Terre Pruitt's Blog

In the realm of health, wellness, fitness, and the like, or whatever inspires me.

  • I teach Nia, yoga and stretch!

    Nia: Thurs at 9 am

    Yoga: Tues at 10:30 am and Thurs at 6:00 pm

    Stretch: Thurs at 10:30 am

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Posts Tagged ‘open stance’

Stepping Back Onto The Ball Of Your Foot – One Of Nia’s 52 Moves

Posted by terrepruitt on June 27, 2013

Stepping Back Onto The Ball Of Your Foot is certainly not unique to Nia.  Many dance modalities incorporate this move.  In fact this move is incorporated into every day life.  How often are you moving forward only have to stop and move back?  You could be in line at the store or anywhere when the person in front of you moves back towards you so you take a step back.  While you might not “hang” out on the ball of your foot as we do in Nia you more than likely don’t take a step backwards heel first.  Dance Exercise, Nia, Nia at the City of San Jose, Nia classes in the South Bay, Nia Teacher, Nia Class, San Jose Nia, Nia San Jose, Nia workout, Nia, ZumbaSo, yes, Nia has taken moves that might be done in other dance practices, martial arts, and even everyday life and put them in their list of Nia’s 52 Moves.  Nia then weaves the moves into the Nia Routine choreography.  This move Stepping Back Onto The Ball Of Your Foot is part of our Base Moves.  It is done with the feet and legs and they are a part of the base.

This move is described on page 123 of the Nia Technique book written by Debbie Rosas and Carlos Rosas and you can purchase it from Amazon.

As I have said many times there is a proper way to do all moves and while you are practicing them and learning them you do it the proper way.  Then as you come across it in a Nia class while doing a Nia routines your body will know the proper way yet be able to adapt to the choreography that you are dancing at the moment.

So to practice this move you can start in Open Stance.  Then with one leg step back onto the ball of foot.  When stepping back pull the leg straight behind not to either side.  Keep the foot parallel to the stationary foot, don’t turn the heel.  As is indicated step back onto the ball of the foot.  Keep the spine up and the heel high off of the earth.  Then shift your weight onto the foot of which you just stepped back on and take the other foot off the ground.  Dance Exercise, Nia, Nia at the City of San Jose, Nia classes in the South Bay, Nia Teacher, Nia Class, San Jose Nia, Nia San Jose, Nia workout, Nia, ZumbaYour torso is upright, pelvis, chest, shoulders, chin, eyes facing forward.  Do the same movement with the other foot.  You don’t necessarily always have to start in open stance.

After you are comfortable with the stationary start, walk around and stop and step into the move.

This move helps with the mobility and flexibility in the foot.  It also helps create or improve stability in the ankle.  It helps with balance, especially if you hang out for a measured amount of time on the ball of your foot!

At the moment I can think of one routine in which we step back onto the ball of foot as a large portion of one of the dances.  I know we step back all the time, but in this routine I think of one of the songs as “showcasing” this move.  The choreography calls for lifting the leg of the foot that is off the ground.  Or doing a knee lift.  So that is a good example of the variations that Nia choreography uses with its 52 Moves.

Well, what do you think about this move?  Can you see how it helps with mobility and flexibility in the foot?

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Review The Plank Form

Posted by terrepruitt on March 12, 2013

Let’s do a little form check on our planks.  We are doing our month of daily planks (and beyond?) on our elbows/forearms.  Let’s review how we are doing them.

–Rest on elbows and forearms
–Upper arm bones come straight down, so elbows should be directly under the shoulders
–Elbows are shoulder width apart, elbows are directly under the shoulders
–Shoulder blades are pulled down (putting them in your back pockets)
–Face is facing down, eyes looking at the earth (assisting with proper head alignment)
–Head is in line with shoulders, hips, knees, and feet
–The entire spine is straight
–Hips are not bowing up or sagging down (part of the “alignment” is that they are doing neither)
–Muscles are squeezing and active; abdominals, glutes, qudriceps
–Rest on the toes, heels off the ground
–Feet are in open stance, which is hip JOINT width apart*

*As with many exercises there are variations and modifications, but for this plank challenge we are keeping our feet in open stance.  (For an “open stance” reminder, click here)  With the feet in open stance it encourages the hips to stay in alignment.  Also in open stance your bones are in alignment with your joints.

