The Thirteen Principles of Nia
(a 13 part series)
MUSIC AND THE Eight Beat Counting (8BC) SYSTEM
"The sound of music is one of the most powerful underlying creative forces
in our universe.”
–– The Nia Technique – White Belt Manual
(teacher training manual)
Commentary by Julia Desmond,
Certified Nia Instructor
There are many benefits to using music in a Nia class. The first benefit is that it gives the class a beat to keep movement together, allowing the group to move as one. Music also provides a melody giving every individual in the class a tool with which they can improvise their own movements. Music has been proven to help coordination and concentration. It can increase endurance, improve mental function and influence a body’s energy level. However the most obvious benefit is that it makes the class fun!
Nia thinks of the whole body in terms of four realms, the Body, the Mind, the Emotions, and the Spirit. Music speaks to each realm in a slightly different way. The Body senses the rhythm of the music, the Mind tracks the sound, the Emotions generate an energy release which depends upon which emotions are triggered by the music and finally the Spirit translates the music into movement of the body. This process results in each class member’s unique expression and creativity.
The 8BCs is a system of music notation that helps Nia teachers learn and create choreography. Each song is broken down into bars. A bar consists of 8 counts or 16 beats (1 and 2…). The bars are classified into the type of music being played, i.e. intro, verse, chorus, or instrumental-solo. The teacher‘s job is to overlay the choreography onto the musical bars. This helps the teacher quickly learn how the choreography fits with the music. The teacher can then use musical cues to recognize a specific movement and where movement needs to change. As a result, the teacher doesn’t need to count repetitions of movement. The entire process frees the teacher to teach the choreography and be full present to the class at the same time.
Commentary by Allison Frederick
Nia Studio owner/operator
Each Nia class begins with stating a focus and intent of the class. This isn’t the same as saying “today we are going to focus on abs.” Instead, in Nia, we want to set an intention before class so that our mind and body workout together. If our mind understands what our focus is for the workout, it will tell our body to move in a way that best meets that focus. For example, Principle Three of Nia, described as music and counting the steps in music, the focus and intention is “to listen to music with the intent to develop an intimate relationship with all kinds of sounds, including silence.” *
Moving and listening to silence may seem esoteric at first but practically, it is a time to use isometrics. Isometric exercises involve muscular engagement/contraction without outwardly moving a body part. The pressure of an arm against a wall or contraction of calf muscles still engage and build muscle even though the body isn’t moving. Many isometric exercises involve smaller, supportive muscles. Pilates is one exercise discipline that incorporates isometric exercises.
Listening to the silence in music during a workout also gives you a chance to check in with your body. What aches? What feels good? Which muscles are tight? Are you lightheaded? Paying attention to what your body is telling you during your exercise routine is a key component of Nia. So often we ignore our bodies. We push through something painful. We indulge when our mind is warning us not to. When all is quiet we can finally hear what our bodies are saying so the pauses in music are the perfect opportunity to tune into our bodies. In our Nia classes in Castle Rock, we sometimes dance to a wonderful Beatle’s song called “Because” from the Love album. The singing and music is broken up by relatively long periods of silence. Our Nia teacher, Julia, uses the unusual structure in this song to have us stop moving. While we are in a freeze position, we are supposed to stretch and listen to our bodies. Instead of a typical “no pain no gain,” approach found in many other exercise programs, Nia demonstrates it’s holistic approach to health and movement with a motto more like, “Ask, then Listen, have Respect, now Move.”
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.