Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The FAMSS of the five generations of women in my family, from youngest to oldest:

Last month, I spent a whirlwind and bitterly bone-chilling cold six days visiting with my family in New York. I made a promise to myself about five years ago that I’d never return to New York in the winter. The last time we visited during the winter, we experienced two back-to-back crippling blizzards and ridiculously cold temperatures. Fast forward to last month…at one point there was a 70 degree (!!!) difference between New York and Seattle. It was important to me to visit with my family because 1. I miss them and 2. As everyone I love ages, I’ve become keenly aware that they will not always be here.

There are five generations alive at one time in my family. I realize how rare this is. Our youngest family member is my great-niece (17 months old) and the oldest is my abuela (grandmother) at 96.5 years of age. Watching these five generations (myself included), I began to connect our story with the FAMSS of Nia. The FAMSS are the five sensations of functional fitness that we experience in a Nia class: Flexibility, Agility, Mobility, Strength and Stability. I love bringing Nia to life and doing it, creatively-conceptually related to my family, was insightful and delightful.

Oldest to youngest from top left to bottom right

The FAMSS of the five generations of women in my family, from youngest to oldest:

Flexibility - My great-niece
Flexibility is sensed in our bodies as energy moving outward. It looks like expansion and inwardly, it creates a sense of spaciousness. My great-niece is an embodiment of this energy. She’s always flexing her perceptive and physical muscles,with an insatiable curiosity to explore and experience the fullness of herself and the world around her. It was remarkable to see her flexible body effortlessly fall down to the floor and spring right back up and to watch every limb extend outward as she ran with her feet and reached with her hands. She was a reminder to me to be spacious, expansive and to really own my fullness. Thank you, sweet Ava.

Agility – My niece 
Agility is sensed as shifting energy in our bodies. A constant negotiation, it’s the start and stop and pull and push of movement and energy. My niece is mastering motherhood beautifully. I observed her sustain attention in multiple areas and then respond or react immediately to whatever her daughter was doing that may need her attention. Her reflexes and instincts sharp, I watched as she anticipate and negotiate action, stillness, pace, speed and direction. She was a reminder to me that change is constant and to find the joy and ease in responding to what is needed; to start, to stop, to push, to pull, to move or be still. Thank you, dearest Gaby.

Mobility – Me…in the middle ;)
Mobility is sensed as energy in constant motion. I can hear you laughing. Yes, that absolutely describes me! Whether it was the fact that I flew 3000 miles across the country to be with my family or was shuttled from the Bronx to the Hudson Valley and back, or running after my great-niece so she wouldn’t knock a glass off a table, or chasing after my five and eight year old nephews, or shifting from English to Spanish in conversation with abuela, I was/am in constant motion. I’d slip through anyone’s fingers if they tried to grasp me. I am a reminder to myself to explore all of the space both within and beyond myself. To leave no space unexplored and to sustain full active engagement so that no one part is left out. Thank you, self.

Strength – My mother
Strength is sensed as energy moving inward and boy, does that ever describe my mother. She is the grand protectress of our clan. Her love, and patience, is truly ginormous. The strength she exudes comes from core/solar plexus power. She may be barely 5 feet tall but her towering strength is tangible. When faced with difficulty and hardship, she gathers all of her energy to her center, puts her chin up and does whatever is needed. She reminds me that strength is not just a physical experience but is about returning to center and calling up the energy from that center of power even in the face of difficulty and fatigue. Thank you, my fierce and loving mommy.

Stability – My abuela
Stability is sensed as energy moving out in all directions from the center. It looks, however, like stillness. That’s because stability is strength combined with quiet resting. My abuela, at 96 years of age, does not move a lot but her stability is felt in our family. She’s solid and unchanging in who she is, even as dementia takes it hold. She is our root, connecting us to the core of our family. She’s the anchor that grounds and motivates us all. We all orbit around her as she sits in the center. We are the dynamic part of her stability. And she, in the center, may be still but has a readiness about her. She reminds me to stand firm in myself and have a soft confident readiness to act when the time is right. She reminds me that stillness releases tension and allows me to sense and rest deeply into my bones. She reminds me that stability has a soft swaying movement to it so that I don’t become rigid but rather yield to the winds when they blow. Thank you, mi abuelita.

And so it is that while I didn’t get to take a Nia class while I was away, Nia danced through me. Since I got back, I’ve been paying closer attention to these five sensations. I am noticing which sensations I need to spend more time with and which ones I spend too much time with. I think you might guess which one I’ve been spending more time with…stability. The last two weeks, we’ve been exploring the base of the body. First, with the ankles with the routine “U” and the past week the feet with the routine “Fumi.”

