I was born to move! In fact, I have been moving my whole life. I had no idea my worlds as an athlete and fitness guru would one day collide and synchronistically click with my life as a mind-body psychotherapist. But in 1995, they did!
Growing up in a small town in east Texas, I roughhoused with the boys, played softball, ran track and being the tallest girl in my class, found my way to the basketball court too. I fell in love with the game, spending every spare moment practicing defense, dribbling, faking, free throws, jump shots and layups. Indeed,that was my game, excelled with All-State patches and State Championship wins.
When it was time for me to find a job after graduating high school, I did not want a traditional job as a store clerk, waiting tables or working at a bank. I wanted to keep MOVING! So, I discovered a women’s only fitness center with chrome and Pepto-Bismol pink decor, vibrating belts and rollers to “melt cellulite.” “This will be fun,” I thought, “I can move and get paid!”
The manager hired me, handed me a Jane Fonda record album, including a booklet with photos of movements, told me to learn the moves and teach it to the clients ASAP.
Picture this: 1985, permed hair, leotards, spandex tights, leg warmers and headbands. In fact, aerobic shoes hadn’t even been invented yet—we jumped around in bare feet! It was all focused on “feel the burn,” ten more, burning calories, tightening bums, abs and reaching for the unattainable perfect body. This was my entry into teaching aerobics, a cornerstone moment in the projection of my life path.
As I worked my way through college, I continued to move, teaching every new form of aerobic fitness that came down the pike! High Impact, Low Impact, Slide Aerobics, Step Aerobics…you name it, I did it!
After graduating college with degrees in Psychology and Counseling, I landed my first professional job as a Hospice Counselor, working with dying patients and their families. This work was profound, meaningful and extremely stressful in all realms of my body, mind, emotions and spirit. It was through this work I met Mechelle, a Social Worker at the Cancer Center.
Through our numerous discharge planning meetings, I discovered Mechelle taught a mind-body-spirit movement form called Nia.
She asked me to come try it sometime. So, I said I’d come check it out but week after week went by and I still had not stepped into her class. However, I did look through the window of Studio A while she was teaching and witness women of all shapes, sizes, age ranges, professions and fitness levels dancing and swaying their bodies, beaming in joy, beauty and community. And, I thought, “Wow! They look like they are having so much fun. They are so graceful and creative, but I can’t do that, I’m not a dancer. I will look like a total fool!”
A few more weeks passed and I was feeling the effects of extreme stress in my body. My jaw was clenched, I suffered anxiety attacks, neck and shoulder pain. Therefore, one morning, I put on a blazer jacket and the pain was excruciating. Instantly I thought,
“At 28, I am not supposed to feel like this! I am going to do something different. I will try that Nia class.”
The pain I was experiencing outweighed my fear of looking ridiculous. I nervously stepped into Mechelle’s 6am class and found my spot. Mechelle stepped over to the stereo and pressed play. As soon as the music began I was guided to lift my hands with a deep inhale, descend with a long exhale and at that moment, I no longer cared how I looked as I experienced the blissful sensation of stress dripping off my body like melting butter. I was in awe of the acute sensation of this movement being medicine, healing my anxiety and stress, instantaneously making me feel better.
Next, as if watching myself from the inside out, I noticed I was reaching and flowing and moving with grace (at least in my mind’s eye). I thought to myself, “I’m dancing,” amazed that this discombobulated body was moving like a dancer!
Then, as suddenly as I discovered this joy of multidimensional movement, I was catapulted into a state of deep grief, a realization that my body and I had been separated for most of my life.
As an athlete, I had experienced my body through the exhilaration of performing, excelling and pushing through the potential of what my body could do – to score, to beat, to win. I realized in this moment I had not been IN my body; I had, in essence, abandoned my body. Tears welled up and I said, “Body, I am so sorry I have abandoned you. I did not know what I did not know, and now after experiencing this depth of sensation of fully being IN here, I will never abandon you again.”
I was flooded with a deep state of gratitude for my body, for all it can do. Yes, I began loving it, listening to it, turning away from the “no pain, no gain” mentality and honoring it with feel-good movements of joy and pleasure.
I have not always loved my body. This is because I used to judge and criticize, think I was too tall. My belly is too thick. My feet are too big and butt is too meaty. However, I realized my body can hear all my thoughts of criticism, judgment and self-loathing, and I decided to change the dialogue.
What if I began to see myself with eyes of love, compassion and as a work of art?
What if my inner dialogue shifted to thoughts and words of self-appreciation, fascination and curiosity of the magnificence of all my body can do? And, what if I no longer treat my body like a machine but rather a miraculous, sacred vessel to live in, honor and be in a relationship with?
I began to unclench. Furthermore, I softened from the rigid, linear, hard-core persona, to a more creative, fluid, receptive, compassionate leader and healer.
I began to love, accept and appreciate my uniqueness.
I became a model of self-love and possibility for my students too! Also, I began to notice Nia was more than exercise; it was therapy! And, I was healing and conditioning my body, calming and focusing my mind, balancing my emotions and igniting my spirit. How I feel trumps how I look, always. I love my body, I relish my uniqueness, and at 49, I feel better than ever! In addition, I still have the powerhouse spirit but it is balanced with an energy that is soft, compassionate, creative, curvy and confident!
Jule Aguirre, M.Ed., LPC, NCC, Mind-Body Psychotherapist, Nia 1° Black Belt Somatic Educator + Trainer.
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