Find the Joy of Movement in Nia
Are you tired of the traditional approach to fitness? Nia might be right for you. It is a soulful approach to fusion fitness that draws from the martial arts, the healing arts, and dance techniques. Nia encourages participants to create a mind-body-spirit connection and empowers individuals to focus on the pleasure of movement that is appropriate for each persons needs. Individuals with fibromyalgia, chronic pain, bipolar disorder and Friedreich's ataxia have reported great successes after incorporating Nia into their regular fitness programs. To find out more about Nia and how an ungraceful, fitness traditionalist such as myself, pushed my comfort zones to experience this unique approach to fitness, read this month's F.I.T.T. column. If I can do this...anyone can!
As I left my home in my running attire, I couldn't help but feel a little anxious about the class I was about to take. It was a Nia class. It was described to me as a form of fusion fitness combining things like yoga stances, T'ai chi and Tae kwon. I had experience in all of these activities but that is not all that Nia fuses. It also includes forms of dance such as jazz, modern, and Duncan and a few 'unusual' methods of movement such as the teachings of Moshe Feldenkrais and the Alexander Technique. All I could imagine was a bunch of nimble people in leotards and dance attire and me standing out like a sore thumb. I recruited a close friend to go with me to ease the anxiety. We entered the studio and I was pleasantly surprised that the atmosphere was not that of an over crowded aerobics studio with mirrors everywhere, but was more intimate and personal. My instructor, Anne, greeted us and as we talked about Nia. She explained to me that she often has 20 year-olds and 70-year-olds in the same class. She also stated that in one of her classes she performs all the movements from a seated position for individuals with balance difficulties.
As we began to move, I have to admit that at first my competitive nature and perfectionism was trying to take over. I was watching my instructor and trying to imitate her exactly. Then she started to guide us with visual statements and imagery and the music grabbed my attention. Before I knew it I was moving and laughing and even shouting 'No' as we set our emotional boundaries. I am going on record to officially give my testimonial that if I can do this...anyone can!
Nia's founders Debbie (Bender) Rosas and Carlos Rosas focus on the pleasure and joy of movement rather than the pain and guilt that is so often associated with exercise. Using this premise, they established thirteen principles that are the foundation of Nia.
Principle 1: The Joy of Movement
Joy is the primary sensation to seek from all movement. If you momentarily lose joy, tweak your movement until joy arises again.
Principle 2: Natural Time and The Movement Forms
All of your Nia movements are done in your own personal, natural sense of time and include movements and energy from nine classic movement forms.
Principle 3: Music and the 8-BC System
Nia is practiced to the silence and sound of music, using an 8-beat counting system to organize the movements and connect to the resonance of a variety of musical landscapes.
Principle 4: FreeDance
Anything goes movement-wise. Freedance allows us to let go of structure. The FreeDance system is an eight-stage movement process that stimulates creativity.
Principle 5: Awareness and Dancing Through Life
In Nia, you become aware that every movement in life is a part of your dance and that each and every movement can be used to self-heal.
Principle 6: The Base - The Feet and Legs
Your feet are the hands that touch the earth, and through your legs they carry the energy of the earth to your whole body. The Base is the foundation of all movement.
Principle 7: The Three Planes and Three Levels
Every movement can be done within three planes - low, middle, and high - and can be done in three different levels of intensity. Mixing the three levels and three planes creates a wide repertoire of movement choices.
Principle 8: The Core - Pelvis, Chest, and Head
These three body weights are the home of your emotions and energy centers. The pelvis is a container of energy; the chest transmits and receives energy; and the head processes energy. Connection to the core of the body enables you to consciously circulate and increase energy.
Principle 9: The Upper Extremities - The Arms, Hands, and Fingers
The upper extremities are tools used to heal, touch, and direct energy and create connections. They are extensions of your feelings and thoughts and allow you to express yourself in personal and purposeful ways.
Principle 10: X-ray Anatomy
X-Ray Anatomy is the practice of using your eyes, other sensory organs, and intuition to 'see' within. You can penetrate the veil of your flesh to reveal the proper placement of your bones, tendons, ligaments, and muscles, and then use this information to self-heal.
Principle 11: Fitness is the Business of the Body
Fitness can be achieved by listening to the voices of the body, setting goals, creating plans, and attaining results. Achieving success is a process of conscious change.
Principle 12: Continuing Your Body-Mind-Spirit Education
Healing the body is a practice that never ends. Every new workout is an opportunity to re-educate your body, mind, and spirit.
Principle 13: Dance What You Sense
When you experience the primary lesson of Nia - that life should be lived through sensation - you become connected.
To learn more about Nia and how this practice is useful for people with disabilities, I contacted the headquarters in Portland, Oregon. I spoke with Shannon Day, black belt facilitator and media representative. Shannon personally attests to the benefits of Nia as she used the practice to regain her abilities following a traumatic equestrian accident. 'Nia is about what you have, not what you don't have, and allows you the opportunity to explore the sensation of each slight movement and experience a state of moment to moment awareness.' She also stated 'Nia is fun, playful and has an aspect of sensuality; it is not just your typical work out.' She announced the addition of a new Nia video, Unplugged, (others can be purchased now to perform Nia in your home) that will be released in December of 2007.
To find more testimonials about Nia or to locate a teacher near you go to www.nianow.com.
Please send your feedback and comments to me at email@example.com.