letting go in nia class

nia class
Set your spirit free with a nia class! 

Call me a skeptic, but I find it a bit silly to be slithering around like a snake on the gym floor reciting "ahhhhh, sexy spine" out loud.

It was my first Nia class and I had trouble keeping a straight face. I couldn't make eye contact with my fellow lululemon Ala Moana educators for fear of cracking up as we danced barefoot, twisting our spines and awkwardly flailing our arms in the air.

Nia, which stands for Neuromuscular Integrative Actions, is described as a body-mind fitness and lifestyle program. Students kick off their shoes as they incorporate movement and philosophies from dance, yoga, pilates, martial arts, and more – moving their way to a healthier and more empowered mind, body and soul.

During the class, as I willed myself to keep an open mind and allow my body to relax, I watched the teacher let loose and encourage her students to do the same. People around me were spontaneously spinning, singing, clapping, and even releasing shouts of "yes!" I also noticed that no one could stop smiling as we danced around the room. That freedom made me shun my self-consciousness and I started to shake and shimmy to the music.

I think my change of heart came after noticing I was surrounded by women of all ages who were fully aware of their bodies, with no hesitation to express their grace and power. It was a place that gave me a sense of freedom, pushing me to become more energized, strong, and confident.

I'm convinced that Nia is a fun stress-buster, as well as a joyful way to get in shape, become more in tune with your body, and even find happiness while sweating it out. To find a Nia class near you, visit a lululemon store and ask them to point you in the right direction, or check out the Nia website at www.nianow.com.

How are you letting go today?

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Nia is an awesome release for me–my favorite move that our Ala Moana store’s ambassador, Sharlene Bliss, teaches is “Sexy Spine.” So fun!

Comment by Corey — December 8, 2009 @ 4:35 pm

Are there any Nia classes in Vancouver? I am intrigued!

Comment by Facebook User — December 8, 2009 @ 4:47 pm

Nia was so much fun for me, too, after taking Sharlene’s class! (I’m a honolululemon, too!) It’s all about self-expression and doing what makes you feel good!

Comment by akiko — December 8, 2009 @ 7:06 pm

I had the chance to take Nia from the founders Debbie and Carlos Rosas a couple years back. What a great workout and energetic release! SEXY SPINE!

Comment by Fabe — December 9, 2009 @ 12:52 am

Sounds like fun… I will have to see if can find a class in NYC… although I don’t know if I can holler out sexy spine! We’ll have to wait and see!

Comment by Katrina — December 9, 2009 @ 2:50 pm

I am a Nia teacher in Ontario, Canada. I have felt my “sexy spine”, but we haven’t yelled “sexy spine” yet..I’ll add it soon. We definitely do find the “fun”. I met some wonderful NYC teachers when Nia participated in the Dance Parade May 24 weekend..You can join us next May 2010 dancing down Broadway in a Tee shirt that reads “I Love My Body”. Very Liberating. It was a BLAST. I know there are great teachers in Vancouver Area too. Check out the nianow.com and niac.ca web sites. good luck and enjoy!

Comment by Mary Baxter — December 10, 2009 @ 8:05 pm

Nice article, Marisa! I’m a Nia teacher in Burlington, Ontario, so I know there are Nia classes in all the locations that readers have asked about. In almost 40 years experience of dance, yoga, and fitness of all kinds, Nia is the most continually engaging class I have ever discovered. We call Nia the “Love your body, love your life” workout. With all these sexy spines, maybe you can see why!

Comment by Anna Schantz — December 10, 2009 @ 9:13 pm

When I first began Nia what I loved was being able to laugh and have fun in class instead of having to be serious! Letting go (and even being silly) is so crucial to health and happiness. I’ve been teaching Nia for 9 yrs now in Vancouver. A group of us had a blast teaching a class this summer for some of the Lululemon gang.

Comment by Jasjit Rai — December 11, 2009 @ 12:10 am

Mary: Love it! Dancing down Broadway in NYC… it DOES sound very liberating. Nia is so much fun… I always leave class with a smile on my face =)

Anna: Thanks! “Love your body, love your life” is definitely the appropriate description for Nia. It always makes me feel good to see so many different women having a good time while working up a sweat!

Comment by Marisa — December 11, 2009 @ 1:52 am

I agree; great article. I am a Nia teacher in St. Catharines, Ontario and have definately found my groove in this amazing fitness lifestyle. My students talk about ‘feeling like a child again’ and the joy Nia brings to their lives. There are so many stories of healing on every level. Sexi spine will certainly make it into my next class!!!

