Neuromuscular Integrative Action or Nia is a fusion of movement and philosophy. Now in its 30th year, Nia was created by husband and wife Carlos and Debbie Rosas who were looking for a better way, a more pleasurable way to move. This was at the height of the aerobics craze. What Nia became was self-healing through music and movement.
Nia is a sensory, primal, mind-body, emotional-spiritual practice that connects us to the body. Born of nine movement styles, Nia is comprised of 52 moves that are both precise (from the martial arts side of its parentage) and free-flowing. With this yin-yang mix, Nia encourages people to adapt and make it their own. The key is to be comfortable in our own skin, all the time. It’s not about imitating the teacher and so the attention returns from the teacher to the self, finding expression, through intensity and movement, on our own.
3 Elements of Nia
The three components of Nia- martial arts, dance, and healing arts – blend diverse philosophies and movement styles, making Nia holistic and highly integrated.
The martial arts element combines the slower, graceful, and seemingly effortless flow of Tai Chi, the precision and power of Tae Kwon Do, and Aikido which is somewhat a blend of the two.
Inject into this is the element of dance – the fun and showy comes from jazz, the more moody and emotional from modern and contemporary dance, and the free flow of Duncan Dance. Isadora Dunan, known as the Mother of Modern Dance, was a pioneer. She took off the tutus and her shoes – her dance emphasized connection and brought back the spirit of freedom.
The healing arts include yoga, Alexandra Technique which focuses on posture and alignment, and Feldenkrais which leads us to be aware of our body’s signals and its micro movements.
7 Cycles of Nia
Nia classes, done barefoot, last about an hour and has seven cycles, each with its own purpose. The cycles may be the same but our experience is different each time.
The first cycle is setting the focus and intention and the last one is stepping out, in reflection, checking in with the body, and setting a (new) intent for the rest of the day. This last cycle – cycle seven – closes the experience.
In Nia we physically step in, to connect and in cycle three, we warm up with repetitive movements to align with our emotions and prepare our body for the next cycle, where we really get into the three planes of movement (low, middle, and high).
We step it up in cycle 4. The music is powerful and the moves more dynamic. It’s definitely a cardiovascular workout!
The cool down phase of cycle five is about lowering the intensity, re-centring, and bringing harmony and stability to the whole body.
After the cool down comes cycle six or floorplay, which is more focused on the healing arts aspect of Nia. Flexibility, agility, mobility, strength, and stability are key.
Real Life Experience
What Therapy Editor attended an introductory talk by Hong Kong-based Certified Nia Black Belt Instructor and Nia 5 Stage Instructor Tracey Fenner earlier this year at Kamalaya Koh Samui. After the very inspiring and passionate intro, curiosity led her to try out an afternoon class. With the setting sun bathing the studio with a glowing warmth, four ladies stood in quiet anticipation for the class to start.
What followed was a lot of fun and a fantastic workout. 52 moves sounds daunting but Tracey led the class from one to another, moving through the room, backwards and forwards, spinning and anchoring in space. Soon everyone was smiling, either in relief at how doable it was or just feeling the tensions melt away. It was good to reconnect with the inner child, playing with an imaginary scarf, even if it sounds a bit silly.
Nia allows everyone to express themselves, at whatever dance (or no dance) experience, fitness level, or shyness. It was clear that the ladies were all at different places – physically, emotionally, and mentally. It was all about self-expression and self-awareness. Sometimes it was mimicking Tracey but from there exploration was initiated.