Try doing the plank with your feet apart (like in “A” stance) and you might notice how much “easier” it is for the hips to start to sag down.

If you are still learning and really want to focus on form, doing the plank on your knees is always another option.  If you are doing the plank on your knees the stance is the same.  The knees are straight out from your hip joints just as if you were standing in open stance.  Your feet are also in “open stance”.

Be very conscious of your arm bones.  You want to make certain they are perpendicular to the floor.  Don’t allow your toes to push you forward.  Check to see that your shoulders are directly over your elbows.  An idea that might help with this is to press back with your heels.  Your heels are in the air but imagine the bottoms of your heels are reaching out to press against something.  This also helps with activating your thigh muscles, while on your toes.  If you are doing the modified plank on your knees you can still press with your heels you just would not be using your thigh muscles to help.

As with all exercise remember to breathe.  How you breathe is up to you, if panting helps you, then pant, if slow inhales and fast exhales help you, then do that.  Breathe however it is best for you, but don’t hold your breath.  Your muscles need oxygen so give it to them.

Remember to keep your form every time and through out the duration of your plank.  If your form starts to “suffer” then stop.  No use doing a minute of “planking” if your bum is high in the air or your hips are on the ground. Let’s make sure we are doing quality over quantity.  So every time you plank, review your form!

Do you have any questions?  Is this clear for you?

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Nia’s Cat Stance

Posted by terrepruitt on January 10, 2013

There are six stances in the 52 Moves of NiaClosed Stance, Open Stance, “A” Stance, Riding (Sumo) Stance, Bow Stance, and the Cat Stance.  Each stance has a sound associated with it for practice.  There are benefits to doing each stance.  All of them help with balance.  With the cat stance the balance is on one foot.  The cat stance is a stance in which you stand on one leg, using your whole foot.  The leg you are standing on is not rigid, but the knee is soft, as if you were going to pounce.  The spine is upright, hips are level, not pointing down nor up.  The foot that is off the ground is pressing with the side against the standing leg, the foot relaxed, toes hanging towards the earth. Elbows are bent, relaxed.  Either both elbows are at the sides or one slightly forward.  The arms and hands are engaged.  The cat stance is done on alternating legs.  These are the specifics of Nia’s Cat Stance.

Dance Exercise, Nia, Nia at the City of San Jose, Nia classes in the South Bay, Nia Teacher, Nia Class, San Jose Nia, Nia San Jose, Nia workout, Nia, ZumbaThere are specific ways to do a stance, the body’s way.  But your body’s way is also recognized.  So different bodies will do it different ways.  Some will do it their own way until the body can adjust to the specifics and some bodies will continue in their own way.  For instance some bodies will use the power finger/balance finger hand technique to assist them in standing on one leg.  In addition to each body having its own way to do each move sometimes the way the move is done in a routine alters the specifics.  The specifics stated above are according to The Nia Technique book, however in the routine Birth, the cat stance in one of the katas consists of hooking the bent leg’s foot around the standing leg.  In this particular dance, while we are in the cat stance with our foot hooked around the standing leg, our hands and arms are different from is described in the ideal cat stance stated above.  One of our hands “hooks” around our face.

This is often the case.  There is a specific way to do each of Nia’s 52 Moves, but each individual has their own body’s way that adjust the specifics AND the specifics are sometimes adjusted according to move in the routine.  But it is important to know the specifics and the basics.  It is also fun to practice the specifics and the basics.

The basics of the cat stance help with balancing on one leg.  This can also be considered a strengthener, the standing leg’s muscles can be strengthened through the practice of supporting all of one’s weight.  If this move is being done solely as a practice of the move, then agility can come into play.  The practice of walking then stopping and moving quickly into cat stance would allow for the agility.  Alternating with a light hop from whole-foot-cat-stance on one leg to the other is an exercise in agility.  While this type of movement might also be something we do in a Nia routine it is not always the case.  Sometimes we move into cat stance and from there do kicks.

