Nia Testimonial: Jean Jambas, Nia Teacher
When I was in high school, I was a ballet dancer with the MIchigan Ballet Theater. College, however, led me to a master's degree in library science, and I was a librarian for 10 years. Inside me, there was something that wanted a different path, and in the early 90s, I became a certified Callanetics instructor and began teaching people how to heal and strenghten their bodies. Then a co-worker came along who had discovered Nia. I thought, "Holy moly! Stop the presses!" I got my Nia White Belt 15 years ago, my Green Belt in 2010, and my Blue Belt in July of 2012. I am a certified Nia 5 Stages teacher and have taken the training for the Nia 52 Moves. I'm still completing the plerk (play and work) for that. Also, in 2012, I became certified as an Ageless Grace Educator.
Why do you practice and/or teach Nia?
There are many reasons why I practice and teach Nia. A primary reason that I practice has been to handle depression and also to heal ballet injuries from 13 years of classical ballet. Many people assume that I do Nia because I was a ballet dancer. I tell them that couldn't be further from the truth. I am a recovering ballet dancer; I love ballet with all my heart, but it can be a punishing art form.
When I started doing Nia, I didn't even know I had ballet-related injuries. I just thought it was normal to ache all the time. Nia began healing those injuries a little at a time, and I honor my body's way with the practice. Much more important, however, is how vital Nia has been in transforming the depression and grief within my life. Often, Nia gives form to the things that cannot be said, and offers a way to move emotions, thoughts, experiences, and traumas safely through the body. I experienced this after being nailed by post-partum depression that went undiagnosed for a very long time, and then again after my mom passed away.
Nia gave me access to gently processing those emotions while embracing a lifestyle that was healing. Some days, I could barely move through the adrenal fatigue, and my dance was in a chair or lying on the floor. Some days, I made it up to almost a level one. That was it for a very long time, and it was honestly amazing. It was amazing, as a student and former ballet dancer, to give myself permission to do less and not make it mean that I was less. It was incredible as a teacher to model honoring one's own healing and to give the students license to trust themselves and amp up the movements no matter what I was doing.
I love Nia, because the moment my bare feet feel the dance floor, I am in my truth, in that moment for that particular day—and my dance will be like no other dance. Each class is like a snowflake. Even if we are doing the same routine several times in a row, each time it will be unique.
I also practice and teach for my mom, because she was a wonderful teacher who stopped teaching and a concert pianist who stopped playing. I want to be healthy for the rest of my life, and I want my students to be healthy as well. I don't ever want a single student to think they can't get up and down off the floor, or that they are too old to dance or sing or paint, etc. I don't want them to ever think they aren't good enough. We are all good enough. We were all born good enough and we are all magnificent.
Where and with whom do you take Nia classes and/or trainings?
I have taken most of my training in Lansing, MI, with Winalee Zeeb, Caroline Kohles and Debbie Rosas. I have also had the joy of being pampered at Helen Terry's Soma Ranch during the 52 Moves Training. Gosh, I dance at home and I dance in the homes of other Nia teachers. Frankly, whenever we get together, dancing is going to happen. I take the classes of Nia Detroit teachers Patricia Scott, Brooke Mallon and Stacey Peper whenever I get the chance to experience the joy of seeing how someone else teaches. It makes the embodiement of concepts so delightful and effortless. Stacey and I are particularly fond of dancing together in her kitchen; some of our best co-teaching jam ideas have happened in that kitchen.
Oddly enough, I practice routines in my head a lot, in the car. There is a lot of driving in my day since my 13-year-old's school is 40 minutes away from home. This offers me invaluable time for listening to the music and visualizing and mentally reviewing choreography. My son even gives me input on playlists and he's really quite good. Everyone should have a teenage DJ. I must say, though, that I am taken with dancing in public places, such as markets and bookstores (and this drives my son nuts). He knows better than to complain too loudly or dare me because I am just 10 seconds away from dancing at any moment.
What is one thing most people don't know about Nia?
Most people don't honestly understand that Nia is the proverbial "fountain of youth," and it isn't elusive, out of reach or available in a bottle. It is right here, right now, at our fingertips—juicy and ripe for the picking. There is a saying that has been floating around lately that goes like this: "We don't stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing." Play is almost like a dirty word within the fitness world. It's as if saying "play" takes away power. Nia is fitness and physical conditioning in the most playful, most powerful, most primal and most sophisticated sense. And we get to seek pleasure while doing it.
It all feels like play, but every single one of the 52 Moves is a very important ingredient in the fountain of youth formula. Each move is a movement vitamin, if you will, nourishing our bodies and our imaginations.
What tip can you give someone who is considering trying Nia for the first time?
When in doubt, giggle. That's right, laugh out loud. We are our worst inner critics, and we've been taught that movement and exercise is serious business. Watch little kids on the playground. Do they over analyze and make themselves look all serious like they are concentrating? Nope. They laugh and play. So when you go into your first Nia class and go right when everyone else goes left, laugh and take yourself lightly. The more you laugh, the easier it will come to you, and we all need as much laughter as we can get in our everyday lives.