My name is Ondine Constable. I'm a teacher of Nia—a fusion of dance, martial arts, and healing arts. I love the way it makes me feel—energized, relaxed, and strong. It's a means for fitness and creative expression that I can enjoy throughout my life.
I love to share the experience and see my students' faces light up with the Joy of Movement! (Please see my Profile for info about Nia classes.)

In this blog I share personal experiences that enrich my life, including Nia, Transcendental Meditation (which I have practiced for 40 years), and my exploration of natural approaches to health. I offer ideas that I hope will bring you greater health and happiness. Your comments & questions are welcome.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Nia Dance Jams - for home and Haiti

Every month our local Nia community hosts a Nia Jam to raise funds for a local non-profit that we feel is really doing good things for our community. Our next Jam is March 6, in support of My Place, a safe shelter for homeless young people in Hendersonville. Please see my other site for details.

Our February Nia fundraiser for Haiti got snowed out last month, and has been rescheduled to March 20. Join me, along with other Nia Fitness instructors and friends, for heartfelt music and movement on Saturday, March 20, 2010, from 10:15-11:30 a.m. at the Henderson County Family YMCA. A donation of $10 is suggested ($8 for Y members), but more is welcome. Proceeds will be donated to the What If? Foundation which is providing meals and water to thousands of people in Haiti every day.

Nia is non-impact, aerobic fitness combining elements of dance, martial arts and healing movement such as yoga. Nia is fun for all ages “eight to 108,” and is safe for all levels of fitness. Nia is especially beneficial for those with arthritis, joint or back pain, and is also excellent cross-conditioning for athletes. Dance up a glow, work up a sweat, and feel more alive and joyful in your body!

The What If? Foundation, established in 2000, funds food and education programs for children in Haiti, in partnership with St. Clare’s Community of Port-au-Prince. Since the recent earthquake, St. Clare’s Community has continued to feed thousands of people every day, and is arranging medical care and shelter. This community/volunteer-based program has a successful track record of getting aid directly to the people who need it. “At this point, each truck of food and water we send costs approximately $5000, and we are arranging six trucks a week to help keep people alive,” says Foundation Founder, Margaret Trost. To learn more about this organization, including frequent blog updates from Haiti, see

Registration for the Jam begins at 10:00. We’ll be dancing for joy from 10:15 – 11:30 a.m. in the Fitness Studio. The Henderson County YMCA is located at 810 6th Avenue West in Hendersonville, NC.

For more information about Nia, please see my home site and Many Nia teachers across the country are doing similar events, so check out the events and class finder on

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The scent of heaven on earth

I'm supposed to be doing something else right now, but I must take a moment to share the exquisite experience I'm enjoying as I sit here in my home office. The scent of VedAroma geranium essential oil is subtly permeating my home, lifting my spirits, freshening the air and giving me a boost of blissful energy.

I'm fascinated by the therapeutic properties of essential oils. Dr. Rosie
Geelvink, one of the developers of the VedAroma products, says, "These very powerful substances are absorbed through cell membranes, cross the blood-brain barrier, and bind to specific receptors in the brain. Essential oils uplift, calm, revitalize, inspire, and improve appetite, digestion, sleep, memory, creativity, self confidence, and bliss."

Pure essential oils are antibacterial and antiviral; The scent can help boost your immunity, and a few drops added to unscented natural cleaners can help purify your home. VedAroma therapeutic essential oils are pure, organic, and produced without chemicals or high heat which damage the therapeu
tic qualities of essential oils. Because they are absorbed immediately through the cell membranes, it's important to only use organic, pure oils—not perfumes which have potentially harmful ingredients.

I've sniffed a lot of essential oils... I can't pass an essential oils section in a store without stopping to take a whiff. I've found some
even other organic brands with many good properties—to be less than satisfying, with an "unripe" or a harsh scent. With VedAroma, each one I try becomes my new favorite, every one is utterly nourishing. I especially love the blends Morning Fresh and Peaceful Night.

