Category Archives: Fitness

Back to work & everyday dancing

After a few days away from home for a late summer break, I’m back to work this week and autumn has well and truly arrived. It was good to meet up with people I hadn’t seen for a while, and to have time to read, to draw and generally relax.

I went for a few long walks during my break. It’s a while since I’ve done that.  I’m used to walking from the car park into work, I’m on my feet all morning and I’m used to teaching Nia classes, but I’m out of the habit of walking for more than 20 minutes at a stretch.  And, I have to admit, for most of my week’s holiday, I was sitting down.  Getting back to teaching Nia classes yesterday, reminded me how much I love to move, how much my body needs to move and how it gets me out of my head.

It put me in mind of a talk I heard a while ago by Paula Byrne where she talks about how modern life means we sit more and move less. It’s both fascinating and amusing to see her lead the audience through a 3 minute movement workout with no steps to learn, no counting and no need to know left from right (a bit like Nia classes in a way). You can find a link to it below. I got distracted looking at her outfit. I love it. Any idea where I can find one like it?

Classes are back to normal from this week, but unfortunately, I’ve had to cancel the workshop planned for tomorrow, Wednesday 4 October 2017. For details of what’s on currently, please visit the Classes & Events page.

Have a great month.

Nia move of the month – Hand technique:
Chop Cut

This is a great move for releasing stress and for improving strength in your arms and shoulders.

You can do a slow version: hold the palm of your left hand up and in front of you and with the other arm, chop down with the side of your hand (like a karate chop). Don’t hit the palm of your hand – stop just as you get there. Repeat on the other side.

The faster version involves both hands chopping at the same time, keeping the wrists loose  – like a massage therapist working on tense tight muscles.

What I’m watching

Everyday dancing by Paula Byrne
Dancing is an act of trust – giving our bodies permission to speak up, to move any way they want. It’s an act of moving meditation, because our bodies are always in the present moment… and the present moment is where life is happening.

Dates for your diaryCalendar

Nia classes

  • The block of five classes that began at Keep Fit Darlington and at the Pioneering Care Centre on 18th September continues on 2nd, 9th, 16th and 23rd October.

Advance notice – Another Sparklicious Day Retreat

Saturday 6 January 2018 – a great way to leave the old year behind and step into the new. Details to follow. Check out Sparklicious Living’s website.

More information on the Classes and Events page.

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Eat your greens and keep on dancing!

Having just seen a recent photo of me on Facebook, a friend commented that I just keep looking younger. If the items below are to be believed it must be because I dance often, am always on the move and I love Brussels sprouts! As you’ll see, the emerging theme of this month’s blog seems to be: keep moving to stay young at heart and fit and healthy in mind and body.

So here’s where you’ll find me moving in May. If you’re able to join me for some Nia classes this month, then a new block of 5 classes begins on Monday 8th May at Keep Fit Darlington at 2.30 p.m. and at the Pioneering Care Centre at 6.30 p.m. It would be great to see you!

I’m looking forward to the Day of Dance in Saltaire on 13th May because I get to go to a Nia class with Lynette McFadden who will be leading a workshop there. It will be such a joy to join in as a participant!  I’ll be rounding off the day with an Irish Set Dance workshop (Irish Set Dance is why I started doing Nia in the first place – to stay fit enough to continue).

And finally, a lot closer to home, I’m delighted to have been invited to share some Nia at the Sparklicious Ladies’ Retreat Day in July. You can read all about it below.

Have a great month


Nia move of the month – Elbow Strike Side

Elbow Strikes all start from Sumo Stance or Bow Stance and use the opposite hand for support to direct the strike. They invoke the power and precision of the martial arts.
They help to release stress and condition the upper arms, chest and back.

For Elbow Strike Side, use the opposite hand to push on your fist, in order to drive your elbow out to the side.

What I’m reading

Eat your greens – Brussels sprouts in Dementia Research

Who knew? It seems that sprouts are being investigated as a potential cure for Alzheimer’s Disease. More

And if you’re not keen on sprouts, you could try dancing:

Why is dancing so good for your brain?

Dancing improves brain function on a variety of levels. Two recent studies show how different types of practice allow dancers to achieve peak performance by blending cerebral and cognitive thought processes with muscle memory and ‘proprioception’ held in the cerebellum. Through regular aerobic training that incorporates some type of dance at least once a week anyone can maximize his or her brain function. Continue reading this article from “Psychology today”.

Debbie Rosas. Photograph provided by Nia Technique (

And if you don’t consider yourself a dancer, just keep moving.  “Through Movement We Find Health” is the Nia philosophy and core belief, reiterated by Debbie Rosas, Co-creator of Nia, in a recent newsletter:

Science has proven that movement:
1. Produces new brain cells and their connections.
2. Stimulates the brain. The brain is a highly sensitive communicator designed to detect motion, cues, and patterns.
3. Enhances neurotransmitter, nerve connections and their growth.
4. Helps to form new blood vessels.
5. Helps regulate and reduce stress.
6. Boosts the production of brain chemicals that enhance learning.

