I'm often asked what Kai is. In fact just today my kids overheard someone saying it was "spiritual mumbo jumbo" from a student coming into the next class after Kai (this comment came from person who has never taken Kai and never even observed a class). My older son actually said it to me with surprise and understanding as this kind of comment is common on school yards where one person tries to down another to make themselves feel better....we've had lots of conversations about this kind of subtle "bullying". Kai is not your average class, however there is LOTS of research out there about mindfulness, brain research and dance, awareness and even research on "happiness" itself that supports the kind of movements we do in Kai. I invite the challenge in to express what Kai IS ( and spiritual mumbo jumbo it is NOT) and it's grounded in research.
What is Kai? How is it different than a dance class...like say Zumba? It's like apples and oranges....
Kai is different than traditional fitness, it involves more focused attention and thus stimulates more areas of the brain, there is an emphasis on learning to move your body in it's best functioning way and every move has a reason "why" behind it that comes from the function and design of the body. We do it barefoot to further incorporate integrated approach of conditioning the body as a whole, and to further strengthen/stretch/challenge and heal every part of it. A mind/body class ( whether it's yoga, pilates or mind/body of any kind) is taught differently that traditional models of fitness. Instead of a dependence of the teacher pushing you to reach new levels, you are responsible to choose and adapt the movements to find the intensity you desire. This requires more from YOU, and will give you back more in the end as you strengthen from within.
Kai has some Authentic Movement sections that are designed to give the participant time to develop their own creative movements and to let go of choreography , this is empowering and allows for more expression and personal adaptation to get what you need on any day. There is a method to the madness,.....and it's NOT spiritual mumbo -jumbo. The "spirit" aspect of a class is minimal and is defined as your unique-ness.......stretching in to noticing and truly expressing who YOU are through movement versus copying anothers' movements all the time actually is a very profound and direct way to stimulate more of the brain , in particular the right hemisphere. It also takes courage, and is highly rewarding and is developed over time. This is a place to tap into if your going for that big job, or taking on a project that you need some extra "umph" on , it's the place inside that is resourced when we want to go to a new "edge", it's the place athletes who compete at high levels understand.......A large part of this is the space that is collectively held that is NON-JUDGEMENT. This creates a very rich space for learning to love your body, heal your body instead of beat it up, and supports change of all kinds ( including weight loss, or gaining more strength).
Is Kai like Nia? ......both are mind body classes with similar premises.....different flavors of the same apple. Kai is more expressive, has less structure and more freedom for the teacher and student, it has a wider range of music ( raggae, blues, rock, techno, hip hop, pop, etc.) , and has less choreography than Nia. There are 8 Kai "bows" ( with 8 more coming this year) for teachers to use as "Creative Grids" though the emphasis is on students having more time and space to truly connect deeply within the movements and in the moment. Kai classes focus on the elements of earth, water, air, fire and wood to develop more expanded ways of moving ( instead of always moving fast and only conditioning THAT in one class and then taking another whole class to condition mindfulness or slow movement.....we do it all in one class to stimulate the nervous system adaptablity) as well as archetypes of the Warrior ( strength, focus) , Athlete ( conditioning to the edge), Child( playfulness), healer ( respond to sensation) and dancer ( love of patterns and rhythms)- to make it fun and engaging on different levels.
We focus on listening to the body and loving it as a practice versus other approaches to fitness that are less than positive. I come from a traditional fitness mania background and found that this approach ( go for the burn) in most cases DOESNT WORK. I see people through the years, and witnessed in myself a lack of getting the results desired from the traditional model. I also found that a point came where it felt to ego driven and was depleting to me . From a purely physical place, look at the bodies in the classes you take, watch how they move, listen to what is talked about, notice how you feel in this environment. As a trainer myself I notice people becoming a slave to the gym, becoming bored, or being injured over time.
Kai is a movement "workout" with 21 movements, the elements ( that create more movement diversity and adaptability) and using the body as a guide. It's for men and women , and does include some "dance" type of movements as well as some traditional squats, jumps, runs/walks, hops, skips, punches, throws, blocks. It's an excellent cardio and strength training for the bones/muscles ( i have women who have results of increased bone mass over time) , includes stretching ( yoga...is that spiritual mumbo jumbo?) and includes many healing movements that are natural versus the learned movements of traditional fitness ( somatics). It's grounded in brain research thru developing the plasicity of the brain and stimulating neurons into new areas. It works both the sympatic and parasympathetic nervous systems thus the feeling of "calm, sweaty and focused" at the end is common. This in itself sets it apart from most other modalities and has a deep effect right down to the hormones released in our body and fat burning effects.
...Our brains and movement patterns develop maps that become "grooves" in the brain for what we do......and for most of us those grooves are pretty rigid and set ways that effect our body directly and are less healthy for us as we age. When we challenge a "new groove" it's common to feel emotional/scared/and challenged. The term "adaptablity" is one of the main needs of our bodies as we age...it's a sign of healthy tissue. It's a sign of youth.....It is the gift of Kai. The mind/body/emotions are all connected. In Kai we get to develop new grooves and step into the awkward and out of the "follow the herd" mentality.
The movements we do stimulate different areas of the brain beyond traditional movements of fitness- ( kinesthetic/spacial awareness, music, balance, expression and dance to engage more areas of the brain, patterns and ways of using the mind/mindfulness meditation practices)
It's not for wimps.....in fact, you better bring your athlete warrior and let humility be your friend. Trying anything new takes guts, and is so good for you! Kai is an integrated fitness class designed to support balance. Kai is about becoming MORE ALIVE in your body and also in your life!
Testimonial from a long time student:
" Kai balances my nervous system and gives me an invitation and the supported space to connect with different parts of my body and release emotional and physical tension. I haven't found these specific benefits in any other type of dance or exercise. " Kimberly Summers