Which of the FAMSS would you like to journey with next?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

New Years Day Nia and Embodied Tarot Dance Class - 2015



Deck: Gaian Tarot by Joanna Powell Colbert

On January 1, 2015, eleven of us gathered together at The Dance Space in Greenwood for a special two-hour class that blended a group/collective tarot reading, an individual reading unique to each of us and a Nia playlist that captured the movement, feeling and story of each card. There were eleven cards, eleven dancers and eleven songs that stirred our hearts and souls and stimulated our minds and bodies. At the request of several participants, I am sharing the reading and playlist here. 

1. What grounds us in the present moment? Card: 8 of Water
A sense of determination, resilience and resolve to keep our head above the water and rise above difficulty. Swimming against the current, determined to make landfall. Focused on keeping our head above the water. Clear head, we can see where we are going but feel the resistance with our bodies from the neck down. Reaching for the future with our hands. 8’s are always about being challenged and finding the inner strength to endure difficulty. In this reading, we have two 8’s back to back. This one is in water so it relates to our emotional well-being. This is about inner resolve and feeling empowered to persevere to find our way to solid ground. Stay true to yourself and stay the course. 

2. What energy are we leaving behind in 2014? Card: 8 of Fire
This is our second 8 numbered card and it’s in the element of fire. The challenge here is about creative and spiritual exhaustion. When our faith has been tested or we are burnt out and running out of creative ideas to solve challenges in front of us. This card appears because we’ve had a year of things that feel like curve balls or meteors falling from the sky hitting us suddenly and demanding all of our attention. This past year we may have found ourselves continually putting out fires, setting us back or putting obstacles in the way of our achieving goals we may have had. But like the woman in the 8 of water, our spirit rose above. We became explosive and responsive. We found the energy, strength, stamina and spiritual strength even when we were exhausted.  This card is about spiritual courage. That’s what 2014 was all about and we are leaving it behind. 

3. What energy are we stepping into in 2015? Card: Guardian of Water
We are stepping into a more emotional year where the focus will be on Mothering ourselves and others. The Guardian is an emotional protector. She holds space for our greatest vulnerability and provides mercy, kindness, forgiveness and compassion when we need it most. She moves at a much slower pace than the 8 of Fire. She represents finding and staying in a Flow. She is also the ultimate symbol of gratitude and grace. The energy we are stepping into is one of forgiveness and healing of emotional wounds. She asks us to pour our hearts out to her so that we can heal and ultimately trust our feelings going forward. 

4. What lesson or wisdom can we weave into 2015 from 2014? Card: 6 of Air
In 2014, we may have learned how to ask for support. This card is about the power of community, of the tribe. Each person in this image is different – in age, ethnicity, gender, height, shape, etc. But they’ve come together, in solidarity, for a common purpose. They are praying, in their own unique way, and doing so while facing the same direction. The wisdom we can weave into the New Year from 2014 is that we are more powerful when we work together. As we find our tribe and gather with others of like mind we gain both perspective and insight into the big soulful issues of our lives. And then together, we set an intent, gather in a ceremonial space and work together towards growth and change. But 6’s aren’t just about community and purpose; they are also about gratitude. In this image, they look as if they are in prayer or in movements of reverence, saying “Thank you.” 

5. What alchemy or opportunity for change does this weaving create for the year ahead?
Card: 15 - Bindweed (Devil)
We can bring a spirit of gratitude and use our access to our support network (community-tribe) to support us when we feel burdened, tangled in weeds,  when we are battling addiction or the “darker” emotions, or simply when life gets out of balance and we can’t cope. It’s clear that this year indicates a paradigm shift from “I can do it myself” to “We can only do this if we do it together.” Bindweed adds layers of burden, it makes us feel suffocated, buried, or trapped. The black crows are waiting for the man to lift his head and ask for help. The crows are ready to provide support. Our strength to overcome burden comes from collective support, gratitude for what we have and faith in something greater than our small trapped selves. 

6. What collective lesson do we learn in 2015? Card: Ace of Fire
The energy of all aces is similar to that of a New Moon – it’s about birth or rebirth, beginnings, or the potential for something big.  The collective lesson of 2015 is to be inspired, to follow our passion and to see the world with new eyes like this snake cracking its way out of an egg.  This is the beginning of learning to think, act and be in more creative ways. If we follow it, we have the opportunity, as represented by the snake, to transform our lives and transmute the old perhaps more reserved or limited ways of being. 2015 is calling on us to be bold in spirit, to awaken our senses, shed old habits and embrace our new skin. 

