Nia: a fitness program with an emphasis on fun
September 24, 2009
Within moments of stepping into my first Nia class, I knew I would become a Nia teacher. It blended fitness with playfulness and joy – something mandatory for me, because, truth be told, I’m not really into exercising.
Don’t get me wrong: I love staying fit. I love skiing hard. I used to be a competitive figure skater. But that’s the thing: I rely on my natural activities – playing – to stay strong, flexible and aerobically in shape. So when I discovered how Nia could shape my arms, make my body sweat, and most importantly, plaster a smile on my face, I was hooked.
I find that people don’t just do Nia for the physical exercise. Like yoga, Nia is based on an entire philosophy that helps people condition their bodies, minds and spirits.
Of 13 core Nia principles, the first involves focusing on creating more joy, or pleasure, in life, through both movement and paying attention to what and how you think.
“I love the fact that Nia opens your soul up to beauty and that after the class, you feel like you want to celebrate the world and your role in it,” said Barbara Davis, a Dillon resident and Nia student.
As Nia co-founder Carlos Rosas describes it, “Nia brings the body, mind, emotions and spirit to optimum health through music, movement and self-expression, guided by the sensation of pleasure.”
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Nia routines use invigorating music – from tribal rhythms to lyrical, world music and alternative pop – to rev up the energy level. Simple choreography allows anyone to follow along. Short moments of free dance – or anything goes – encourages people to release self-judgment and experience the freedom of pleasurable movement.
“Nia’s rousing blend of dance and free movement encourages participants to work within their own ability and personal expression,” said Renee Rogers, Silverthorne Recreation Center’s fitness coordinator. “People tend to open up and expand with each class, leaving the session energized and self-aware.”
Karen Sue Timson, who takes weekly Nia classes at Breckenridge Recreation Center, said she looks forward to Nia more than any other class she takes.
“Like other exercise classes, Nia offers a good cardio workout that can be gentle or difficult, depending on the effort I put forth,” Timson said. “The difference for me lies in Nia’s magic – the combination of an hour of world music, feeling improvised untraditional movement in my body in an atmosphere that fosters nonjudgment. Nia is 60 minutes of blissful play and stress relief! There’s no other exercise class like it that I’ve ever found.”
Nia fosters mindfulness by stating a different intention- such as stepping into the present moment, self-healing or choosing to live with more joy – in each class.
“I love to dance, and this is fun, a good workout, and makes me feel good,” said Kim DiLallo, who takes classes in Breckenridge. “Quite simply, Nia makes my soul happy, my heart lighter and my body stronger.”
Like everything in life, participants get out of Nia what they put into it. People with minor injuries or restrictions can do Nia in what’s termed “level one,” which concentrates on keeping movement smaller and closer to the core. On the other end of the spectrum, participants can amp up the energy and get a hard-core workout by pushing their bodies into bigger, more extreme movements.
“Nia is a well-rounded approach to fitness – physical, mental and spiritual – that is just pure fun and joy,” said Silverthorne participant Karn Stiegelmeier. “One of the great aspects of Nia is that you can get exactly what is right for you, day to day, from gentle movement to the fullest aerobic workout.”
Since Nia incorporates dance, martial arts and healing arts, such as yoga, it targets a variety of muscles and movement patterns, from punches and kicks to extensions and spiral motions.
“I love how Nia involves so many different muscle groups,” Davis said. “In that respect, perhaps it was better than my normal workouts, which pretty much just involve biking or use of the elliptical machine.”
“After sitting at a computer all day, nothing makes my body feel better than a Nia class,” said Silverthrone participant Carrie Brown-Wolf. “The music helps me forget the day’s stress and move into a different mind-set. The physical work-out stretches muscles and rejuvenates me.”
“I rarely leave Nia class without some wonderful new thought or idea roaming freely through my relieved body and mind, which is a little bonus that I’ve discovered that I really look forward to each week,” Timson said. “Somehow, Nia’s hypnotic combination of music, energy work, movement puzzles and cardio activity combine to balance my body and mind more than any other class – I value the Nia experience enough to call it an essential part of every week.”
As Rosas aptly puts it:
“Watch out – this can change your life!”