What I’m watching

Dancing for Dementia

A video report from BBC Scotland. Watch it here.

Dates for your diary

CalendarNia classes

New blocks of five classes begin at Pioneering care Centre and Keep Fit Darlington begin on Monday 8 May.

Full details on the Classes and Events page.

Saltaire Day of Dance

Saturday, 13th May, Victoria Hall, Saltaire, BD18 3JS

Exercise your brain and body by trying out a form of dance you’ve never tried before. Everything from Argentine Tango to Charleston and from Disco to Swing.

There’ll be Nia with Lynette MacFadden at 12.30, and I will be doing a beginners’ Irish Set Dance workshop later in the afternoon.
Full details of all dance workshops.

Sparklicious Summer Retreat Day

Saturday 8 July 2017, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.,
Hardwick Park, Sedgefield TS21 2DN

What stops you from shining?
What dulls your sparkle?

Join Karen Hughes for a wonderful day of rediscovery and soul searching to find and release your inner sparkle!
This is a women only retreat and is exclusively brought to you by Sparklicious Living.

A taste of Nia and complementary therapies are included in the day.

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What’s your favourite festive tune?

Is it included in the playlist for the free Festive Nia class untitled-design1at Woodham on
14 December? Find out here.

Why not come along and join us on the day as we move to the music celebrate another year of the Joy of Movement, of friendship and shared experience?

The class will be followed by seasonal refreshments and a mini craft fair featuring hand-crafted items from Nia class members. Come along for a chat, to try Nia for the first time and pick up a few unique and special Christmas gifts.

A donation will be made from the proceeds to the Woodham Village Community Association Defibrilator and CPR Training Appeal.

See below for more information or visit the Classes and Events page.

Christmas break
In the run up to Christmas, why not join me and give yourself an escape from the Christmas rush? I’ll be teaching classes as normal in the week beginning Monday 19th December, then taking a complete break for two weeks over Christmas.

New Class timetable for 2017
As some of you may know, a change in my working hours (yes, I still have a day job), mean that there’ll be a new class timetable for 2017. I’m still finalising the details, but as soon as everything is in place, I’ll send out a special newsletter and the information will be on the Classes and Events page.

And finally, I would like to wish you and your families all the best for the festive season and the coming year.


Nia Move of the month – Outward Punch

There are four basic punches: Upward, Outward (forward), Across and Downward. as with the Blocks, they all begin and end in the Ready Position: A or Sumo Stance, knees soft and spring-loaded, hands in a fist with palms up, elbows in, forearms close to your body.

You can sound, “up!”, “out!”, “down!” or “across!” to engage your core and diaphragm.

Punches can help you move quickly and rhythmically. They develop strength in your core and arms and condition your back and legs too! and can really make you feel more powerful.

Put on your favourite music and depending on the beat, play with strong, powerful, jazzy and gentle punches.

For the Outward Punch, from the Ready Position, bring one fist and forearm straight out to the front. At the same time, draw the other elbow back. Notice how your palms are facing up to begin with and as you bring the fist and forearm forward, your arm spirals and your palm faces down.

Don’t lean forward! If you do, you may find you have pain in your shoulder or elblow. Stay upright.

Watch Laurie Bass explain and demonstrate the move:

What I’m watching

After a Nia taster session last week, I found myself demonstrating the Nia 5 Stages.

It’s a movement practice based on five developmental moves: embryonic, creeping, crawling, standing and walking. Retracing the stages in an adult body is a way to reclaim the body’s natural strength, flexibility, mobility and neural plasticity. With regular practice, these moves contribute to spinal health, re-patterning and restructuring the whole body, enhancing physical and energetic balance.

Here’s a much more detailed demonstration by Kevin VerEecke and an explanation of its benefits from Debbie Rosas, co-creator of Nia.

Classes and events

Free festive Nia class followed by Seasonal Refreshments and Mini Craft Fair
Woodham Village Community Centre,
Wednesday 14 December, 10 a.m. – 12.30 p.m.woodham-festive-nia

You’re invited to this end of year celebration and get-together

Donations to the Woodham Village Community Centre Defibrilator & CPR Training appeal welcome.

Open to anyone who’d like to come along – the more the merrier. If you’d like to bring something you’ve made to sell, please get in touch.

Download the poster

End of year classes
  • 12 December 2016 last class before Christmas at the Pioneering Care Centre, 6.30 p.m.
  • 14 December 2016 – free festive class at Woodham 10 a.m.
  • 19 December 2016 – Nia class at Bannatyne’s 12 noon
  • 20 December 2016 – Nia class at Keep Fit Darlington 10 a.m.
  • 21 December 2016 – Nia class at Woodham Village Community Centre 10 a.m.

No classes from 26 December – 8 January inclusive

New Class Timetable for 2017 coming soon!

Details to be finalised. Check the Classes and Events page before Christmas.

