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

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

10 WAYS TO DANCE WITH YOUR INNER CRITIC

10 WAYS TO DANCE WITH YOUR INNER CRITIC

10 WAYS TO DANCE WITH YOUR INNER CRITIC

“Courage… is to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.” ~Brene Brown 

Growing into a people pleasing perfectionist

As a child, I remember interpreting “you can be anything except mediocre” as an expectation that I needed to excel at whatever I did.  Internalised as a fear of rejection and failure, it soon developed into an unquenchable quest for achievement, accolades, and people-pleasing.

To be loveable, my inner critic translated ‘always do your best’ into ‘you have to be the best.’ This impossible standard meant constantly pushing myself, comparing, competing and judging – a wild ride between ‘not enough’ and ‘over the top’.

I lived with a shameful secret that I was acting how I thought I was supposed to be instead of just being myself. From studies to my corporate career, to marriage and motherhood the perfectionist voice only got louder.

Sometimes her voice stopped me from trying new things I feared I might not be good at or quitting before I could fail. Needing to get it right, I’d be anxious or overbearing, often without being sensitive to the needs or feelings of others.

I’ve walked away from relationships and situations where I couldn’t meet my own or another’s high expectations. Of course I kept attracting those people and experiences into my life to prove my inner critic right, just as I’ve judged others for not living up to my ideal. We are all mirrors after all.

By the time I stepped into my first Nia class in 1999 I felt like a fraud. My inner critic (who by then I’d named ‘Susie Homemaker’) was running the show. I wore a mask of happy-wife and super-Mum (or so I thought), while inside me raged a battle of postpartum blues, inadequacy and overwhelm.

“When the student is ready, the teacher appears.” ~ Tao Te Ching

How Nia helped me find my authentic self

In the welcoming, non-judgmental, ‘no wrong way’ vibe of Nia classes, Susie Homemaker was made redundant, and the ‘real me’ began to feel safe to come out and play. There were even bigger shifts after my first Nia White Belt – learning to choose and embody Joy, to trust the felt sense of my authentic YES, to step into my power, to tell my story with my whole heart, and to follow my sacred purpose. The rest they say… is a long slow path to recovery!!

“The time will come when, with elation you will greet yourself arriving at your own door, in your own mirror and each will smile at the other’s welcome…” ~ Love After Love Derek Walcott

My wisest teachers have been my 3 children. At  7 years old, Sam stopped me in my comparison dance by saying, “Mum, you’re looking in the wrong direction. You can always find people better or worse off than you.” (he’s now 24 and still calling me out!)  My daughters inspire me to continue learning about loving myself, to fully live the awkward, human, messy and sometimes scary dance of life without pretence, and to help women find their voice and feel safe to speak their truth even in the face of upsetting another… or a whole culture!

Nia co-creator Debbie Rosas and my colleagues in the International Training Faculty embody the spirit of Nia as a business and practice founded on Love, acceptance, and collaboration. And  I am grateful for you and our caring Nia Australia community – passionate people want to do their best, connect authentically, and make a positive difference in the world – together.

“By living your life out loud, unafraid of the opinions of others, you may inspire someone who was feeling lost and encourage them to join you on your campaign of uniqueness.” ~Walk On Your Wild Side Day, 12 April

Self-mastery is certainly not for the faint-hearted!  It takes courage to break down – processing pain, feeling to heal, learning a different way. And Susie Homemaker still likes to have her say! I recognise her in my body as bracing rather than embracing, breath-holding instead of space-holding. While she speaks the language of concern, comparison and blame, through Nia I have re-learned the language of my body, mind, heart and soul – love, divine guidance, uniqueness, choice, Joy.

Now I listen and dance with her, a sensuous dance of love and self-compassion… I ask her what she needs to feel safe and gently remind her that perfectly imperfect is right for us now.

10 WAYS TO DANCE WITH YOUR INNER CRITIC

  1. Soften and breathe. Invite her into a slow, sensuous dance of Tai Chi or harmonious Aikido.
  2. Lighten her up by connecting to the sensation of Joy. Recognise that dimming your light to please others is a form of lack.
  3. The more you think about it the bigger it gets, so focus on and give gratitude for what you want more of; recognise and thank yourself for what you did well today. Teach your daughters it’s ok to brag!
  4. FreeDance and let your your inner critic release and express herself or sing all out (aka car therapy). Give her a theme song like Love to Be Loved or Only Human OR amplify an empowered voice This Is Me or Remember
  5. Satisfy your senses and make time for pleasure. Fantasise and daydream… even thinking about it helps us feel better.
  6. Witness your beliefs and stories around comparison and lack, the ones that come with sensations of tightening or heaviness in the body. The brain has neuroplasticity and CAN be rewired; it’s never too late to create a new story of abunDance and possibility!
  7. Surround yourself with people who you respect and adore and who respect and adore you just as you are, and who will also call you on your ‘stuff’!
  8. Rejoice in the prosperity of others. Celebrating their successes brings a magic that expands your heart and juices your spirit.
  9. “I love life and life loves me!” Know it’s never too late to begin… anything!
  10. Laugh. Play. Have fun. Get out in nature. Give your inner critic the week off! Gift yourself the Nia White Belt training.

Sophie Marsh © 2022 • Web Design Seedhead