In Nia we use a total of 9 movement forms which fall into 3 categories – Martial Arts, Dance Arts and Healing Arts. Nia incorporates the essence of these various art forms rather than attempting to teach the students how to correctly perform these arts. Nia can change the energy and focus of a single movement by changing the Art Form influencing the movement.
Tai Chi – The Slow Dance: Inspired bare foot dancing, heel lead, and mindfulness
Tai Kwon Do – The Dance of Precision: Inspired passion, whole body strength, and voice
Aikido - Harmonious Spherical Motion: Inspired the integration of internal and external energy and the use of spirals
Jazz – Fun, Showmanship and Expression - Inspired playfulness, softened the martial arts an
added Fun to the technique
Duncan Dance – Spirited, Honest Movement – Inspired natural movement, use of imagery and spontaneity
Modern Dance – Playing With Balance, Shapes and Space – Inspired improvisation, use of balance and creative expression
Feldenkrais – The Conscious Feeling of Movement – Inspired slow movement, sensory awareness and the knowledge that the body can be retrained to function more efficiently
Alexander Technique – Movement From the Top: Inspired incorporation of the head in movement and directing the body up and out
Yoga – The Conscious Dance of Alignment: Inspired alignment of the bones, flexibility and breath
Principle 2, Natural Time and the Movement forms, is the foundation of Nia. This principle guides all of our movement and when the two aspects are merged in our bodies we experience the Joy of Movement (Principle 1). The class feels “natural” and we have fun!
Commentary by Allison Frederick
Nia Studio owner/operator
In order to keep up with the rest of the people in exercise classes, most of us feel compelled to carefully study the teacher’s technique and copy it perfectly. I know that I sometimes feel flustered if I am not in sync with my fellow exercisers and it isn’t unusual to see me facing right when the rest of the room is to their left.
Nia exercises are helpful in strengthening a connection between what your ears hear; your brain processes, and then what the brain commands your body to do. This is the foundation of mind/body exercises and scientists tout the benefits of mind/body fitness and activities like dancing and martial arts, which help keep our brains vibrant and ward of deterioration diseases like Alzheimer’s and other dementia.
Each Nia exercise builds on the foundation of the previous one. I find that one exercise elongates my spine even more or a following dance move reaches deeper into my hips, really working on any stiffness that lurks in my joints. Closely following a Nia routine will give you the most benefits out of the program because of how thoughtfully the moves are designed to build upon each other.
That being said, a primary tenet of Nia, however, is balance. Nia is like a loose, fluid structure. There is structure but the founders of Nia and Nia teachers encourage each person to find their own rhythm, their own pace, or their own level to exercise at. This is the idea behind Principle Number Two, “Natural Time.”
Each of us probably has an area of the body that we feel we need to strengthen. We may have weak knees or, for me, tight muscles in my lower back. No matter how much I stretch, I can’t seem to loosen my lower back muscles the way I would like. Every time there are lower back moves that help stretch or stabilize my back during Nia class, I slow down from the pace of the class and really focus on the exercise so that I can get the most out of that particular move. For some of us, Natural Time means speeding up a routine or moving our bodies in larger ways to burn more calories. For others, Natural Time may mean slowing down a move and giving oneself a chance to breathe deeply to help heal some troublesome areas.
More articles on The Thirteen Principles of Nia
"Joy is the primary sensation you should seek from all movement. If you momentarily lose joy, tweak your movement until joy again arises." *
"All of your Nia movements are done in your own personal, natural sense of time and include movements and energy from nine classic forms." *
"Nia is practiced to the sounds and silences of music, using an eight-beat counting (BBC) system (1 - and, 2 - and, 3 - and, 4 - and, 5 - and...) to organize the movements." *
"Anything goes movement-wise. Let go of structure.
"In Nia, you become aware that every movement in life is a dance and that every movement can be used to self-heal."
"Your feet are the hands that touch the earth, and through your legs they carry the energy of the earth to your whole body."
Article Coming Next - Principle Seven: The Three Planes and Three Levels
"Every movement can be done within three planes - low, middle, and high (or as you will hear in class, Level One, Level Two, Level Three) - and can be done with three different levels of intensity. Mixing the three levels and three planes creates a wide repertoire of movement choices. Transfer body weight along a Smile Line, moving from low to middle, to high. Use three levels of intensity to vary your rate of exertion."
If Nia sounds like something you would like to try, we invite you to take your first Nia class for free. Simply fill out the request below and we will send a coupon to you. Our Nia fitness classes are offered in Castle Rock, Colorado.