Health & Wellness

The Gift of NIA

By MSF Staff
“Your body cannot heal without play. Your mind cannot heal without laughter. Your soul cannot heal without joy.”
~ Catherine Fenwick
Regardless of age, gender, or physical ability, Nia has something wonderful in store for you! Nia has been practiced internationally since the 1980s and is incorporated into fitness and health programs, including college drama departments, prisons, drug and cardiac rehabilitation centers. It has been used as a psycho-social program for treating eating disorders, mental illness, survivors of sexual and physical abuse, and those with autism, Down syndrome and chronic illnesses. Yet, Nia is not well-known.
Nia is an expressive movement practice that utilizes your entire being to attain physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. Nia is to exercise what holistic medicine is to healthcare. An acronym for Neuromuscular Integrative Action, Nia is based on the belief that there is a dancer, martial artist, and highly aware person within each of us. It is a fusion of the martial arts, the healing arts, and the dance arts. Perhaps most importantly, Nia is fun!
Nia, which combines Eastern and Western philosophies, is practiced in bare feet and comfortable clothing, with a diverse range of accompanying music. Unlike traditional exercise, it is based on the pleasure principle, i.e., the practice feels good. There is no pain involved. Easily modified to chair-Nia, every movement involves relaxation and offers three levels of intensity and range of motion. Guided imagery enhances the practice with creativity and imagination.
Nia and the martial arts
The martial arts are a cornerstone of Nia, providing cardiovascular benefits without impact. Moves inspired by Tai Chi emphasize focus, balance, relaxation, and sensory awareness – like dancing in water. Coordinating arm, eye, and hand motion creates graceful movement, without strain. The Nia Tae Kwon Do experience is about power, precision, and energy. Blocks, punches, thrusts, kicks, and the use of sound promote strength, stability, and coordination. Nia moves inspired by Aikido promote harmony, consciously directed energy, and interconnectedness.
Nia and the dance arts
The Nia Jazz experience is about fun, showmanship, self-expression, and flexibility. Dance moves like the cha cha, the shimmy, isolations, and hip bumps are fun and sensual. Moves inspired by Duncan Dance are free-spirited, playful, and uninhibited. Through the dance arts, we learn to externalize emotion by expressing it physically. Once externalized, we can choose to examine it, embrace it, or surrender it. Modern Dance infuses play, silliness, drama and emotion into the Nia dance, while directional changes promote vestibular health and mind-body communication.
Nia and the healing arts
Nia moves inspired by yoga create opening of the body, clearing of the mind, and releasing of tension. Gentle stretching creates awareness of alignment and the breath. Moves inspired by Moshe Feldenkrais are performed both slowly and quickly. Awareness and sensation offer a gateway to positive change within the body. Focus is on breath, voice, circulation, the five senses, rhythm, and emotions stuck in the body. A Nia Alexander Technique experience offers the power to change the way you move and hold your body by redirecting the use of the head in relationship to the neck and torso.
The benefits
The many benefits of Nia spill over into your daily life, helping you feel more comfortable in your own body, more accepting of it, more graceful and free. Nia alleviates anxiety and stress, producing a sense of calm energy. Weight loss, increased strength, and relief from pain are common. Nia alleviates depression and helps you reclaim your sense of joy. It helps you awaken your sexuality, and improve your health and circulation. Nia has helped many people to survive grief and loss, and to develop friendships, assertiveness, and self-esteem. Nia is a magical, healing dance.
It’s a new year, a new beginning. Give yourself the gift of Nia.
The Nia Technique
By Debbie and Carlos Rosas, Broadway Books of Random House
A comprehensive Nia website, including a worldwide class finder.
Stressed? S-t-o-p!
S ~ soften your face
T ~ take a deep breath
O ~ open your heart
P ~ pull down your shoulders
(Last reviewed 7/2009)