7. What collective gift do we receive in 2015? Card: 21 - Gaia – The World
The gift we have the potential to receive in 2015 is experiencing wholeness. Gaia is the earth mother. She is the symbol of bounty. She represents a world of possibilities. She holds them all in her hands. She can hold possibilities because she feels whole. She has shed the lack mindset and has embraced an abundance-oriented mindset. She also represents great Joy and it’s a joy that is similar to how we practice Nia. It’s a choice. She knows how to dance her fullness within any limitations. She knows how to tweak and use her resources. With a grateful heart, she continuously chooses Joy day after day.

Then, each of us that attended the class selected three cards for ourselves. Everyone was provided with their own tarot deck to use and an index card with guiding questions to glean meaning, feeling and movement inspiration from the card. 

Below are the cards I selected for myself.

8. What is my greatest opportunity in 2015? Card: Guardian of Earth
My greatest opportunity is to patiently and lovingly tend to the harvest of my sacred livelihood, knowing what to prune and what to nurture to life and greater heights. I can ask myself, where do I need to grow? What is a weed that needs to be removed? What needs pruning because it’s getting heavy? Where do I need to plant more seeds or add supports? To imitate the card, I will use my hands to cut away, to massage, to weave, to dig, to touch and to wait. I will use my feet in stances to sustain stability and steadiness.

9. What is my personal growth potential in 2015? Card: Child of Earth
My personal growth potential in 2015 involves being in a state of wonder and fascination as if I am experiencing everything for the first time in my life. I am being asked to return to beginners mind, to learn from scratch but do so in a lighthearted way. And since there is a child with an apple, there is clearly a focus on health and well-being. This child isn’t running around. He is grounded, fully engaged and almost in a meditative state. With this card, I use the energy of Duncan Dance, fascinated by everything and experiencing wonder with my entire body – moving mindfully while I take it all in.

10. What can I call on for support to help me reach my personal growth potential in 2015?
Card: Child of Fire
The Child of Fire is similar to the Ace of Fire in that both are about beginnings and creative fire. What I can call on for support is a spirit of bravery and bold action – to be willing to play with fire just a little, to push the envelope, to be fascinated by passion and to follow it where it leads. With this card, I use the energy of Tae Kwon Do and Jazz to tune into my creative playful spirit and fiery strength. 

And then we returned to our collective reading for a final card to pull it all together before we step out of the space and into 2015!

11. How can we ground our energy as we step into the New Year? Card: 2 of Fire
Here we are again, ablaze with energy but this time we are not alone. We are faced with another. We’ve called on support. We’ve asked to be held accountable. The two is also about duality and choice. We are asked to find a peaceful compromise between two parts of us that are at odds. We are asked to choose one path over another. Or one way of being over another. We ground our energy by making a conscious choice as to how to use our energy. We can choose to make choices that bring peace and harmony to our relationships with others. We can choice to make choices that bring peace and harmony to our relationship with our selves. Either way, we are going ahead with a fire in our belly and ablaze with passion and longing. 

Finally, we danced this playlist. Each song corresponded to a tarot card, in order from 1-11. 




I am looking forward to doing this again in Spring! I hope you will join me. No tarot or Nia experienced required. It is my pleasure to provide the tarot decks and guidance for you to have an ease-full, joy-filled and illuminating experience. For more about my work with the tarot, go to www.embodiedtarot.com


Saturday, May 18, 2013

Ode to Medicine Woman

The following poem was written by Nia student Ashley Henry. A couple of weeks ago, Ashely requested the Nia routine Medicine Woman for her birthday. On Wednesday, I taught the routine and after class, inspired by the meditative soulful movements, Ashley wrote this beautiful poem. Thank you Ashley for sharing your beauty, talent and grace with us.


"It's not who you were at the beginning but who you become at the end, when after facing all your challenges with grace, you find that at the core there is always the supporting comfort of unconditional love to lift you right before you fall into who you were yesterday, but instead of crawling through life, love gives you the wings of a butterfly to soar into tomorrow with a beauty you could not see in the darkness of your own cocoon. -Medicine Woman."

Monday, March 18, 2013

Thank You Body

A Moment of Body Gratitude 
Written by Debbie Rosas
Original post: http://debbierosas.com/post/45688036804/thank-you-body

“Thank you body for dancing with me, for allowing me to experience the rhythmic journey you know as rhythm, melody and harmony. The dance of healing you dance with me in every beat of my heart. I love you body.

