By Holly Kania
When people ask me about Nia technique, the movement practice I teach at a handful of Boston area fitness or yoga facilities, they are usually looking to place it in a pre-existing frame of exercise classes.
“Oh, so it’s like yoga,” they say when I tell them that Nia is a “movement practice” that cultivates “body-mind-spirit integration and healing.” True: You could say that.
“Oh, so it’s like martial arts,” I often hear, when I explain that Nia classes include such movements as kicks and blocks, or that teachers are certified in a “Belt” system of increasing mastery much like those in karate or judo. And you might also say that.
But when I mention the words “choreography” and “music,” people’s eyes light up with epiphanal delight: “Oh, you mean like Zumba!”
Perhaps surprisingly, the answer here is no: not so much like Zumba as one might think. Both classes are choreographed to music, and the class experiences are dance-y, energizing, and fun. But I’d say that’s where the similarities end, for several reasons:
First of all, every Nia class begins when the teacher sets the focus and intent for that day’s class. It could be something straightforward, like a focus on our feet, with the intent to sense stability and grounding. Or it might be something more philosophical, for example a focus on “Yin-Yang” energy, with the intent to play with the sensations of dynamic power movements (Yang) and flowing, easeful ones (Yin). This approach to class invites Nia students to experience profoundly different sensations in their bodies even when repeating the same routine over a period of weeks. It stimulates movement creativity so that students don’t get caught in a rut of habitual movements (a primary source of pain and injury). I hear from Nia students (and I feel it myself when I take
classes) that they are never bored or experience exercise burnout, because each class feels so different. Very quickly, students build up a vocabulary of Nia movements, so that when the teacher cues “fast clock,” “squish walk” or “upward block,” their bodies recognize the movement. And every class, they receive the full benefits of a whole-body “workout” that builds cardio strength, tones muscles while increasing flexibility and mobility, and relieves stress. Yet it almost never feels like “work.”
Here’s the secret: while daily the “focus” and “intent” of classes may vary widely, the foundational focus and intent of Nia technique is always this: to experience the joy of movement – to move with pleasure and a sensation of deep connection to your own body – every single class.
The practice of working regularly with focus and intent can deeply enrich our experiences outside the studio. Developing our capacity to focus our attention and behave with clear intention is just one of many lifestyle benefits of Nia. My own Nia practice has honed my focus on choosing joy on a daily (hopefully even moment by moment) basis, with the intent to shine a positive light in my own life and those of others.
I hope you’ll come try one of the four weekly Nia classes offered at Lumina this fall. You don’t need any particular equipment or experience, and beginners are always welcome. We look forward to sharing the joy of movement with you.
A certified Brown Belt instructor in Nia Technique, Holly has taught Nia classes in Metrowest Boston for four years, and has been teaching at Lumina since January 2013. Holly did her Nia certification trainings in Concord, MA with Maria Skinner & Al Wright (White Belt), Sun Valley, ID with Britta von Tagen & Casey Bernstein (Blue Belt) and Houston, TX with Helen Terry (Brown Belt). She plans to pursue her Black Belt certification (the highest level in Nia teacher certification) in 2016. She is thrilled to share this movement practice with the clients at Lumina.