Aimee Retzler: Play as a path to fitness |

Aimee Retzler: Play as a path to fitness

Locating your inner child through play can help alleviate stress while stimulating self-healing and whole body conditioning.
Photo submitted by Aimee Retzler

Remember when you were five and you flopped down on the floor pretending to be a lion, dragon or slithery snake hissing at your childhood friend? I remember doing cartwheels until the cows came home, and army-style crawling on my hands, knees and belly to perform a sneak attack on my sister and her friends in total surprise.

This is the art of play and kids are wizards at it. They don’t think twice about getting down on the ground or floor and spending hours there in all kinds of positions. Their bodies inform how they do it – there is no thinking required. When their body has had enough of one position, it tells them through sensation that it’s time to move into another position. Imagine not losing this ability to just play.

I recently attended a Nia FloorPlay workshop in San Rafael that was intended to do just that. I spent 14 hours over one weekend getting the opportunity to play on the floor. I thought I would wake up the second day of training and be incredibly sore and a bit tired. I’m happy to report that neither was the case.

Playing felt joyful, natural, and at times, took me back to the age of five when I revisited doing the army-style crawl in a body that realized, “Hey, I’ve still got it and I don’t want to lose it,” “it” being the art of play.

As a child, the floor, your body and gravity taught you to push, pull, creep, crawl, reach, roll over, squat, stand up, run and walk. This body wisdom still lives in you, and the floor is still there. The floor is still the body’s best playground and play is still the best way to learn, grow, develop and receive lasting benefits.

Nia FloorPlay is a unique movement program designed to stimulate self-healing and whole body conditioning. FloorPlay creatively takes one move and blends it into the next to create a beautiful, whole body finger to toe dance. Best of all, FloorPlay helps you move in ways that leave you feeling better, stronger, more flexible, mobile, agile and with increased energy and vitality by playing to move and feel better.

Debbie Rosas, co-founder of The Nia Technique, led the workshop, and she asked us what we love about our body and what we didn’t. I jotted down some thoughts and was surprised at what came out. I love my strength, how my body adapts, the color of my eyes, and yes even my shape. Then on to my list of what I didn’t love: the color of one of my teeth, my loss of 20/20 vision, sometimes my smell and last, my shape.

What? How can I love something about my body and also not love the exact same thing?

Debbie went on to talk to us about the power of movement and its impact on overall wellness.

“Through movement we find health,” she said, “and healthy movement hinges on pleasure and comfort, on self-healing and conditioning which come from working with your body, and finding the right motivation and inspiration to stick with what’s good for you. The way to stay healthy and well is to establish a loving, interactive relationship with your body.”

Her point was well taken and I quickly realized that love can be transformative. I can consciously spend time cultivating the sensation of love for my body and let go of the heavy, condensed sensations that come along with what I don’t love about my body. Today I might not like one part of my shape and tomorrow that part may change. Because I have an interactive relationship with my body, I can learn to love the gift of living in a healthy body that keeps on moving and I know that the relationship I have with my body is the most important relationship I will have in my lifetime. Your body stays with you through thick and thin. Your body doesn’t leave when it gets sick, bored or simply tired and if we keep moving it, the body finds its way to health.

Play is a way for me to access this love and a vehicle that transports me into a loving relationship with my body. Play is organic and brilliant at instantly organizing all of your body parts at once. Play opens and frees the thinking mind. It naturally creates ease and reduces effort in movement thanks to gravity. Play takes the focus off precise movement and lets you get into the zone. It is high octane fuel that is available to everyone, anywhere, anytime and you can personalize it based on what feels good to your body.

My sister recently called me to invite me to “play” with her. She said something about a spa and this is a version of play that I couldn’t resist. I couldn’t wait to spend time with her one on one, reconnecting to our past, present and future. We managed to get our own version of play time in again and I left feeling like I was twenty years younger.

I ask, what are you waiting for? Go ahead and schedule a play date with someone you love. No thinking required; army-style crawls and cartwheels encouraged.

Aimee Retzler is a licensed black belt Nia Technique teacher and has been teaching classes for over 10 years. Nia classes are offered at Shine Collective, 578 Searls Ave. in Nevada City every Tues. Weds with Aimee and also Thursday, 8:30-9:30am with Allison Rivers Samson. For more information, email Aimee at, join her Facebook group, niawithaimee or call 415-265-8447.

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