Check out this interesting article, or see to read more about the properties of specific essential oils. To order, call Maharishi Ayurveda Products at 800-255-8332. (Please mention my referral code
VEDAROMA5. I earn a small amount, which I donate to good causes in my local area. Thank you!)

The purchase of VedAroma oils supports the small organic farms worldwide that supply these precious medicinal flowers and herbs. Proceeds also support several thousand traditional Vedic pandits in India who are dedicated to creating world peace for all of us. Nice to know!

To see more articles on this site, click on "home" below.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Celebrating 25 Years of Nia: A Conversation With Fitness Pioneer Carlos Rosas

This article by Anne Lowry, Black Belt Nia Instructor, and Ondine Constable, Green Belt Nia Instructor, was originally published in New Life Journal, Spring 2009.

In 1983, Carlos Rosas and Debbie Rosas created the Nia Technique, an internationally acclaimed “body-mind-spirit movement and lifestyle practice”. They have presented at such leading conventions as The National Wellness Conference, Sound Healers Conference, the Science of Consciousness Conference, and currently sponsor Inner IDEA, an association of holistic fitness professionals. Carlos and Debbie continue to develop training programs for more than 2,000 certified Nia Instructors in 37 countries.

Last November, Carlos led two advanced Nia teacher trainings in Black Mountain, NC, attended by Nia Teachers from around the world. Anne Lowry and Ondine Constable interviewed Carlos for New Life Journal.

A&O: You define Nia as "body-mind-spirit" fitness, rather than "mind-body" fitness. Please explain.

Carlos: [Mind-body fitness] invites people to be inward instead of being so outwardly concentrated. Nia is a "body-mind-spirit" practice—spirit stands for all that is unique and different to each person.

"Body-mind-spirit" also includes emotion. When it's mind-body it tends to be dualistic. Spirit breaks the dualism. To us, the word mind means using your mental faculties as much as your physical faculties. In Nia, just as we are for body relaxation, we're for mental relaxation. Instead of saying “be mindful," I'd rather say "be aware of your body, be sensitive." The practice of Nia has some qualities that are like mind-body programs, but it’s truly more expansive.

A&O: Can you suggest any Nia principles that people can apply in their current exercise routine?

Carlos: Whatever people do, most likely there's some kind of rhythm or cycle that they can pay attention to, instead of mental busy-ness. When the mind is brought to the attention of a cycle, the mind relaxes. When the mind relaxes you get fit in such a way that the body releases certain hormones, loosens up the joints, the brain waves change, etc. That’s an aspect of living meditation.

A&O: What are some examples of cycles?

Carlos: It depends on the sport. If someone is running, they can count their steps or every time their hand comes to the front, every 10 for example—“1 and 2 and...” then they step on 10 again—or rowing or working on a machine. There is a cycle—a beginning, middle and end—and then the mind comes back to the beginning. When the caring of your body is present, it happens.

A&O: Would you say that people who’ve mastered the techniques of their particular sport are doing Nia without even knowing it?

Carlos: That aspect of Nia, yes. The awareness of cycles and the way that they focus. All Olympic athletes do it. They go into the zone, an altered state of consciousness. They focus, and they count their strides. Any activity where you put your mind on something like that will do it.

A&O: Anything you'd like to say about Nia’s 25th anniversary and its future?

Carlos: The 25th anniversary has given people an opportunity to say "wow, Nia has been around a long time," and there's a new appreciation of what's been accomplished. What I see for the future has to do with creating a new educational program so (that) Nia is more openly seen in the mainstream.

A&O: What changes do you observe that are a natural part of healthy aging?

Carlos: I am 56 years old. The energy reservoir of my body is very different from when I was 40, when I was 30, when I was 20. I pay attention to that and say, okay, now that my body is here, what do I need to do differently so that the youthfulness returns. Part of that is learning to be more efficient—through the efficiency of movement, of how I eat, of living in a meditative state. So while [I am] older and some things feel different, at the same time I have twice as much energy at this age than I would have if I’d continued to stay status quo. I find I can be very productive, I can be highly energy efficient. I’m not following the [common] approach, like okay, I’m going to take it easy, or I guess I need to eat less. I’ve had to explore before I came to this [understanding].

