to remember who you are, and reminding you not to let yourself be defined by things outside of you.” ~ Christine Ebersole 

The personal, professional, and communal impact this pandemic has taken on our body, mind, heart, and soul is deep and real. We are dealing with a collective loss of the world we knew, and so much more.

Beneath the pain, fear, and division, can we choose to somehow feel this loss as an opportunity to become more tender, more open, more passionately alive… to remember who we are in our true nature?

“The heart of most spiritual practices is simply this: Remember who you are. Remember what you love. Remember what is sacred. Remember what is true. Remember that you will die and that this day is a gift. Remember how you wish to live.” Wayne Muller

PLEASURE AS A PATH TO REMEMBERING

There is an enormous untapped potential for pleasure in every one of us that is yearning to be fully explored.  Pleasure is the visceral, body-felt experience of wellbeing. While it’s often associated with sexuality or instant gratification, intrinsic pleasure is way more than that.

Pleasure is the embodiment of satisfaction and fulfilment – a deep delight with life – and research shows that this feeling is essential for healing and thriving in body, mind, emotions and spirit wellness.  

Having a pleasure practice (or many!) opens us to more meaningful connections, creative expression, and everyday Joy. It also helps us be more resilient during stressful times and strengthens our capacity to make good things happen. Who doesn’t need that?!

YOUR BODY REMEMBERS
Lie or sit comfortably. Take a moment to connect within, feeling your breath, feeling your body. When you feel present in yourself, bring into your awareness a place or time when you felt exquisitely energised and deeply fulfilled.  Stay with that memory and breath it in, letting the feeling wash through your whole body. If that feeling was a 9 or 10 out of 10, what number are you now in your daily experience of pleasure and inner contentment?

IT’S OK IF YOU FORGOT
Collectively, we’ve been under additional stress for a long time now, as well as having our own personal challenges. If you’ve unplugged from pleasure or feel disconnected from your heart’s desires, you’re not alone!  Many of us are still in survival mode, doing our best to adapt to this new world. If you’ve lost that lovin’ feeling, be gentle on yourself.

“When we come close to those things that break us down, we touch those things that also break us open. And in that breaking open, we uncover our true nature.” Wayne Muller

Reflecting with compassion and kindness can empower you to accept, process and communicate whatever you are feeling.  Remember that the magnificence we are in our essence is big enough to validate and hold all feelings. Remember our birthright is physical vitality, emotional vibrancy, and spiritual peace.

EMBODYING EVERYTHING THAT IS YOUR JOY
Conscious action creates embodiment. Research suggests that practising little and often is the most helpful at effecting change. Every time you do something different, you are laying down neural pathways in the brain – so the more you do it, the quicker this will happen.

Bear in mind, ‘remembering’ is not about self-improvement or looking outside of yourself for happiness. It’s prioritising practices (like breathwork, mindfulness, or Nia) that ground you in the miracle of the present moment, free you up to be yourself, and turn you on to inhabiting your body as love.

“Through pleasure, we can reconnect with our most authentic joys, and the more we do, the more deeply and unequivocally we can contact our truest self and the truest selves of the people we love.”
~ Stella Resnick, The Pleasure Zone

Let’s remember we are all divine beings expressing through a very human experience. We are still in this together. We are here to heal, live purposeful lives, and embody everything that is our Joy. Prioritise your pleasure daily and you’ll soon feel deeper satisfaction as you dance through life.

Sophie Marsh © 2022 • Web Design Seedhead

WHAT IS BODY NEUTRALITY + 5 WAYS TO PRACTISE IT

WHAT IS BODY NEUTRALITY + 5 WAYS TO PRACTISE IT

WHAT IS BODY NEUTRALITY + 5 WAYS TO PRACTISE IT

“My body is not yours to critique and discuss. My body is not yours for consumption. My body is my vessel. An archive of experiences. A weapon that has fought battles only I understand. A library of love, pain, struggle, victory, and mystery. Your eyes cannot define all it has endured. Do not place value upon my body, place it upon my being.” ~ Sophie Lewis 

“Body Neutrality” is a mindful practice of self-acceptance, where you focus on what your body can do, rather than what it looks like, separating self-worth from body image. Rather than being “body positive” it invites you to make peace with your body and respect the whole person that you are, just as you are.