As with all of Nia’s 52 Moves we play with them.  All of Nia’s routines consist of playing with movement and music.  With the cat stance you have the specific way to do it, then just like a cat you can play as you practice.  You can “meow” and use claw hands.  The cat stance is a fun way to play with balance and sounding.  Practice the specifics then let the animal in you out!

Posted in 52 Moves (of Nia), Nia | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Nia Stance Sounds

Posted by terrepruitt on January 5, 2013

There are a few posts on my blog about sounding in Nia.  I even have a separate category for it.  See over there to the left under categories, under Nia?  Sounding is what we call making noise in a Nia class.  Sounding is great for many reasons.  Sounding is a release.  It can help release tension, emotions, spirit . . . whatever needs “releasing”.  Sounding is fun.  Sounding can assist in the stabilization of the torso.  Sounding can help ground you . . . physically, emotionally, and your spirit.  Often times when I am doing Nia both when I am teaching and when I am a student, my spirit just makes a sound.  I don’t plan it, I don’t think about it, a noise just comes out.  I “woo” a lot.  But sometimes other sounds comes out.  Sometimes the sound I make makes me laugh because I really don’t think about the sound, something just comes out.  I could be thinking of something, for example, maybe the move we are doing reminds me of a swirling skirt, so then the sound could be a “whosh” as in the sound of a skirt, or it could be a giggle of a girl twirling in a skirt.  I don’t always think about the sound I just let it out.  Sometimes I do think of the sound.  Sounding can be purposeful.  The noise can have a purpose.  I have posted about healing sounds and sounds associated with the chakras.  This post is about the sounds that are associated with Nia stances, which are part of Nia’s 52 moves.

TheDance Exercise, Nia, Nia in the City of San Jose, Nia classes in the South Bay, Nia Teacher, Nia Class, San Jose Nia, Nia San Jose, Nia workout, Nia, Gentle Yoga, Group Ex classes, YMCA, Zumba, PiYo, Nia Technique, SJ City Fit, SJCityFit picture in this post is an approximation of how MY feet would be placed in the various stances.  Remember that your stances would probably be slightly different.  The width would be according to YOUR body and your body’s way.  The picture is just to give you an idea and maybe help remind you of the various stances.  At this time I have a post associated with four of the six stances.

In Nia’s closed stance the sound is the vowel sound “o”.  The sound is made to “create volume in your chest cavity”.

In Nia’s open stance the sound is (to say) “balance” or “ground”.  Saying the word “balance” can assist you in your balance.  The word “ground” can assist with allowing you to feel grounded and sense balance.

The sound for Nia’s “A” stance is “aaaaahh!”.  You say it on an exhale.  Letting out all your breath until you are ready to inhale.

Sumo stance or riding stance (feet as wide apart as if you were riding a horse) has an explosive sound.  Say “ha!”  To me this helps with stabilization.

The bow stance has a sound of “u”.  The bow stance is done with either foot in front, not just with the left foot in front as shown in the example.

The cat stance (standing on one foot, with the other foot pressed against the standing leg) has the sound “wooooooo” associated with it.  This is done on the exhale.  This stance is also done on the other foot and not just the left one as in the example.

So as you are practicing the Nia stances you can use the sounds associated with them for added benefit and fun.  It is just fun to make noise.  To me it adds to the experience.  In my classes I encourage people to make any noise they want.  I also like to play with the noises, sounds, and words associated with the move.

Do you attend a dance exercise class  or exercise that encourages you to make noise?

Information regarding the sounds made with the Nia stances can be found in The Nia Technique book written by Debbie Rosas and Carlos Rosas (NKA, Carlos AyaRosas).  The book can be purchased from Amazon.

