Stepping Into Nia

Elizabeth Kiser is a Brown Belt certified Nia teacher based in Cobourg, Ontario. 

I walked into my first Nia Technique class about 10 years ago. It was different from anything else I’d done. Looking through the glass window that separated the Nia class from the open area of the gym, I had seen a variety of women all dancing around, smiling and serious as they went through their motions. Not being able to hear the music they were dancing to, I thought they looked kind of funny, and yet, not. Each of the women were dressed in cool-looking, flowing pants, and beautiful, feminine tops. They had beads of sweat dripping down their backs and smiles on their faces.

At the age of 39, newly single with 4-year old twins, I must admit that I didn’t look like dating material. After taking a variety of classes, and even working with a personal trainer, I had come to the realization that the gym world was one where I was an alien. But, the women in the room with the mirrors looked like they were having fun; I was intrigued.

And so, I stepped in. Literally. Most Nia classes start with taking a step into the space, leaving behind any thoughts or feelings you came in the door with, to focus your attention on your body and moving to choreography in your body’s way. Huh? Sounds out there, doesn’t it? It is at first, and then it becomes the most natural thing in the world–learning to listen to your body in movement and stillness. Learning how to pay attention to how you move, learning to tweak movements for more comfort and more joy.

In that first Nia class, the students positioned themselves into lines, so that each of us could see ourselves in the mirror. Our feet were in Closed Stance and our knees were slightly bent, like our elbows, soft and natural. Then the instructor began swiveling her hips Salsa-style as she traveled in a lateral line for four beats, her hips swaying back and forth in a rhythmic beat, before sliding into the stillness of Cat Stance. Then with balance and agility, she let go of four kicks, delivered with power and intention, and "melted" down to the floor. Then she rose back up, one vertebrae at a time.

We were all following her, some doing better than others, all intent on moving like our instructor as she shifted from doing a dance movement to a martial arts movement to a healing genre motion of melting down then rising, before segueing back into the dance arts. We were working both sides of the body equally, creating balance in the body, balance in the brain–actually burning new neurological pathways as we danced through the hour-long class.

While dancing Nia, I moved my body to music and choreography that encouraged me to tap into emotions and personas that I usually kept locked away; I went from imagining I was a sensual hip-swaying woman in one song to a powerful “Bond” girl in another. Seeing myself in the mirror moving with strength, power, fluidity and grace was a revelation. By the time the hour was over, I didn’t feel depleted of energy. I felt energized!

As with anything new, it took time and practice to develop the grace and alignment of body weights. In the process I discovered the importance of having alignment in all four realms of my being: body, mind, emotions and spirit. Being able to tap into the various facets that make me uniquely me allowed me to explore parts of myself I didn’t even know were there, launching me on a journey of self-discovery.

Today, I am a Brown Belt certified Nia teacher. I took 160 hours of training to achieve this level! Currently, I teach four times a week during the school year, and take the summers off. The new season gets a kick start in September/October with Nia events, the biggest of which is NiaXperience–a weekend retreat of dance, workshops and writing/journaling led by three headliners. To learn more about the NiaXperience, visit my profile page and the NiaXperience website. The first class is free, but beware, it’s addictive.