We’ve probably all looked in the mirror at some point in our lives and judged a specific area of our body as not looking the way we’d like it to. While that may seem harmless enough, ruminating over our appearance or body shape adversely affects our mental health and overall sense of wellbeing.

A few weeks ago I was visiting my dad, who at 78 prides himself on his “fit, trim frame.” As I was leaving, his partner commented on how “scrawny” I looked.  “No, she’s not,” my dad defended. “Look how big her thighs are!”

I’m grateful to now be in a place to not let these kinds of comments land, as they did for the first half of my life.  But it prompted me to reflect that if I won’t allow others to speak this way about my body, why would I do it to myself?

The answer lies in mainstream politics, popular culture, and traditional and social media, which by-and-large still perpetuates an unattainable, objectifying view of women’s bodies (even more so in the ‘fitness industry’), and excludes people of colour, trans people, and people who are older or in larger bodies or differently abled. While shift is happening, we’ve got a long way to go…

Until age 30 when I stepped into Nia, I didn’t even realise that my low self-worth and disrespect for my body came from systemic and family conditioning. The idea of loving my body when it was so far from what I perceived as ideal seemed impossible, just something else I was failing at.

No surprise, I instantly resonated with Nia’s feel good to look good, beauty from the inside out philosophy.  Through Nia’s body-centred education, the more I learned about the miraculous workings of the body, the more I let go of worrying about appearances and began to appreciate and be in awe of my own body. This is also the philosophy and psychology of body neutrality, a term that was coined in 2010. Nia began in 1983.

With mindful practices of body awareness and body gratitude, Nia teaches us to ask, “What is my body telling me right now?” Maybe it needs a glass of water, a shift in posture, some deep breaths, a hug, or a dance break. Learning to communicate neutrally with your body can make a big difference to your physical and mental health. Over time your body-mind will feel more at peace because you’re listening, responding to its messages, and saying thank you for what feels better.

Rather than giving energy to how our body looks, in Nia we tune in and choose to do what makes our body feel alive, a sensation and vibration that promotes health in every cell, organ and body system. Joy is not always being smiley, upbeat and positive. It’s about being real – acknowledging the often-heartbreaking truth of our human experience AND sensing the boundlessness of our spirit.

Through Nia I’ve learned a body neutrality mindset – to cherish and care for my body as a sacred temple of self-healing; as a vessel that has carried and birthed 3 children; as a life partner that keeps my heart pumping and my breath flowing, even with pain, illness or exhaustion; as a wise guide that only speaks truth about what I am thinking and feeling; as my soul’s home in this one precious life.

As I move through menopause, Nia’s body neutral approach is helping me embrace “The Change” even if I don’t always love it. Listening to my intuitive body, I’m tweaking my diet/nutrition, sleep, movement, play, and pleasure. Most of the time I feel fantastic! When I don’t, brain fog, bloating, restlessness, and moodiness lets me know I need to tweak again. Thank you, body.

It’s ok not to feel body positive all the time – we are all made of strength and struggle. Everybody is worthy of love, even in the moments when we do not love ourselves. Peace comes when we practise self-acceptance, authenticity and body gratitude. In Nia, you belong, just as you are.

5 WAYS TO PRACTISE BODY NEUTRALITY

  1. Prioritize and celebrate health, not weight loss/gain.
  2. Nurture and nourish your body – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Practice intuitive eating.
  3. Find a movement practice (like Nia!) that is adaptable, intuitive and forgiving, rather than a “one size fits all” approach. When you feel low on energy, don’t give yourself a hard time for taking it easy.
  4. Do not comment on another’s body size, even if it’s meant as a compliment.
  5. When you notice yourself criticising your body, consider instead what it’s doing for you in the moment. Focus on its strength and ability to heal, to move, to adapt.