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“A” Stance – One Of Nia’s 52 Moves

Posted by terrepruitt on September 6, 2012

Dance Exercise, Nia, Nia at the City of San Jose, Nia classes in the South Bay, Nia Teacher, Nia Class, San Jose Nia, Nia San Jose, Nia workout, NiaAnother one of the 52 Moves of Nia is the “A” Stance.  This is the stance where the position of the legs allows the body to look somewhat like the capital letter A.  The legs are placed wider than hip distance apart, even wider than shoulder width.  The legs are far enough apart and wide enough for them to appear to be as the bottom “legs” on a capital letter A.  The feet are parallel, the upper body is relaxed.  The Nia Technique Book states the benefits as:  “Practicing “A” Stance improves hip flexibility and leg strength, which improves agility and mobility.” 

I would like to add that it improves or at least allows the practice of balance.  Not balancing on one leg which we do a lot in Nia, but balance between the body and the legs, balance between both legs, and balance between the legs and feet.  Also balance of weight between the two feet.  This is a stable and balanced stance.  The weight is not on one foot more than the other.  The weight is not on the front or the balls of the feet more than on the heels.  This is a great stance to practice balance in.  To allow the body to rest onto the whole foot. 

Not only having the feet be parallel but even.  If you were to stand at a line would your toes be even, both up to the line?  I had noticed with myself for a while now that when I step into an “A” stance my right foot is ALWAYS slightly back from where my left foot is.  I have been noticing this since I injured my foot in November of 2010.  Just last week as I was teaching my regular Nia Class in Willow Glen, I noticed I stepped into “A” stance and my left foot was the tiniest bit back from the line on which my right foot landed (had there been a line).  I thought that was funny.  I giggled, but I hadn’t thought of it again until now.  I don’t always think about my uneven landings until I have the opportunity to land in a stance where I see my feet several times in a routine.  Then during the routine I focus on having my feet land even.  There are times, of course in a dance where they don’t need to be or aren’t supposed to be even, but when doing a regular closed, open, A, or sumo stance I think the feet should be even.  The “A” stance is a great stance to practice that because you can clearly see your feet and the pose is relaxed enough that there are not other things you might be thinking about.  I feel the “A” Stance is a great way to practice balance.

As with all stances one way to practice the “A” stance is to simple stand in one place and move through the stances.  Another way to practice is to walk and then stop in the “A” stance.  Walking and stopping into an “A” Stance would be a great way to work on landing “even” — as I mentioned before.  Walk, then stop, then look at your feet, notice the sensation in your hips, if your feet are even then that is the sensation you want to replicate, if not, then adjust your feet, notice the sensation in your hips and try to replicate it again as you step into “A” Stance.

The “A” Stance is just one of the six stances in the Nia 52 Moves.

What do you sense when standing in the “A” Stance?  When you step into the “A” Stance do your feet land “even”?

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Closed Stance in Nia

Posted by terrepruitt on May 3, 2012

Nia has a different closed stance than some other dances and exercises I know. In Pilates the stance is heels touching and toes apart. I’ve heard it called a Pilates V. The Pilates V is done in more positions than standing. Sometimes there are exercises done while on the reformer where we will place our feet in Pilates V. It is nice to have positions that are specific. It helps a lot. I as a teacher can just say, “Closed stance.” and the Nia students will know what that means. Instead of forming a V as in the Pilates stance we form more of a rectangle. A basic closed stance is simple. It is stable. Nia’s closed stance is the side of the big toes touching and heels apart. It is as if all four corners of a rectangle are in contact with the edge of the foot. This allows for a very stable base. In the basic closed stance the arms hang. The back is straight, we are standing tall, lengthening the spine. Knees are relaxed as well was the feet. Weight is balanced evenly on both feet. Simple closed stance.

Dance Exercies, Nia, Nia Campbell, Campbell Nia, Nia classes in Campbell, evening Nia, Nia Teacher, Nia Class, San Jose Nia, Nia San Jose, Nia workout, NiaClosed stance is one of the six stances in the Nia 52 Moves. There is Closed Stance, Open Stance, A Stance, Sumo (or Riding) Stance, Bow Stance, and Cat Stance. I believe that in its basic form closed stance is the easiest. But when other elements are added that might not hold true.

