This blogger’s recent comment both brought me back to an article Id written with which I shall now proceed to bore you and reminded me how much I’d enjoyed the FREEDOM of NIA.
I love the idea of “restful movement.” Speaking of which, has MizFit ever done NIA? it’s not exactly restful but it is also not taxing in the way I think of workouts.
NIA translates loosely from the Swahili word meaning with purpose. It’s a technique that leads participants through a combination of modern dance, martial arts, yoga and African dance on their collective way to optimal health.
Some resources say NIA stands for neuromuscular integrative action—while others simply state NIA is an acronym for no impact aerobics.
(You know me—-I totally go with the latter. Sometimes a rose is just a rose.)
Im the first to admit Im chock full of preconceived notions regarding “holistic” exercise. I have shed my ‘70’s no pain no gain mantra yet the idea of flapping my arms & chanting my way to a shapelier me still gives me pause.
I embraced aforementioned pause, however, & for the sake of journalistic exploration gave NIA the ole college MizFit try.
From my first step into the studio I knew this was no Powerhouse Gym.
There was the pungent aroma of patchouli (stereotypical but true) and candles & weavings filled the studio’s waiting area.
At this point I had to squelch my instinct to turn and run.
I couldnt shake the fear that, even with the aura of open-mindedness the NIA studio had so painstakingly created, Id do something “wrong.”
Something not laid back enough.
Something that would reveal even with the constructed atmosphere of loving kindness I’d double checked my car doors were locked before Id left the kinda sketchy parking lot.
With a little hesitation I examined my options for classes that morning.
Trance dance, belly dance, yoga, NIA weights, Trance dance (I got totally stuck on that last one. the entire class is taken blindfolded) & opted for NIA weights class as a compromise.
I went with something I knew (weights) while reassuring myself I was *still* surrendering to the unknown.
When I explained to the studio owner I was new to NIA and she suggested I sign up for their mailing list.
Again, oddly stereotypical yet completely true, I found myself penning my name beneath a person who filled the name-space with a symbol.
This was something I might have totally freakin mocked chuckled at were I in different surroundings, but the new NIA MizFit chose instead to mull what symbol would represent her & her authenticNIA self.
The possibilities were endless—but my time wasn’t.
I headed to the classroom, panicked (Im honest), grabbed some hand weights and made a beeline for the back.
The back where I had a fantastic view of a ginormous painting hanging in the front of the room.
A painting of a naked woman dancing.
The woman was bare, voluptuous (real voluptuous not Kate-Moss-post-rehab-having-gained-ten-pounds-voluptuous) frolicking & happy. She seemed to embody NIA message Id received thus far: love who you are and the health will follow.
Slowly my classmates filed in and I realized any fretting over attire was for no reason.
Unlike many gyms where there is inevitably a “cool” uniform (and usually a mandatory perfect body to be placed in it) at NIA was ok.
No one appeared interested in what the other people were wearing or seemed to feel uncomfortable with how much or how little s/he had on.
Bigger women in little outfits, little men in long flowing outfits—if ever there was a workout facility filled with unconditional positive regard this NIA studio was it.
And then the dancing began.
Just like that.
The instructor turned on George Michael and we were off.
The notion of NIA lost me a tad here.
I wasn’t sure exactly what our goal was, what muscles we were going to work, and in what order we were going to attack them. I was thinking inside the box in a room filled with people who hadn’t seen the box’s interior in a while. I needed to loosen up not only my cervical spine—but my mind as well.
The class quickly progressed. We did some mimicking of the instructor’s movements, but, as NIA advertises, we were also left to do our own free form dance. We were encouraged to dance what we were feeling.
Now, I’m someone who inevitable claps off the beat when music is playing and so I wasn’t quite sure how to display, through dance, my feeling of wanting to crawl and hide in a closet.
So I just wiggled my hips a bit. And waved my hands. And tried not to look in the mirror. And then I was stumped.
I looked around the studio at my classmates.
This was a class comprised of people who were probably chosen last in gym and I don’t mean that in an unkind way. These were my people.
Or they were until they started dancing freely, uninhibited and wonderfully while I shuffled my feet & tried to discern a routine in the madness.
Eventually, I recognized a few steps we did repeatedly. Although I also recognized that my classmates whooped and kicked and fluidly moved their arms in a way I’d yet to master.
It was all slightly embarrassing and it was all very amazing.
I might have been focusing on my jerky movements and off rhythm stumbles—but no one else was. The NIA class was an hour-long recess from being an adult.
Would I go back to a NIA class on a regular basis? Maybe.
I’d like to check out all that NIA has to offer.
Trance dance is still piquing my curiosity and I’m sure Ren Man wouldn’t mind if I attended a belly dancing class or twelve.
As far as the weights class, I noticed mostly everyone else in the class had worked up a sweat.
For a slow learner like myself, however, it would take a number of classes before I caught on enough to achieve any kind of aerobic benefit.
I will, though, try NIA again if only for the release it provided me. These are a group of people who know how to treat their bodies with love, care and laughter.
(this is merely an example of my awkwardtastic Nia class moves. in person they were far more painfulamazing)
have you NIA’d? Was your experience anything like mine?
Never NIA’d before? Would you try now? Or are you, as I was, skeptical of anyone who signs with a symbol who isnt this man?
You know Im longing to know. Please to hit us all up in the comments.