Do it Again: The Elegance of Repetition

Posted by on Jan 20, 2014 in Blog | 9 comments

Do it Again: The Elegance of Repetition

Could it be that the thrill of adventure has a downside?


A couple weeks ago, I found myself in a fellow Nia teacher’s class in Berkeley. Despite the early hour on a Saturday morning, I was surprised to see a myriad of students filter through the door. Yes, the room was packed. These women chose to come dance rather than sleep in late, and everyone felt alive. Thinking back over the past year, it occurred to me that my colleague was doing something very right – something simple, yet profound. She was showing up to hold the class, week after week, again and again. She was willing to stay home and build her practice.


Contrast that to my adventurous year. Bouncing from coast to coast, pursuing training in new forms of dance. Exploring emergent relationship paradigms. Deciding last minute to do things I’ve always wanted to do. And sometimes, leaving a pile of broken promises in my wake.


I notice that it’s easy for me to envy the person with the most “exciting” life. The world traveler. The consultant who gets paid well for an unexpected one-time gig. The one who throws care to the wind and decides to pick up and go. How admirable, I think, is the person who can skillfully execute an intense and last minute change of plans.


And, how easily I forget the balance. How I forget that there is an incredibly potent other-side-of-the-coin.  Without exception, my teachers – the masters who created the visions that have inspired me most in this life time – have one thing in common: staying power. The willingness to stay in one place and do one action, with enough intention, for long enough, that eventually a fire takes hold.


As it is in life, so it is in our bodies as well. Basic fitness says that in order to build a muscle, we re-create the same movement of one body part through many repetitions. With time, the muscle becomes stronger. Larger. More developed. It’s as true in a Nia Technique class as it is in the context of lifting weights. For example, “heel lead” and “bow stance,” when practiced repeatedly, build stability in the ankle and knee joints.


If you’re anything like me, you probably start looking for was to spice things up when the same old move comes up in a fitness class.  I am an avid freedancer, drawn to Nia first and foremost for the sense of creativity it provides. Nonetheless, I have grown to love the repetition just the same. I love it for the friendly, homey feeling it creates in my body – like cuddling up in a favorite soft blanket, or enjoying a morning cup of tea. It turns out, being a creature of habit isn’t such a bad thing (ask the folks who created the Chicken & Broccoli diet!) Our bodies crave the basic building blocks of staple food as much as they look for the spice.


This week I invite you to take stock of the things you do that serve you well… and do them again. And again. And again.


In your movement practice, try this experiment: Choose one thing and commit to doing it again, exactly the same way, every single day. Jog the same route around your neighborhood. Repeat the same martial arts kata. Dance to the same music, in the same way. Pay attention to the sensations in your body as you move. Exactly what muscles are required to create that form? What joints? What state of mind? After one week of putting your attention on just one movement, what subtle changes do you begin to notice? What new sensations of stability, mobility or flexibility are starting to take hold?


In life, take a look at the places you lack “staying power.”  Be honest with yourself, and look without judgment. Are there things you’ve been building that haven’t quite taken hold? A community. A new line of work. An intimate relationship. Where are the places you stop too soon, rather than do it again? What choices do you make that sabotage your commitment? What would it look and feel like to stay the course?


I dare you to try it on for the next 30 days and see what simple magic begins to unfold.


On the hook,






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