We can practice our agility by walking quickly then stopping in closed stance. We might choose to be in closed stance while we allow just our arms to be agile . . . moving around in a starting and stopping fashion. We could just let our closed stance be stable as our arms are mobile. We could do an entire body dance . . . close stance dance. For some this is a challenge, even though our feet are formed into a rectangle and the idea is of a stable base it is still a practice in balance to have your feet secured to the earth while the rest of your body moves around.  As I said, what we do with a close stance might not be so simple.

Practicing walking and stopping in closed stance is a good check to make certain you are not landing in “toes in“. The heels shouldn’t be that far apart as if you are doing toes in. Yet the toes should be touching. Coming from other stances to closed is good for conditioning the legs. Moving from Sumo to closed, or from at to closed is something to practice. Again we don’t want our heels to land too far apart making us pigeon toed.

I know of several routines that have us going through the stances. We start out in closed, then go to open stance, then go to A stance, then go to sumo. In some routines we work back through the stances, but in some we do move right into closed from sumo.  I can’t think of one where we go from closed to sumo, but I bet there is one and I just can’t put my finger on it.  Nia loves to mix up the moves to get the most out of the workout.

Can you sense the stability in the Nia Closed Stance?

Posted in 52 Moves (of Nia), Nia | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Open Stance In Nia

Posted by terrepruitt on September 15, 2011

Nia is a cardio dance workout (it is really much more, but on the surface, that is what I call it).  As with many cardio workouts done to music there are a lot of moves.  Since Nia is basically a dance workout there are a lot of common dance steps and movements that many of us were taught in different forms of dance.  Some are even from different forms of martial arts or other exercise classes and modalities.  Nia has a base of 52 moves.  We call them the 52 Nia Moves.  What Nia has done is put them into categories to allow you to see what areas of the body are most associated with the move.  One of the most common moves we use in Nia classes is the Open Stance.  I have been familiar with the open stance for as long as I can remember.  I took ballet and tap when I was young.  I have done Jazzercise and other types of dance exercise classes.  Many of these types of things have an open stance.  From the first time I can remember being taught the open stance it was taught as “feet hip width apart”.  Some of you might be familiar with that.  Well, I don’t know if other modalities meant it actually that way or if I had been misled, but in Nia the open stance is actually hip JOINT width apart.

dance exercise, Nia teacher, Nia class, Nia San Jose, Nia Los Gatos, Nia cardio dance workout, So you might be saying, “What?”  Well, go ahead, if you can . . . . stand up and into open stance.  I’m going to guess most of you don’t have a mirror in front of you . . . so look at your feet.  What do you see?  A somewhat wide stance?  Are your feet hip WIDTH apart?  Probably, because I believe that is the common instruction for “open stance”.  Stay there.  Touch your hips and thighs.  Sense how that stance feels.  Make note of the sensation of your leg muscles.  Picture your leg bones.  Are they at a slight angle?

dance exercise, Nia, Nia practice, Nia 52 moves, Terre Pruitt Nia teacherNow bring your feet closer together.  Picture your stance being hip JOINT width apart.  Most of us have hips that are larger than where our legs meet our hip socket.  Try this:  Imagine someone gently lifting you off of your feet by you head, imagine your legs are just hanging down from your hip JOINTS.  Then the huge hand that lifted you sets you gently down.  Your legs exactly in the same position as when you were hanging.  Your leg bones come straight out from your hip joints.  That is what Nia open stance is.

For me, it is much more narrow than I was taught open stance was.

My pictures are showing the difference between what I thought was open (the first one) and what I now think of as open (the second one).  I stood on the rug so the pattern would help show the difference.  Please keep in mind that everyone, everyBODY is different so the width of your feet will differ from mine, but if you keep in mind that open is not really hip WIDTH apart, but hip JOINT width apart then you too, might have an adjustment in your “open stance”.

Well, did you?  Were you taught open is hip width apart?  If you stand hip width apart is there a noticeable difference when you stand hip JOINT width apart?

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