Do you do love yoga and Pilates and would like to add to these practices a more cardiovascular upright fitness program to exhilarating inspiring music?
Do you love dancing but can’t follow steps?
Would you love to get fitter but don’t like the gym?
Nia: a sensory-based barefoot and fun fitness practice, that brings you back to your body.
A dynamic, barefoot practice that blends the power and punches of martial arts, with the healing of yoga and the joyfulness of dance, Nia was the first fusion-fitness program in America. Created in 1983, at the time when exercise was about punishing your body to get fit. It was the era of ’no pain, no gain’ and ‘feel the burn’.
Nia’s creators Debbie and Carlos Rosas who owned a successful chain of gyms noticed that 76% of their instructors were getting burnt out by the high impact aerobics classes they were offering and started on a quest that has changed the face of fitness in America. They asked themselves a simple question: do we need to hurt our body to get fit?
By exploring a variety of practices including aikido, tae kwon do and tai chi, modern dance, duncan and and jazz as well as yoga, the alexander technique and the work of moshe feldenskrais they evolved a new fitness program that addresses the whole person: body-mind-soul.
Over the past few decades Nia has evolved into a lifestyle practice that gives us access to being fully present in the body, tuning into universal life force or qi - a powerful state that shifts our mind and emotions and soul.
Here are six fundamentals of Nia
1.The joy of movement is the secret to fitness - we follow the pleasure principle if it feels good, do it, if not, stop.
Nia is sensory-based so we get to tune into and enhance our life force energy by hearing the voice of the body, sensation.
Take a moment right now to try this out: take a deep breath. Now see if you can tune into the voice of your body as you read this, by making tiny adjustments to how your sitting. Adapt how your spine is, your neck, head, till you hear your back, your neck, your feet saying, thank you, I feel better.
This little practice is an access point to sustainability and well-being.
2.To be sustainable, fitness must Address the whole person, not Just the Body. Exercise that's done strictly for its own physical sake, divorced from the emotions and human spirit, isn't satisfying, isn't fun and eventually fails.
Unique to Nia as a fitness program is that it gives room for self expression. You get to be playful, expressive, joyful and tender.
“I was looking for more than just fitness,” says hatha yoga teacher Ginny West . “I was looking for nourishment—physical, mental and emotional nourishment. Working as a trainer, your relationship with your body can be quite harsh; it’s almost like a badge of honor to flog it and feel negative about it.”
3. Movement must be conscious not habitual.
You are not a robot. This is the opposite of getting on a treadmill and going. You’re not present in that moment. In Nia we focus on physical sensation, being in the body as we move.
We practice barefoot - there are 7000 nerve endings on the bottom of each foot. When we take off our shoes we are both physically and emotionally grounding. We’re able to sense much more, not just through our feet but through the whole body. This allows you to move with greater purpose, consciousness and awareness. As a South-African, when I discovered Nia was done barefoot, I was delighted!
4.Use Your Body the Way It Was Designed to Be Used.
In Nia we don’t use weights, mats, shoes. We look at the design of the body, and allow it to tell us how to move. Form follows function. We use our own body weight to condition our body, using gravity and moving up and down through space.
we replace jogging, jumping and lifting with stances, postures, steps, blocks and kicks that are compatible with your body's natural structure and that feel good. These movements will burn calories; reduce body fat; create strength and muscle definition; and promote balance, grace, flexibility, endurance and good posture.
5.Move your body to heal your mind emotions and spirit
Your body has cellular memories, when you move with consciousness it has the ability to heal your mind emotions and spirit. Small physical releases can result in big emotional unblocking. I often have new students come up surprised saying, I don’t know why but I suddenly found myself crying. This is why Nia is used in addiction centers, to treat eating disorders, to treat PTSD, , in the prison system, to treat Parkinson's. Many successful applications in healing.
6. Take the path of least resistance. Finding dynamic ease, doing your best and not pushing yourself to do more than your best and injuring yourself. Animals live in a state of dynamic ease. Watch a cat spring onto a fence and you’ll see dynamic ease in action.
“I get the same soul nurturing from Nia as I do from yoga. They are both very special disciplines,” says Octavia Chabrier. “...You can—and do—go at the pace your body and mind want to go, and you step into another spirit world at times, letting it all hang out.”
Nia has given me the courage to be more than I thought I could be. As a team systems coach, the joy I sense when I teach or dance Nia, is what gives me the energy to get up in the morning feeling enthusiasm for each new day.
Dorit Noble is a Nia Black Belt teacher who teaches in North London and St Albans. Dorit is the UK Nia teacher trainer and a member of the Nia training faculty. For information about Dorit's intro to Nia workshop or training's.
Book a Nia class and feel the difference here