Discover the Transformative Power of Nia
What is Nia? We probably get that question more than any other at Holly's Pilates Village, and we always enjoy sharing details about this fabulous healthy movement experience. But we rarely stop by simply explaining what Nia is. Instead, we talk about the effect Nia has on people. They leave every class glowing. They are sweaty, yet serene, and their bodies seem to tingle with energy. Everyone comes out of a Nia class smiling.
"I am 62, and I appreciate having fun now more than ever, and Nia is fun!" says Mary Beth G. "The music takes me on a world tour, and the people I have danced with come from all walks of life. For a little while, we all share movement that leaves us smiling, refreshed, and stronger (and a lot sweatier). Nia class is also delightfully different each week thanks to our super-dedicated, beautifully trained Nia teachers.
"At the end of class, I usually hear people say to each other, 'It was good dancing with you!' or 'I'm glad I did that!' Nia has settled permanently into my head and my heart."
According to the official Nia website, the practice combines dance, martial arts, and mindfulness. It is "based on the intelligent design of the body. Each workout brings mindfulness to your dance movement experience, leaving you energized, mentally clear, and emotionally balanced."
Nia is practiced barefoot. It is adaptable for everybody. It consists of "cardio-dance workouts combining 52 simple moves with dance arts, martial arts, and healing arts to get you fit in 60 minutes - body, mind, emotion, and spirit."
Casey Emrich, who teaches Nia at Holly's Pilates Village, said she took her first Nia class in 2010 and "fell in love. I had been searching for a fitness class and found not only a healthy fitness experience but a new lifestyle practice. I immediately knew I wanted to be a part of the Nia community and a teacher."
She explains that Nia has borrowed from martial arts and separated its teacher training into belts. Each successive training (White, Green, Blue, Brown, and Black Belt) adds a new focus to build on and develops a teacher's holistic knowledge of the body and enhances movement creativity. The White Belt teaches the Art of Sensation, which means learning to listen to your body and moving in a way that feels good and brings pleasure. After the White Belt, a Nia student can become a Nia instructor, although many people take the belts to enhance their Nia practice.
In May 2019, Casey obtained the Nia Blue Belt, which focuses on the Art of Communication – being with ourselves and others. Successful relationships and teaching come from learning to communicate intimately, mastering both speaking and listening skills.
In October 2019, Casey plans to pursue Nia Brown Belt training, which focuses on the Art of Perception, which shares that the experience of sensation in the body is an energy experience.
"My Nia practice has truly enhanced my life on so many levels," Casey says. "I am healthier and happier than I ever could've imagined, and I look forward to everything I will learn from each new belt."
Becoming a Sacred Athlete Through Nia
Nia Teacher Maria Whitley, who has obtained the 1st-degree Black Belt certification, never considered herself an athlete until she discovered Nia.
"Transformation can be scary. Opening myself to my potential and my purpose was something that I put off, delayed, evaded," Maria explains. "Choosing to be in sensation, to dance through life, to sense the universal constant of change puts me on a path of discovering my purpose and exploring my potential. And it is a daily choice."
Nia can be adapted for those who need to get moving or for those who are extremely fit. However, the practice "does demand that the participants develop a relationship with their own bodies so they can CHOOSE the level of conditioning they desire," Maria says. "We call this Awareness. In a Nia class, it is always up to the student how they choose to condition their bodies."
To be able to choose the level of conditioning that is best, Nia teaches that there are 5 Sensations of Fitness:
In Nia, participants connect with these physical sensations to reach toward something bigger: the sensation of life-force energy, prana, or joy.
"When I sense joy, everything I do feels like I'm dancing," Maria shares. "And that creates transformation. Nia gives me the tools to transform my body and my life consciously. And we call that becoming a sacred athlete. Being a sacred athlete means that every time I dance Nia, I step into class to heal myself, to heal my students, and to heal the world."
For Chris P., attending Nia classes rekindled her youthful passion for dancing. When she retired more than a decade ago, Chris says she started searching for activities that would improve her fitness but also nourish her soul.
"Partway through that first Nia class, I almost left because I felt so awkward, but by the end, I was so moved by one of the songs that I was in tears. And the movement being taught gave me a vessel for my feelings that was such a rush!" she shares. "With the joy in learning how to self-heal any tendency to limit and judge myself, I have learned to trust that I can move forward without fear.
"Nia can show us ourselves if we are curious. I am a high-strung person, and I need the release and self-expression of dance to keep my energy flowing smoothly and pleasurably. Nia helped me with chronic, long-term neck issues. And my posture has improved so much." Chris encourages people who have tried Pilates and yoga to also include Nia in their fitness routines.
"Sometimes we know in our bones that some practices offer gifts that can be reached for, in ever more subtle and pleasing ways, throughout time," Chris says. "With Nia, the reaching becomes effortless, as one learns to give oneself over to the music and movement, without the mind having to think at all.
"Sometimes I come to Nia surly and peeved, feeling a bit sorry for myself about some perceived lack, and every single time, I feel better, often laughing in joy, grateful for a more expansive perspective.
Get more information about Nia classes at Holly's Pilates Village in Louisville, Kentucky, on our website, or call (502) 409-4200.