I love when I do something spontaneous and it ends up being a life changer!
That is exactly what happened to me when I took my first Nia class. A dancer friend told me that there was a visiting instructor offering a Nia class at a local fitness centre and that I might like it. I knew nothing about it and decided to just jump in – best decision I ever made.
Nia has been around for 35 years, with over 2500 teachers throughout the world. It stands for Neuromuscular Integrative Action. Yet, it was brand new to me. That alone is a treat at almost 50 years old to try something brand new and find it takes your life in a whole new direction.
Nia is a sensory-based movement practice that draws from martial arts, dance arts and healing arts. It empowers people of all shapes and sizes by connecting the body, mind, emotions and spirit.
Nia includes movement from Tai Chi, Tae Kwon Do, Aikido, jazz dance, modern dance, Duncan dance, yoga, Alexander Technique and Teachings of Moshe Feldenkrais. Every class offers a unique combination of 52 moves that correspond with the main areas of the body: the base, the core and the upper extremities. Stiff beginners and highly fit athletes alike can adapt Nia to meet their needs by choosing from three intensity levels.
So – why was it such a life changer? The movement, the music, the reconnection with my body was completely amazing. The instructor moved with such grace and looked completely fluid in her movements. Her energy and smile throughout the whole class was proof that her body loved what it was doing. Something changed during that class and I knew at that precise moment that I would be teaching Nia. I just had no idea about the how at that point…
Fast forward another month and another Nia instructor was heading to St. John’s and reached out asking if I would help to organize a class. Same thing happened – the music started and I felt like I was coming home to my body. It was after just these two classes that I packed up and headed to Ontario to do my Nia White Belt training. My white belt training enabled me to start offering Nia locally and the journey to the creation of Nia on the Rock began.
The journey is an amazing one – I am blessed to be teaching all ages this beautiful form of movement. I teach young girls from local guiding groups and I have a regular class of seniors that I call my “wellderlies” so there really is a class for any age. I teach my wellderlies on Monday mornings and have been doing so since the fall. It started with about three students and now I regularly have from 12 to 15 women join me at St. James United Church.
What is happening, especially with that class, is the connection between the women. First classes were filled with a little shyness and wondering what Nia was all about. Now I am treated to watching these women grow closer on the dance floor. We move, we laugh, we look silly and we could care less. It is one hour just for us.
We step into our Nia class, we say the words “through movement I find health” and we start to move slowly. The music is soft and gentle starting out and gradually increases a little. We focus on different areas of the body. We respect our limits; seated Nia is completely acceptable, if required.
My background is in belly dance so I have a love for all movements that are flowing and graceful. I have integrated the use of dancing with silk veils into my Nia practice and what has evolved is this beautiful free dance that fills my heart to see these women moving with their own grace and flow. I play music that I preface by saying “you are in a field of wild flowers with the sunshine and birds singing” and it certainly helps transport us during the bleak winter months!
I also use a parachute in my Nia practice as being in touch with my inner child is extremely important to me. The face of joy is alive and well when we are using this parachute to a lively song. Throw a beach ball into the mix and you’ve got the perfect way to find your inner child right there.
I carry the expressions of the faces of the women from this class in my memory. There is nothing that says or shows joy quite like giggling as if we are uninhibited children.
Nia is a lifestyle practice that I guarantee will help you find a little joy in your life. The best way to figure out exactly what Nia can do for you is to try a class.
Come find your joy through movement. Your body, mind and spirit will thank you.
See you on the dance floor! xo
Elaine Dunphy / Nia on the Rock