Sophie Marsh © 2022 • Web Design Seedhead

FROM ANXIETY TO AUTHENTICITY + A LITTLE BIT OF ANNIE’S STORY

FROM ANXIETY TO AUTHENTICITY + A LITTLE BIT OF ANNIE’S STORY

FROM ANXIETY TO AUTHENTICITY + A LITTLE BIT OF ANNIE’S STORY

“We are all born with a story, It is our choice whether we want to live the story we were born with or create one that nourishes all we want to be.” ~ Amy Sophia Marashinsky 

Authenticity is a daily practice, a practice that begins by dropping out of your head and into your body, into your heart. Your body is home for your spirit. It feels expansive when you are using your energy in the direction of truth and love for yourself.

Many of us learned from a very young age to morph into what was expected of us by our culture and our caregivers. We had good reasons to adapt – to feel safe or get the love, time, or attention that we needed and deserved. For many, those “good reasons” eventually developed into false beliefs that we are not enough, just as we are.

Survival instincts and brain wiring can keep us stuck in old patterns of wounding. It also stops us from knowing and being the fullest expression of our unique magnificence. As adults, we can consciously notice when we are disconnected from our authenticity and make another choice. This is where the practise comes in!

Nia’s body-centred awareness helps you recognise tightness or restrictions that often shows up when you are feeling anxiety, fear or unworthiness, or engaging in judgment, people pleasing, or perfectionism.

When you feel the body contracting, invite in kindness, compassion and curiosity, without judging what you are feeling. You’re just doing what you learned to do to stay safe. Chances are, you are safe now, but you’re stuck in this learned behaviour of worrying about what other people think of you or replaying negative messages.

Make some time to sit with yourself and enquire, “What beliefs about myself do I need to let go of so I can nurture and embrace who I am?”  “What new belief will serve my highest good?”  Notice what beliefs bring the most joy or energy in your body? Repeat those!

Your body is wired for self-healing, unwinding trauma, releasing thought patterns, accessing ecstatic states, expressing creativity and being in deep communion with the divine.

If you are struggling, it’s so important to reach out for help. There’s no shame in asking for support, making mistakes, falling down, or failing. We’re not meant to do it alone. In fact, failure means you are open to living life, taking risks, and is essential in developing compassion, humility, resilience and connection.

Nia’s somatic education teaches you how to shift your attention and intention,to tune into your body, quieten the mind chatter, connect with spirit and make choices from love. You learn to sense authenticity as inner peace and joyful aliveness, and to recognise when you’ve lost that connection.

The brain’s bias means we’re much more likely to remember and believe the bad stuff, which is why it takes daily practise to get out of the lower left brain of survival and access the right brain where we can connect with our highest guidance. Years of therapy, study, training and life experience have been powerful teachers for me on this path.  

a little bit of Annie’s Story

One of my greatest teachers has been my 19 year old daughter Annie who last week surprised me (and my students) by popping into the Bali Hut as a “back up dancer” for our online Nia class.

Annie has struggled for many years with complicated mental health issues including anxiety and addiction. It’s been a heartbreaking and challenging time for us, and I’m proud of her willingness to learn and heal (and how this has helped me learn and heal too.)

When she said yes to dancing alongside me, it felt deeply meaningful. Having taken maybe a handful of classes ever, and with no preparation, Annie agreed to step in and be on camera for the “live class” and replay. I was so excited (and a little nervous!) Thankfully, in Nia we have a mindful practise for leaving distractions behind!

Afterwards, she shared how much she enjoyed it and how good she felt. Without feeling like she needed to perform, she wore her “concentration face” for most of the class. My mumma heart is bursting with love for her courage to show up, have a go, and be seen in her authentic power.

Of course I let her know she’s welcome to dance beside me anytime and also that I had no expectations around that.  Her face lit up… “oh mum… I’m excited to do it again!”

Take a 5 minute dance break with me to the song “If I Were Brave” and feel into the lyrics, “What would I do if I knew I could not fail? Never lose faith even when losing my way… What step will I take, today? I am brave!”

Sophie Marsh © 2022 • Web Design Seedhead