I don't have a formula. I couldn't say to someone "you're 56 so do these things." But I do know that Nia has really helped me, a lot.

It's not that I want to be young again, I just want to feel youthful. I'd rather have my joints loose and relaxed than have body definition. I'd rather be flexible than have body definition or be super strong. With the flexibility, and the mobility which comes from the joints, then I can build around that. And of course I want my body to be agile.

When I was 45, my sense of balance was already off. Then doing these things that I am doing now, it has come back. Have you noticed when you watch someone after a certain age when they get up, the first step is a little off to the side. Or they want to go upstairs and they reach for the banister right away, or they want to go down and they stop to look down. Those are things to pay attention to.

My body is a chemical plant. I've come full circle to where I can see how my emotions and my thoughts affect my chemistry. I'm interested in how (things) affect me chemically because that translates into energy. Food is my main source of chemistry. A lot goes into that... And meditation is most powerful. It’s a great balancer.

For more information, see the Nia Technique Book by Carlos Rosas and Debbie Rosas, and also visit

As of October 2009, Carlos now goes by the name Carlos AyaRosas.

To see more articles on this site, click on "home" below.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Autumn is soup season

As seasons change, you might notice your body making changes too. Here in Western North Carolina, fall came with the honking of geese, a deluge of rains followed by glorious, cool, sunny days, cascading leaves, and darker, sleepier mornings. And the subtle aching of my hip joints... (continue)

To see more articles on this site, click on "home" below.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Exercise and Ayurveda - Coaching from the ancient ‘Science of Life’

The topic of ayurveda brings to mind herbal medicine. Yet the healthcare system from the Vedic Tradition of India is amazingly comprehensive and addresses the mind and body, not as a collection of parts, but as a holistic system integrated with our environment. Ayurveda includes diet, daily and seasonal routines, development of consciousness, exercise, and yes, herbs.

Here are some ayurvedic principles to help you enjoy the best results from exercise—and if you hate to workout, you might discover why!

According to ayurveda, all natural systems, including our bodies, are regulated by three functional principles called doshas—Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Regarding our bodies, doshas can be understood as biological intelligence: Vata governs bodily functions concerning movement; Pitta deals with heat, metabolism and energy production; Kapha governs fluid balance and physical structure such as fat, tissue and muscle. Ayurveda’s goal is to prevent disorder (disease) by maintaining balance in our doshas.

We are each born with a predominance of one or two doshas. (I’m a Pitta Vata—more on that later.) Knowing your body type helps you understand your strengths and avoid imbalances.

This is particularly important regarding exercise. Vatas tend to have a slight frame, are quick in mind and body, but lack stamina. Pittas are medium-build, competitive, and heat up easily. Kaphas are sturdy, strong, slower, but have endurance. Kaphas do well in weight lifting, rowing, power walking and distance running. Vatas excel in sports requiring balance and coordination such as gymnastics, yoga, martial arts, or dance. Pittas who run at high noon may come back to the office red hot and cranky. They’d be better off swimming, or running in the cool of the morning.

The doshas are strongest at different times of day. You’ll feel best if you schedule accordingly. Kapha time, 6:00 to 10:00 a.m., is best for exercising (remember, fat, tissues and muscles). Pitta (heat) dominates from 10:00 to 2:00. Digestive fire is strongest at noon so lunch should be the main meal. Vata period from 2:00 to 6:00 is best for mental focus. The cycle repeats at night —a walk after dinner (Kapha, part II) balances all doshas, aids digestion, reduces heaviness, yet is not too stimulating before sleep.

"Exercise increases mind-body coordination,’ says Dr. Nancy Lonsdorf*, physician and ayurvedic expert. “Disease occurs when the body loses contact with the underlying intelligence responsible for its maintenance and repair. Exercise... is valuable in maintaining contact of the physiology with biological intelligence." She adds, “Exercise increases circulation which, among other benefits, is key for the body’s natural internal cleansing processes.”

