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Nia: A Personal Account of Exploring Joyful Movement through Exercise
In 2004, I was told by a friend that she had begun attending Nia classes at a new Nia studio in Denver. I was delighted to hear that Nia had finally arrived in town but, admittedly, I felt somewhat apprehensive about taking a class. I knew that Nia was more than just an exercise practice; it was a way to connect to one’s core and spirit. What if I were unable connect with my “self”? (I actually thought this!) What if I were unable to do the steps perfectly? What if I embarrassed myself in front of the other people in the class??? I eventually recognized that I needed to “get a grip!”
After an extensive internal debate, I finally donned my “big girl pants” and attended a class. Within the first ten minutes and with each successive step, I felt I was “coming home” to myself in a way that I had not realized that I had ignored. The music was intoxicating and inspiring. The movements were playful and stimulating. I released my inhibitions and dived into pure sensation. I felt my body stretch, contract, spin, and open in ways it hadn’t in YEARS…I felt alive and free! Toward the end of class, as I was engaged in a movement with my arms outstretched, chest open, and my face turned toward the sky, I heard this little voice in my head saying, “thank you.” In that moment, I felt so overcome with joy and gratitude, I struggled to restrain tears. I approached the instructor after the class concluded and thanked her for leading such a magical experience. I, then, involuntarily burst into tears in front of her. I felt embarrassed by my unintended outburst and I apologized for my weepiness. The instructor smiled kindly at me and said, “I understand…I cried for four months when I first started taking Nia classes.”
And thus began my love affair with Nia.
Nia is about celebrating the joy of movement and all that it entails. It includes creating a space in which to dance freely, setting an intention for what one would like to experience during the dance, creating an awareness of the how the music and movement feel in the body, and liberating ourselves to dance without self-conscious restraint, both with choreography and without. How beautiful is that???
I view Nia as more than an exercise practice; Nia is a means of self-centering, focusing, and listening deeply to what my body needs in the moment. If I feel I want or need to dance intensely or gently, I do. If there is a movement that does not feel right in my body, I modify the movement until it does feel right. Nia helps me to tap into my creativity because, while the classes are presented by an instructor, I can incorporate my own “flavor” of movement into the routine to make the dance my own. I can also use Nia to explore states of being that we all possess; happy, light, heavy, tense, at ease, sensual, aggressive, introspective, and so much more.
As we move through our adulthood lives, we are often tasked with tending to external responsibilities that can overwhelm and numb us to who we are at our core. Activities that ignite our passion, joy, and honor our authentic selves are often sidelined because we have children to care for, bills to pay, jobs to maintain… Nia helps us to remember that we matter and that those little nuances in our personalities that make us so unique are very important. I invite you to experience a Nia class for yourself; you will be delighted by what you find.
Natalie Gentry is the owner of Healing Space and is a massage therapist, Nia instructor, and a Transformational Breath™ Trainer. She teaches Nia classes at Dancing the Soul (www.dancingthesoul.com) and at Studio Soma (www.studio-soma.com). For more information, please call Natalie at (303)325-4150 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org Check out her website at www.healingspacedenver.com.