Thank you body for the gift and magic of a brain, and for the specialized parts that help me stay on the beat, move my arm when I want to move my arm, when I say “arm move up and down”. I love you body.

Thank you body for always dancing, even when I am unconscious to the rhythm of my life. You, the one who causes me to tap my foot, sway my hips, wobble my head, move me without me even knowing I am dancing. I love you body.

Thank you body for your wisdom that keeps me connected from the inside to the outside, to the dance of your 75 trillion cells. I love you body.

Thank you for the magical subcortical areas in my brain designed to bypass higher auditory areas that make it possible for me to hear you with more than my ears! I love you body.

Thank you body, for the interpersonal experience of moving through space, and for the opportunity to express myself, giving credence and respect to the art and power of self-expression. I love you body.

Thank you body for making me a sensation scientist, curious and aching to explore myself and my body as a vast universe with information to create positive health and well being for me and the world. I love you body.

Thank you body for keeping me in awe as an artist, using my body and live and movement to create art. I love you body.

Thank you body for a region in you, in the brain called the posterior parietal cortex, a magical smart part I know lives toward the back of my brain designed to translate visual information and turn it into instructive motor commands, signals sent forward to the motion-planning areas in the pre-motor cortex and supplementary motor cortex of my brain. I love you body.

Thank you body for creating the neural impulses that stimulate me and allow me to dance. To the magical signals of information that travel to my spinal cord and then to my muscles so they contract and pull on my bones, moving them so I can shimmy, kick, sink and rise, fold and unfold into movement pleasure. I love you body.

Thank you body for the sensory organs that rest in my muscles and provide me with feedback, information sent from my brain telling me the exact orientation of my body in space, and that make it possible for me to know where I am even with my eyes closed. Be here now, and know where you are, this is their Mantra I listen to. I love you body.

Thank you body for the magic of nerves, string-like threads that receive and transmit information, elegantly passing through my spinal cord into the cerebral cortex of my brain, making me Sensory IQ wise and body aware without thinking but by sensing, from listening to The Voices of the Body-my body. I love you body.

Thank you body of woman, for the eight-thousand nerve endings dedicated to pleasure,and for the pulse of life and creative juice you give me, and for the gift of “knowing” what is right when I listen to you, commune with you and honor your voice. Thank you for the opportunity to live in a woman’s body, and as Regena, Mama Gena says, for reminding me that, “When a woman’s turned on, the whole world is blessed”. I love you body.

Thank you body for the constant loving feedback you give me, for helping me to refine and tweak my movement s,o what I do, I do with greater ease, dynamic ease. Thank you for guiding me to choose pleasure via the subcortical circuits in my brain’s cerebellum. I love how I can imagine resting and dancing with you there, at the back of my brain, in the basal ganglia areas in my brains core, standing one with you because I know who you are, where you are and what you do for me. I love you body.

Thank you for reminding me of the importance of FreeDancing, of moving and navigating my body through space without thinking, activating my precuneus: The Your Way and Body’s Way kinesthetic body-centered map, the parietal lobe region close to where the kinesthetic representation of my legs reside. Knowing you are there I move more confidently, and with greater ease and relaxation. I love you body.

Thank you body for sight, what makes it possible from areas in the premotor cortex of my brain to switch on, making it possible for me to mentally rehearse before, see, before I do, what I do. I love you body.

Thank you body for the dance, for the opportunity to interpret, stylize, imitate, and represent what I see others doing in My Body’s Way. I love you body.

Thank you body for the universal language of movement, body language, spoken in a shape, a shimmy, a pump, a push and pull, a reach, and shake, I love you body.

Thank you body for the silent and powerful impulse you use to move me, my cells, you, triggered by sound, music, and by my emotions.

Thank you body for the opportunity to be in a loving community of atoms, molecules, cells, tissues, organs, organ systems, and organisms-me in my body and with other bodies, part of a nested system and part of the Universe.

Thank you body for the map of The Body’s Way, a woman’s way, and for dancing with me. I love you body.

Thank you body for teaching me, we are connected, one, whole, moving and functioning best when filled with joy and love, respect and curiosity. For reminding me that if I continue to thirst for discovering what it means to live in my body as an empowered women, alive with with light and passion, kept alive by taking the path of pleasure, and by following my heart and the guidance of those eight thousand nerve endings-all is well in the world."

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Way of Practice

Whatever it is you are being guided to/working towards/desiring/in the process of manifesting - Don't give up. Practice presence. Be with your breath and body on the journey.