For fitness training, ayurveda advises us to use 50% of our capacity and conserve the other half. This builds stamina gradually, without stress. Exercise should recharge our battery, not deplete it. Kaphas have a greater capacity—and need—for intense exercise than Vatas or Pittas. For everyone, Kapha time supports a more vigorous workout.

Dr. Rainer Picha, cardiologist and Director of Maharishi College of Vedic Medicine in Holland, says low-intensity exercise metabolizes fat most efficiently. High exertion demands access to the body’s fast food—carbohydrates—but more energy is stored in fat. To develop stamina or get rid of a spare tank of slow-burning fuel (aka fat), do low-intensity workouts daily. (Not no-intensity—whatever your 50% happens to be.) Says Dr. Picha, “Over-performing can harm your body,” leading to imbalance, injury and cardiovascular stress.

Like a sports car, our bodies run on fuel. To avoid breaking down on the highway of life, eat good quality food. A wonderful ayurvedic cookbook, Heaven’s Banquet,** contains easy-to-understand explanations of ayurveda, doshas, great recipes, and it’s fun to read.

I’m a Pitta Vata. As a kid I hated gym class, which emphasized strength, endurance and contact sports. I loathed getting sweaty in the middle of the day. Do you see the problem? Gym was out of sync with my doshas! My natural strengths are coordination and movement. Now at 45, I thrive on Nia, dance, yoga and hiking. I’ve never been healthier or more active.

Fitness tips from Maharishi Ayurveda Council of Physicians:
  • Give yourself an ayurvedic oil massage in the morning before exercise to tone muscles, aid circulation, and help prevent injury.
  • As long as you feel energized and blissful while exercising you’re in a safe cardiovascular zone.
  • Signs of overexertion: Sweating on the forehead or tip of the nose—It's fine to sweat elsewhere; Difficulty breathing through the nose—If you have to open your mouth to gulp air, your heart is stressed, the circulation system is taxed, and the coordination of heart and lungs is disturbed. Stop immediately.
See and search “exercise”.

* Nancy Lonsdorf, MD, is Adjunct Professor of Research at Maharishi University of Management, Department of Physiology, which offers a Pre-Med program, and is developing an integrative medical college, including training in ayurveda. See

**Heaven’s Banquet, Ayurvedic cookbook by Miriam Hospodar, available at Amazon or through local bookstores.

To see more articles on this site, click on "home" below.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Cooking an Ayurvedic Meal at Home

If you have an organized kitchen and your ingredients handy, cooking an ayurvedic meal can be simple and fun, taking about 15 minutes to prepare and 20-25 minutes to cook. (read more of this article from Maharishi Ayurveda Products)

Also, see my crockpot blog for easy recipes based on principles of Ayurveda, the ancient science of healthy living.

To see more articles on this site, click on "home" below.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Barefoot conditioning—Getting in touch with your “hands that touch the earth”

Decades ago, I was lying on my dorm room floor, staring in astonishment at the bare feet of my friend Elspeth, who stood in the doorway. Much of her childhood took place on the beaches of Australia, unfettered by shoes. I was experiencing a revelation, a vision of the perfect specimen of healthy feet. No corns, red pressure points, or tormented toes. Who knew?!

Now as a teacher of the Nia Fitness Technique, I find bare feet even more fascinating. Feet are meant to move freely, like hands. They communicate with us through sensation, the voice of pleasure and pain, asking us to pay attention and make adjustments. Together with the legs, feet provide the foundation for the architecture of our bodies.

And like a building, a weak foundation causes problems throughout the entire structure.

