What is Nia?

All week long I’ve been training to earn my white belt in Nia. And you might be wondering, what the heck is that?

Nia is a fitness class I discovered probably close to two years ago at a yoga studio when they swapped it for our regular class. Instead of stretching we ended up dancing, and I just connected with it instantly. Maybe it was because I used to be a dancer (waaaay back in the day), maybe it was because I liked a little more energetic movement than my usual introspective yoga class, or maybe it was just because I’d never done exercise that felt so natural and good to my body. Either way, I remember thinking it was intriguing, but then forgetting about it for a while.

So when my current yoga studio started offering the class a few months ago, I showed up. The teacher and I talked a lot about how we felt Nia would catch on here if we just kept doing it. It’s popular in bigger cities like Portland, Oregon where it’s headquartered (!!), New York and Chicago. But not so much here. So we kept dancing, and pretty soon more and more new faces started showing up. My teacher got more routines in the mix, and then she started talking about how she wanted to do a training session here, so that people could have the full experience of Nia, get really immersed in it, and then become teachers if they wanted.

Even if I didn’t know right away I would do it, I think deep down I did know.

Going through this whole job change, which is really me trying to figure out how I can have the career I want and sustain it indefinitely, it really seemed like Nia could be a part of that. And wouldn’t it be great for someone like me who’s constantly struggling to find an exercise program I can stick with (and let’s be real, constantly failing on that front), to incorporate Nia into my work?

I joke that Nia is like new-agey aerobics, because I think some of the concepts are a little out there for most of us. But ultimately, the point of the class is to move in the way your body is meant to move. The way it wants to move. In a way that feels good and won’t injure you. The tagline is “through movement we find health.” So true.

So the classes are choreographed to music. The moves change as the music changes naturally, which is also kind of cool. The moves are a blend of the dance arts, martial arts and healing arts. So sometimes you are swaying or doing a cha-cha-cha, sometimes you are kicking or punching, and sometimes you are stretching, breathing, relaxing. Again, all moves go with different types of music. Some routines are more energetic than others.

We had five classes this week, and they were some of the most fun I’ve ever had because of the trainer who taught them, Stephaney Robinson.

She lives in South Carolina now, but she grew up in Des Moines. She spent the whole week with us, pulling us out of our shells, listening to us talk and talk and talk about ourselves. There was so much going on mentally and emotionally outside of the dancing, even though the class is all about the physical part. The best part really was finding a new community in Nia with these women that I just connected with right away. Three of us even live in the same neighborhood.

Here we are: Jewels, me, Moira and Jen, showing off our Nia bags like the dorks we are.

Another Nia white belt joined us for a couple of days, and she turned out to be one of the most fascinating women I’ve ever met. She’s a farmer with seven kids, who baked us muffins (twice!) with ingredients from her farm and brought us fresh flowers.

She told us a lot about the Nia community in Fairfield, Iowa, which is another fascinating place full of both farmers and hippies, thanks to the Maharishi University there.

Anyway, if you would like to try Nia, I would love to see you at the Family Tree yoga studio Saturday mornings at 8:30 a.m. Hopefully there will be at least one more class per week offered there, and I might even be the teacher sometimes! It’s going to take me a while to learn the routines, and practice until I feel comfortable leading the class. But the prospect is so exciting.

Perhaps one of the most profound parts was just getting comfortable in my own body. We spent hours, HOURS, freedancing. Just turning on music and dancing around the room like no one was watching. Except we were all there. You have no idea how unlike me it is to do something like that. I am usually wound up much too tight, but Nia just forces you to let go. I admit that at first I was like who are these people and what are they saying and what are they doing? I didn’t fully get it. But I just told myself to trust the process.

So here I am. I’ve got a white belt, five new friends, and a future totally open to possibility. I have to say I’m a little proud of myself for plunking down the money and deciding to do something totally for myself in my grand plan to create more positivity in my life. I can’t even remember the last time I exercised this much in a week, and though my muscles were tired and my feet hurt and I overdid it with a few crazy moves, I don’t feel anywhere near what it would feel like to even just lift weights for an hour. I may have even danced a little of my ass off.

OK. Enough rambling. I just really wanted to share this experience with you. And I hope if you’re open to it that you’ll give Nia a try sometime.

Even just turn on some music and dance around your living room for a few minutes. Let it go. LET IT ALL GO. You need it. Trust me.