I was inspired by this poem today:

The Fruits of Practice 

from "Going In and In: Poems from the Heart of Yoga" 
by Danna Faulds

Image from: http://www.yoganonymous.com
Despite fervent pleas for ease
and safety, there are many days
when reality doesn’t quite line
up with what I’d choose.

Breakdown. Letting go.

Surrendering even the illusion
of control. Breathing into the
unknown – sometimes that is
what life holds.

Practice hasn’t brought an end
to pain. I still increase my
suffering like a fish caught on
a line. My struggles only draw
the hook in deeper. But being
in reality is its own reward.

It’s the perfect paradox; the
courage to stand and breathe
when everything in me wants
to flee is as great a gift as the
freedom to seek retreat.

No, practice hasn’t brought
an end to pain but it has honed
my willingness to experience
the moment and sometimes see
perfection unfolding in ways
I wasn’t big enough to plan,
much less predict.

Practice isn’t about achieving
a goal. It’s not a means to pole-
vault over suffering.

Practice is my way of looking life in
the face and saying yes to all
its disparate gifts.

Practice keeps me awake when I would
sleep, and reminds me it’s
the journey, unfolding in this
very moment, it’s the journey
that reveals the truth, and
not the destination.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Class Cards for Nia, Nia-Yoga and Stretch and Fly Yoga Dance

Use your Class Cards now for Stretch and Fly Yoga Dance!

Co-created by Jennifer and Liziah, Stretch and Fly Yoga Dance is a fusion of viniyoga and dance.

Strengthening, relaxing, fluid, fun and therapeutic, Stretch and Fly Yoga Dance is slower than Nia with simpler footwork and dance moves. All of the moves are adaptable for different fitness levels.

Come to strengthen your body in a gentle way, to stretch, fly, extend, lengthen, deepen, connect with your breath and find deep relaxation.

The first 40-50 min of class is done standing/dancing/moving with our bare feet connected to the ground. The last 20-25 min are on the mat.

Feel free to bring your own mat but the studio has mats, blocks, straps, cushions and blankets. Bring water and wear comfortable clothes to move and play in.


Our theme for the month of January is the "Dance of the Warrior: Cultivating Inner and Outer Strength."

We teach every second and fourth Friday from 6:15pm - 7:30pm at Balance Studio in Fremont: 418 N 35th St, Seattle, WA 98103. Our next classes are January 11 and January 25, 2013.

You can now use your class cards with Jennifer or Liziah for Stretch and Fly Yoga Dance! Drop-in rate remains at $15.

How cool is it that you can now use your class card for Nia, Nia-Yoga and Stretch and Fly Yoga Dance? Yay! 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

#26Acts of Kindess

Yesterday, as I walked back to my car in the Safeway grocery store parking lot, I noticed an envelope on my windshield. Worried it was a ticket I quick looked around for a parking attendant and so no one. I also didn't see "tickets" on any of the other cars so I set down my grocery bag and picked up the envelope. What I received touched my heart beyond any words I can share:


The stranger who left this card for me was inspired by a movement called #26Acts of Kindness. The call of this movement is to commit to doing one act of kindess to honor all those killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy. The card I received was in honor of Jesse Lewis, age 6. Holding the card close to my heart I felt compelled to learn more about Jesse so I googled him. This precious little angel died trying to lead his fellow classmates to safety. He was playful, active, funny, loving, well-loved, passionate and brave.

Last night, I stayed up late writing up 26 cards to share with strangers. With each one I held an image of Jesse in my mind's eye. I breathed love into each card, channeling it from my heart through my arm, hands and fingers onto the pen that touched the card. This morning I invited Jesse's spirit to dance with us and our class focus was on our hands and performing random acts of kindness for ourselves and others.
Jesse Lewis, age 6. 
His mother said of him: 
"He was a force who lit up a room when he entered. 
Compassionate and caring, 
wise and soulful beyond his years."
We are all in this together. We have the capacity to create a better, more loving, safe and beautiful world for ourselves and for future generations. We can all begin with just one simple random act of kindness each day. Like the card I received from the stranger said so beautifully: "Let's make love ring louder than violence and hate." Pay it forward. Pass it on.

If you'd like to use a template to print your own #26Acts sheets, feel free to use this one (below) created by my dear friend and Nia colleague, Randee Fox, who was also deeply affected and inspired by this random act of kindness.


Happy Holidays everyone. From my heart and soul to yours.

With love,
Jennifer