Clinical evidence suggests going barefoot strengthens our feet by allowing them to move the way they were designed. International fitness educator Stacey Lei Krauss states “Barefoot training allows freedom of the toes so they can fully extend, flex and grip. This movement enhances stability in the joints of the foot, which is transferred through the ankle, leg, knees and hip.”*

Not only is walking barefoot good for the feet, but evidence suggests wearing shoes weakens the feet, leading to other problems. According to Nike research running injuries, sprains, bunions, hammer toes, shin splints and plantar fasciitis are almost non-existent in barefoot populations, said Ms. Krauss, a Nike Elite Instructor. “By insulating the sole from the ground with an athletic shoe, sensory feedback is diminished and the natural function of the foot is impeded.”

Researchers at the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa, compared the feet of 2,000-year old skeletons and three modern population groups - Sotho, Zulu (cultures who typically go barefoot) and European. Their findings? Feet were healthier before shoes were invented.**

At Rush Medical College, scientists compared shoe-wearing to bare-footing, and to their surprise found “peak joint loads at the hips and knees significantly decreased during barefoot walking, with a [12%] reduction in the knee adduction moment.” Their conclusion? “Shoes may detrimentally increase loads on the lower extremity joints.” ***

Some people feel that going barefoot is impractical in most cases for safety and hygiene. Fortunately there are many ways to gain the benefits of barefoot conditioning. The Nia Fitness Technique is an excellent choice.

Twenty-five years ago, two aerobics instructors, Carlos Rosas and Debbie Rosas (owner of a chain of successful fitness studios) took off their athletic shoes and created what they termed “Non-Impact Aerobics” (Nia), a fusion of dance, martial arts and healing movement practices.

Now referred to as Neuromuscular Integrative Action, Nia is a cardio workout that’s FUN! Nia teaches you to sense for stability, mobility, comfort and, dare I say, pleasure in your feet and ankles during stances, walking and stepping motions. Of the 52 moves incorporated in the Nia Technique, 27 are specifically designed for the feet and legs.

In my experience, Nia has relieved chronic ankle pain from an old injury. And I’ve fallen in love with my own feet.

Here are some Nia exercises (Source: The Nia Technique by Debbie Rosas and Carlos Rosas, details these and other foot exercises; Published by Broadway Books, available at Amazon and bookstores):
• Move your feet like hands - wiggling toes, spreading the toes, grabbing as if picking up pennies or scrunching a towel.
• Every time you step, lead with your heel and imagine your foot as the mouth of an alligator opening.
• Keep your ankles pliable and strong by rising up onto the balls of your feet as if reaching for something on a shelf, then slowly lower your heels down.

And additional tips for healthy, happy feet:
• Flex your feet and stretch your calves before getting out of bed - especially helpful for plantar fascitis (pain in the arch and heel, acute in the morning).
• Create a barefoot-friendly yard, preferably without toxic chemicals. Take your feet for a walk and be thrilled by the sensation of grass, moss, sand, or smooth pebbles.
• Refresh achy feet with a soak of Epsom salts and essential oils of lavender or peppermint: cool soaks in hot weather; warm soaks in cold weather.
• Massage a few drops of sesame or almond oil on the soles and toes before bed - a great way to enjoy quality time with your feet.
• Favoring an anti-inflammatory diet may help reduce arthritic pain: fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, wild Alaskan salmon, ground flax seed and/or omega 3 supplements; avoid red meat and fried or processed foods; drink pure water.
• Wear shoes that allow the natural flex of your arches, that don’t pinch your toes or shift weight to the forefoot. Some interesting shoes have been developed to support “barefoot” conditioning. Ask a podiatrist or knowledgeable shoe salesperson. See and

Love your feet, and they will take you dancing through life.

Note: This article first appeared in the New Life Journal, October 2008.

View my website or for class information.

* The World at your Feet, by Stacey Lei Krauss; American Fitness Magazine, April 2007
** Shod versus Unshod: The emergence of forefoot pathology in modern humans, B. Zipfel, and L. Berger; peer-reviewed and published in The Foot, International Journal of Clinical Foot Science, November 2007
*** Rush Medical College of Rheumatology, Chicago; Najia Shakoor, and Joel Block

Click here: Article by Dr. Mercola on barefoot running.

To see more articles on this site, click on "home" below.