Getting Fit With Nia

Do you ever struggle to explain ALL of the physical benefits of Nia? Unique to each individual is the Nia class experience, and putting to words WHY our bodies feel so good, can be difficult. Check it out! Occupational Therapist, Jennifer Burke, was invited by teacher, Laura Bulatao, and highlighted seven benefits of Nia through the lens of her professional training.

"1. I was surprised at how aerobic it was! I am presently trying to reach the American Heart Association’s recommendations of 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise. This certainly fits the criteria and will help me achieve that goal.

2. Lots of active range of motion especially of the shoulder girdle and pelvis. When you see people walking, running or on elliptical exercise machines, there is either very little motion of the scapulas and shoulder joints or else there is movement in a single plane of motion. The pelvis and hips are also performing repetitive motions in mostly an anterior/posterior plane of motion. Rotational movements engage all of the muscles around a joint and have a relaxational effect when done without force.

3. Lots of wonderful diagonal flexion and extension motions. These activate core stabilizers and are often needed for functional movements such as unloading the bottom shelf of a dishwasher and placing dishware up in a cabinet. When someone lacks flexibility or stability, they consciously or unconsciously separate the requirements of the task into a combination of single plane motions order to reduce diagonal movement. This will in turn make oblique musculature weaker and tighter over time resulting in an increased risk of injury.

4. Diagonal motions can also address restriction of diagonal fascial trains. Over all, our muscles and all throughout our organs there is connective tissue that forms anatomical paths called trains. The diagonal ones are often the most restrictive since we use these motions the least. As a result, they can contribute to a lack of flexibility and to pain.

5. Lots of mini squats! (I think you call it sumo position). As people age, they lose muscle. They participate in less physically demanding activities often due to fear of injury. They move to places without stairs and avoid getting down onto the floor. This especially weakens the quadriceps and gluteus muscles required to maintain our independence with aging such as getting up from a chair, out of a car, or even up off of a toilet!

6. You have to use the whole brain! There is not only the visual memory of sequence of movement, but there are different counts, changing of sides, legs, direction, not to mention that your arms are doing something different all the time. Oh! And don’t forget the clap! I’m sure that after time, it becomes more familiar and uses less cognitive effort, but research has shown that the brain becomes more integrated after performing physical actions that move the arms and legs across the midline of the body. These activities involving cross-lateral movements are being used in schools and are called Brain Games because of their positive neurological effects.

7. Last but not least, the mindful act of being present with the dance and “whatever makes your body happy.” What a great way to create a calming effect and actual neurological change, a process called downregulation, in your nervous system!"

Nia was created to impact all parts of your body, giving you a complete workout.

Join us and share this blog with your students or prospective students!

Jennifer Burke has provided Occupational Therapy services to people, ages 2-92, for more than 30 years. After being diagnosed with severe Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, she began attending National and International Conferences and is now effectively self managing her condition. As owner of Creative Health Solutions, she specializes in helping others in their journey with chronic pain and fatigue. Contact her at