I LOVE Nia! I love any kind of exercise that doesn’t feel like work.
As an Innovation Management Consultant, my work is focused on corporate culture as it relates to employee engagement. Based on the research I have done and personal experience, the engagement of employees is directly affected by whether or not the leadership of an organization can clearly articulate the fundamental reason for the company’s existence, not what they are doing and how they are doing it, but WHY they are doing it. The employee’s work is purpose driven and that is the new business essential.
I was invited to facilitate an Executive Leadership training retreat for a company that was experiencing the pains that come with rapid growth. The President and CEO of the company asked, “How do you innovatively manage change in the corporate environment?” And this is where my Nia practice came forth. I was able to use four of the nine Nia movement forms in this workshop: Tai Chi, Yoga, the Alexander Technique and the work of Moshe Feldenkreis.
1st Step: Personal Awareness
I shared with them that the first step in the change process is starting with personal awareness. It is experiencing the ‘me’ before we can move out into our individual teams and then into the entire workplace environment. It is the ability to perceive and to feel what is alive in us. It is the capacity to be conscious of events, objects, thoughts, emotions, sensations and sensory patterns without having to imply understanding. It is the state or quality of being aware of something in the present moment.
I started with ‘body awareness’ and talked about creativity and the body and those feelings start in the body and not in the head. As so beautifully expressed by producer and writer Barnet Bain, “Thoughts and feelings move through the body moving us in countless ways to express what is alive within us. We speak, wing, pray, write, pirouette, strum, whisk, pluck, paste, click, and otherwise articulate the pulsations of life that come through us. The body is the home of creativity.”
2nd Step: Breathing
Next was being present with the action of breathing – the awareness of simply paying attention to how we breathe. Paying attention to the movement of our body when we inhale and when we exhale; the temperature of the air when we breathe in and breathe out; the sound of the air as it enters our body and leaves our body.
3rd Step: Moving Through Space
The awareness of how we move through space came next. I invited them to take a walk and explore how they hold their body when they walk. How they step upon their feet, where do they hold their head and shoulders, how do they follow their eyes – all part of being present with the act of moving. I asked them, “How does your experience become richer when you bring in your 5 senses – sight, touch, sound, taste and smell?”
4th Step: Patterns of Thought
Finally was the awareness of the understanding of their naturally recurring patterns of thought, feelings and behaviors and how they show up in the workplace. They were asked how these thoughts impact their environment with the way they show up every day.
These were easy and direct exercises presented to the employees, which they could also do at home. I would have loved to lead a full-on Nia class experience but the corporate leadership wasn’t quite ready for that.
The wonderful outcome is the leadership team now knows that change begins with awareness. What they don’t know is they were introduced to the practice of Nia. I couldn’t have shared a better gift.