As a long time fan of NIA (I chatted about it briefly here) Im constantly surprised how many people still ask: NIA WHATWHAT?
I’ve always liked everything about it.
The movement, the music, the studio, the stage, even the clothes.
The kitchen was where I first started dancing.
Then it was the rec center, talent shows, the community theater.
I even spent one summer as a dancer at The Lost Colony in Manteo, NC, the country’s oldest outdoor drama. I was never particularly good. But I have always loved to dance.
In the eighties I did Jazzercise.
I don’t like the gym. Never have. So that seemed like the best compromise if I still wanted to workout but didn’t want to lift or spin or do the machines.
After a while I grew bored.
And so, for years, I power-walked for exercise and the only dancing I did was at weddings and in clubs, the latter of which diminished greatly after having a kid.
I missed dancing.
But I didn’t really want to take a formal ballet or jazz class.
I thought of taking a Hip Hop class. But as much as I wanted to do it, I was afraid it would be far too embarrassing. Then I decided to take a chance. I had heard about something called Nia but I didn’t know much about it.
“Hippie dancing” was how it had been described to me. But there’s a studio near my house. So despite the unappealing description, I decided to give it a shot.
When it comes to romance, I don’t believe in love at first sight. But when it comes to dance, I do.
From the minute I walked into the studio, I knew this would be the place for me.
There were all kinds of people, all ages and sizes. And they were wearing all kinds of things, from yoga clothes to flowy pants and swirly tops to t-shirts and leggings.
When the music began and the teacher led us through the movement, I was hooked.
That was more than two years ago now and when I miss more than a day or two of classes, I feel it. I feel it in my body, but also in my mind and, yes, even in my spirit.
Nia is not hippie dancing. At all. And it’s not a bunch of “woo woo”stuff (ie no incense or scarves required). It’s bigger than all of that. In Nia, something amazing happens.
As I go through the 52 barefoot moves based on the dance, martial, healing arts that Nia is based on, I remember my body and my self.
I can move and make noise. I can spin and punch and kick. I can stretch and balance and ground myself in the moment. I also sweat. A lot.
It’s an incredible one-hour workout that co-founder Debbie Roses designed in response to seeing her aerobic teachers and students become injured and bored. There has to be a better way, she thought. She was right.
Rosas created Nia to work with the body instead of against it, which is why it feels so good to do it and why you feel so spectacular after.
It might take some getting used to. There’s no teacher barking orders. There’s no searing pain, despite the strength training and conditioning you’re experiencing. And there’s no competition with the people around you in terms of skills or looks. It’s a body, mind, spirit workout that works.
You don’t have to be a dancer to do it. You don’t even have to be coordinated. All you have to have is a desire to change the way your body looks, feels, and works.
Your spine and your joints and your muscles and your bones will all thank you. And your friends and family will all ask you what you’ve been doing to look so good and seem so happy. You can tell them you’ve been practicing Nia. That’s what I tell people every day.
It helps me maintain my weight (or lose a few pounds when I need to) and keep my head clear and focused.
I practice as often as I can, partially because I still love to dance for all of the same reasons as when I was a kid. And, yes, in case you’re wondering, I do still dance in the kitchen.
But now, with Nia always on my mind, I find myself dancing almost everywhere else.