Take 5 & Chill!

asleepFeeling very chilled after my first ever “Move with Ease” session last Friday. I caught up on sleep over the weekend (a lot!), so I hope the participants felt as relaxed as I did. One actually said that the only way the session could have been improved was if I’d provided duvets and left them till 8 a.m. next morning!

If you missed it, there’s another chance to try it out for yourself on 29 July. Same time. Same place. We’ll start with some simple moves to help release tension and relieve pain, followed by some mindful, slow and easy moves to music and end with around 15 minutes of complete relaxation. Places are limited, so please contact me if you’d like to book a place. Full details on the classes and events page.

Read on to discover this week’s Nia Move of the week and download 10 tips for an ageless brain and body.

Nia move of the week – Hip Bumps

Staying with the Core of the body, this week we’re looking at Hip Bumps.  Doing Hip Bumps keeps upper and lower body connected as well as toning your core, your waist and increasing mobility in your spine.

Just imagine you’re bumping someone out of your way – forwards, backwards, to the sides.(Remember that dance from the 1970s?).

If it’s uncomfortable, try slowing down or making the move smaller.

Watch it here.

What I’m reading – 10 tips for an ageless brain and body

I’ve just finished reading a novel which follows the effect of early onset Alzheimer’s  not only on the person who receives the diagnosis, but also on her family, particularly the younger daughter. (“What might have been me” by Yvonne Cassidy).

I found it very thought-provoking, but it also made me want to do everything I can to stay as fit and healthy as possible. I imagine most people feel the same way; so you might be interested in this link to  10 Tips for an ageless brain and body from Denise Medved, creator of Ageless Grace. It’s all common sense advice. I hope you find it useful.

Classes & Events

Move with ease 20160729Move with Ease
Friday 29 July, 6.30 – 8.30 p.m.
Venue:  Aditi Yoga and Pilates, Darlington

A two-hour session where you’ll learn some simple moves to help relieve tension and back pain, move mindfully to soul-stirring music and then relax completely to set yourself up for a great night’s sleep.

Contact me now to book your place.

Full details of all classes and events

Take 5 & Write it down!

Happy New Year!

FireworksI had a great start to 2016 at yesterday’s classes with the routine “Grace” – perfect for thinking about what I’d like from the New Year. “Grace” is a series of mantras, beautifully set to music by Siri Sadhana Kaur and choreographed by Nia teacher Fiona Winter, which helped me set my intentions for the year. The mantras are for removing obstacles, for peace and prosperity, for assisting transition through changing times, for embracing self-care and for protection against negativity, and more besides. See what I mean? Great intentions for my journey through 2016.

Good for me, because I don’t like “making resolutions” (the implication is that they are there to be broken – or maybe that’s just me). Last year I came across the idea of “Making promises to myself”, as in, “This year I promise myself that I will…” and found that worked much better.

This year, I’m setting intentions – with the help of “Grace” – of things that I’d like to achieve or receive this year. Not in any great detail – just the overall “feel” of whatever it is, although some are more specific than others. You might prefer to think of them as “goals” or “dreams”. And the main thing I’ve learned is that it’s important to Write Them Down. It seems that we are 42 per cent more likely to achieve our goals just by writing them down because it:

  • forces us to clarify what we want, and
  • motivates us to take action.

You can read more here (click DAY 1).

So my tip of the week is:  Write it down!

News flash of the week – a first for the North East

It’s on the Nianow website, so it must be official!

NiaBlackBelt2I am delighted to share with you that after several months of quiet work behind the scenes, for the first time ever in the North East there is to be a Nia White Belt training.

This is the first level of a five-belt training series that presents a body-centered approach to health, wellness and fitness. And if you’d like to share Nia with others, the White Belt Training is your entry into teaching. It’s a different approach to personal development and many people do the training just for that reason, never intending to teach.  More

And if you’ve never done Nia and you’re just wondering what it’s all about, then take advantage of my special offer and keep an eye out for some special workshops in 2016.

Christmas/New Year offer extended till the end of January

You may have seen my offer for Christmas and New Year Nia classes in the last newsletter. You can use the flyer to get £2 off the price of a class until the end of January  (Monday morning or Wednesday morning classes). Get yours here.

Nia move of the week

In Nia, there are 52 basic moves for the base of the body (hips down), the core (pelvis, chest and head) and the upper extremities (arms, wrists and hands). As there are 52 weeks in the year, I thought I’d feature one move a week this year (could be useful in a slow news week…).

I’m starting with the Base of the body where the moves consist of Stances, Steps, moves for the Feet and Kicks.

Closed Stance

Toes touch, heels are slightly apart. The knees should be relaxed and the spine tall. Practise walking and then stopping in a closed stance. Imagine you are a deeply rooted tree. Sense your entire skeleton.

Benefits: trains the upper body to work efficiently with the lower body.

Watch it
Related article

Description adapted from: The Nia technique: the high-powered energizing workout that gives you a new body and a new life By Debbie Rosas and Carlos Rosas, Broadway Books, 2004.