Awareness of Touch: Sensing the Physical World

This is part of a larger article by Debbie Rosas, William Stewart and Gail Condrick and first appeared on, in April, 2011.

By Gail Condrick

I believe touch is the first sensation. Even before breath, there is the touch of creation that brings life to existence. Touch can bring pleasure and pain, and always brings awareness and attention. As a Nia sensation scientist, I can activate my own healing as I touch the world around me through my body movement. I can also be “touched” and moved mentally though the release of emotions that flow naturally in a Nia class.

At the core of Nia is a unique fitness philosophy, which involves seeking the sensation of pleasure in all we do. I was reminded of this recently, when I branched out from my regular routine and attended an aerobic dance class to see what was preceding me at a new venue. The participants, men and women aged 50-plus, were following a leader who responded to a tape with voice-over instructions and music. She illustrated the movements as the students followed her. They were jumping, twisting knees and torsos and turning quickly with challenging choreography. All of their attention was on the teacher. They pushed through the hour as if they were running to a finish line. At the end there was no cool down; there was only goodbye. Many left complaining of aches and pains, wearing these “battle wounds” as a medal of honor that they had “worked out” and had an athletic experience. Value was measured in the amount of sweat they wiped off their bodies.

The sensory-based practice of Nia is the opposite in almost every way. While also a cardiovascular workout, Nia invites me to connect with my body sensations, to give and receive pleasure for myself as a practitioner and for my students. I begin by sensing with my feet, the hands that touch the earth. As I become more conscious and aware, my body seems to slow, and I am more deliberate in my dance. I touch the space and notice that I can feel the air softly on my hand; I step and am aware of the hardness of the wood floor under my bare feet; I move my hips, shimmy and jiggle, and my body responds in celebration with me.

As I continue the dance, I am developing a sensory relationship with the world outside of my body and with my interior world. I touch the space with my head, hands, chest and feet, and I move molecules around me and within me. Underneath my skin is another dance of touch and sensation; my organs shift and move, and my connective tissue warms, lengthens and releases. In this place of awareness, I am sensing every moment and living in the ultimate “now zone” of existence. I am giving myself an internal and external massage, a body-worker of my own body.

At the end of the hour I am dripping with sweat, but I do not feel pain. Instead, I receive the final sensation of pleasure, that invisible touch that emanates from the warm blanket of Nia that has folded over me. I realize I am the mother of my own body, birthing my own feeling, sensing, pulsing, touching, pleasurable body awareness experiences through my Nia practice.

Gail’s tips on touch:

  1. As you connect with your feet and your body touches the space, ask yourself, “Is this pleasurable?” If the answer is yes, continue. If it’s no, adjust your movement in a way that feels good today – and remember that sensation may change tomorrow.
  2. Become a sensation scientist as you experiment with touch and the nine movement forms in your body laboratory. Explore the sensation of power in your body as you explode through space with Tae Kwon Do kicks and punches. Mix in modern dance creativity as you sculpt with your body and touch the space around you. Experience self-healing as you move energy along your bones and come into postural alignment. Note how the sensation of touch shifts with each of the movement forms.
  3. Move through the Nia 5 Stages and chart how your experience shifts as you concentrate your awareness on the sensation of touch, moving from the embryonic stage to the standing stage.
  4. Imagine the music makes physical contact with your body as you dance. Do you move any differently? If so, how?
  5. Pay attention to how stress or tension is affected when you make physical contact with others. How does your body respond to a high-five, a hug, a foot massage?

Copyright © Gail Condrick, 2011

Gail Condrick is a writer and lover of all things earth and ocean living in Sarasota, Florida. Write to Gail