The Nia Technique – Fitness’ Best Kept Secret
by Monica Walker, CMT, HHP, NE
Monica teaching Nia is captured above by Sandrine Hahn on January 4, 2007.
“Nia transformed my life. It healed my depression, it shifted my career path, it gave me community and close friends and, oh yeah, it got me in shape.
What is Nia?
The Nia Technique is a holistic fitness program: it engages the body, mind, emotions and spirit in each and every class. It draws from 9 other movement forms (martial arts, dance and body awareness techniques) to create the unique sensation that is Nia. It incorporates free movement and movement on the floor. It creates strength, flexibility, agility, stability and mobility, not just of the body but also of the mind and the emotions. It connects you to your unique spirit and cultivates love, joy and inner guidance. Nia is fully adaptable for all fitness and experience levels, from the person just beginning a relationship with exercise to the person looking for an athletic cardio experience. Nia’s choreography is easy to follow and the moves are based on how the body is designed to move. The music is diverse and engaging. Most importantly, Nia is fun!
I first began practicing Nia in 2001 in Portland, Oregon. I had just moved across the country and committed to getting in shape, despite hating to exercise. I took aerobics and step classes and kept my eye on the slow moving clock during each endless hour. My neighbor invited me to a Nia class and I reluctantly joined her. I never looked back. The teacher played music by big band legend Louis Prima and I shook and shimmed, sank and rose, kicked and punched, danced and delighted for an hour that felt like 15 minutes. At the end, I looked down and noticed that I was covered in sweat and my cheeks hurt from the permanent smile that was plastered on my face for that first hour. I couldn’t get every move, nor move as gracefully or fluidly as the teacher, but none of that mattered. Here I was in a space that was about moving my body the way it was meant to be moved, to enjoy doing it and to, oh yeah, get in shape.
A few months later, I was taking classes on a regular basis and found myself crying through entire classes. I didn’t know why I was crying. Usually there was a story in my sad, depressed and gloomy mind that got those tears rolling, but not in Nia. In Nia, I danced and cried and released and let go and felt incredible afterwards. No one tried to fix me or stop me but I got big knowing, empathetic smiles from these people who already knew the power that Nia had to heal. These tears, this movement of emotional energy, catalyzed by expressive movement and encouragement to listen to my own body, were the first tears on the path out of 10 plus years of clinical depression. Over the ensuing few years, I stopped crying in class on a regular basis, expect when I lost a loved one or an important relationship ended and my depression finally and forever lifted. Nia became my therapy and opposed to the talk therapy I had been engaged in since I was 12, it actually worked.
I recall one important class during that time, when the teacher encouraged us to just move to the music in any way we wanted. It had taken me months to get used to this FreeDance, as we call it in Nia. So rarely since I was very young was I invited to move my body any way I wanted to, especially in public, and at first, I was embarrassed and awkward. Slowly I became more comfortable and on this particular day, I had a realization as I drew my attention inward and connected to the sensations in my body. I realized that after years and years of trying to lose weight, be more tone and slender, trying to live up to some outside ideal and hating my body, I was moving because it felt good. I was losing weight, gaining strength and flexibility, and cultivating balance but these once prominent motivators had become secondary: side effects of how much fun I was having, how I was learning to be joyful and how my body, mind and emotions were healing. I was no longer moving my body because I hated it and wanted it to be different than it was. I was moving my body because I loved it and wanted to work with it to create health and it was doing just that.
I knew that to teach this practice I could take it wherever I went and hopefully, touch at least one person the way my teachers had reached me. Before moving to San Francisco in 2003, I took the White Belt training and began my teaching career. Once in San Francisco, I began classes at community centers, gyms and dance studios. I taught hundreds of students in classes, workshops and retreats. The students connected with me and with each other and community formed around our practices. I developed friendships with students and teachers that I cherish to this day. I reveled in the after class confessions of how great this movement felt, how transformed people were becoming and how good it felt to be connected to their bodies in an authentic way again. I wanted more of this. I wanted to know more and to support people on their healing journeys, so I attended massage school and began a private practice. I then became a life coach and finally, a nutrition educator and over 10 years after that first Nia class, I currently work holistically with my clients to support them in making lasting change in their lives. All thanks to Nia.
Sound good? Find out how Nia moves you! Learn more and find a class or teacher near you by visiting www.nianow.com or feel free to contact me privately at firstname.lastname@example.org or in the comment section below. Thanks to my student who became my friend through Nia, Sandrine Hahn, for the opportunity to share my story and bring the gift of Nia to the readers of Nourishing Ourselves.
About the Author
Monica Walker is a Nia Black Belt, recently returned to Portland, Oregon and taking a break from her teaching practice to be a student again, grow her holistic health business and care for and nourish her two year old daughter. To learn more visit: www.ourwholebody.com but be forewarned, it is a work in progress at the moment!