I am a Navy Veteran, Women’s Veteran Advocate, photographer and author that has been on a healing journey for a long time. I have tried many different ways to heal Post-Traumatic Stress. Earlier in the year, I went to a retreat called Artemis Rising in Bluemont, Virginia. The retreat involved EMDR therapy, art therapy, kayaking, hiking, archery, acupuncture, equine therapy, and somatic therapy. One of the therapists at Artemis Rising introduced us to a dance routine called “Break the Chain.” We learned the choreography and I felt so empowered. This is when I started to realize that I like to dance, and by dancing I am able to access feelings that are locked away. I then could let the tears come out.
After the retreat, I came back home and got involved in my life again. At the same time, I found out my mother’s cancer had returned and was feeling very emotional. I began to look for a way to express what I was feeling. I found Nia by looking on the One Billion Rising website and came across a Nia Jam that was being held 10 minutes from my house. I had no idea what to expect and had never heard of Nia, but I walked into the studio and met all of these lovely women that were excited about dancing and made me feel welcome. The music started and I began to dance; I immediately realized that I had come home.
Nia has helped me to feel again, to come back into my body and to heal on a deeper level. Nia is teaching me I do not need to leave my body, but that I am safe to feel what I need to feel and to express what I am feeling. Most importantly, it is doing what therapy has not been able to do, and is allowing me to access feelings I cannot talk about.
I took the Nia White Belt in July with the amazing trainer, Kate Finlayson. That was an awesome experience! By doing the White Belt I developed a relationship with my body. I realized, I do not need to be ashamed of my body and can love my body. I learned where I hold my feelings and memories, and instead of criticizing and hating those parts of me, I began to accept and love those parts of me. Kate Finlayson taught me to be present, to talk to my body, listen to my body and be loving to my body. I learned that I can dance and trust myself and embody the 52 moves of Nia. She taught me to listen to the music. I am all about the base, and I love music that has drums. I am coming back home to myself.
In September, I took the Green Belt with Stephaney which continued to build on the foundation from my White Belt, learning where I hold my memories and about music, how to cue on the three and six. I learned the importance of just trying, and that I don’t have to be perfect.
I love Nia. Nia is helping me heal from Post-Traumatic Stress. It’s helping me to access feelings that have been locked inside. I have a relationship with my body and have started to love my body. Nia has given me sisters and friends on their own journey that truly care about me, and I about them. Nia has given me a safe place to feel what I need to feel and be who I am.
By: Julie “Jewels” Smoot