Comment by Didi Wilson — December 11, 2009 @ 6:51 am

Hi Everybody!
I just read Marisa’s blog and it reminded me of my first Nia class back in 1993. Dance, Martial Arts and Yoga were all movement forms I had taken before as separate classes and so I was intrigued by the concept of integrating them all into one class. I enjoyed the creatively choreographed routines and slowly warmed up to the loose and liberating movements of Nia. I had found something that resonated with moving my body less mechanically as was my experience in fitness classes. After taking Nia classes for a few months I went back to my aerobics class and found myself giggling at the strict counting and robotic/linear like movement. Nia has since become an inspiring practice in my life. I have met so many amazing people who share the same openness to moving through life. Whenever I travel I look up a local Nia instructor and take classes.

I had the pleasure of leading a group of lululemon staff in a Nia class a few years ago when I was a lululemon Ambassador. (Bloor St. location in Toronto, Canada) Some people commented that at first they were a little hesitant to do Nia because they heard it was ecclectic. As we danced together to the music of world rhythms, the mystery of Nia was revealed as a fun and playful fitness practice and smiles were plentiful.

Comment by Marla Gold — December 11, 2009 @ 8:33 am

So happy to read this article and the writer’s honesty in experiencing Nia. In one short hour, a shift of awareness, a willingness to let go of your self consciousness and PLAY within your body pretty much expresses Nia. Smiles aabound, release and rejuvenation, confidence building and so much more.
Sharing Nia, moving in JOY and feeling comfortable in my skin are all part of this movement technique, a process to me.When you experience Nia,
Shifts Happen…

Comment by Robin — December 11, 2009 @ 10:22 am

I can tell a lot of Canadians read this blog ;)
Thanks for sharing Didi & Marla. Nia can be life changing for a lot of people… and the freedom you capture in class can rarely be recreated in other fitness settings. I have to credit my love of Nia to a wonderful teacher here in Hawaii: Sharlene Bliss… she is very charismatic, authentic and loves Nia (and it shows!)

Comment by Marisa — December 11, 2009 @ 10:36 am

Hmm..when I first went to a Nia class it did weird me out too. But this blog makes me want to try one again! Let go of something everyday, right? Thanks, Maris :)

Comment by Sue — December 11, 2009 @ 2:34 pm

Great blog Marisa! I didn’t know Nia was an acronym. I thought some chica named Nia started the movement. Show’s how much I know! It sounds like a great way to mix up fun and fitness so I will have to check out a class.

Comment by Meredith — December 11, 2009 @ 2:37 pm

Marissa! How nice to see this photo! My dear friend Rebecca and myself right after NIA with all those lovely NIAites :) I love NIA!!!!! And I love your blog:)! Xoxo

Comment by Victoria — December 11, 2009 @ 6:47 pm

Nia is so different from any other mind-body program I’ve ever tried before it embraces the spirit. When you move your body holistically and seek pleasure in it, you’ll literally dance for joy! (hence the many smiling faces the author noted). I adore my Nia Ohana and love to Sharlene and Eda in the author’s class!

Comment by Joy — December 11, 2009 @ 8:04 pm

I don’t think I’d be too far off to assume that most people in this NIA discussion are female. Am I wrong??? Are there any guys doing it out there?? I have never done Nia but have planned to make it one of the things I do to scare myself in the near future.
I have tried Zumba, and despite lacking any natural dancing talent, I had a blast and worked up a good sweat. I’ll have to report back after my NIA class.

Comment by Brian — December 11, 2009 @ 8:06 pm

I had a similar experience my first class… a little bit weirded out but captivated by how happy everyone around me seemed to be. It was also one of the most welcoming group classes I’d ever attended. I’m so glad I went back for that second class as I was able to really let go and enjoy the experience. Nia has been such a great source of stress release, joy and focus for me. There is no mental debate about going or not going to Nia class. I know how much fun and how much better I’ll feel after class.

Thanks for the Nia shout-out Marisa!

Comment by Mel — December 11, 2009 @ 8:32 pm

Nia sounds awesome! I definitely want to try it out – thanks for this Marisa!!

Comment by Andrea — December 11, 2009 @ 9:38 pm

this is awesome marisa! i know it’s sometimes very hard for us to just let go and have fun…no fear of looking silly…much like little children! i loved your blog entry, it made me laugh!

Comment by stace — December 11, 2009 @ 10:24 pm

Marisa, I remember that day. Thanks for your great story and the photo. The photos that are taken after Nia class are among my favorites! That was taken right after class and the group looks joyful, energized, open, relaxed–just glowing and beautiful! Nia invites each of us to move and energize our cells, muscles, joints, bones, tissues–our whole being–and experience the fun, pleasure and joy of movement.

See you in Nia class this holiday season! Hmmm, I’ll think of something to complement the Sexy Spine.

Comment by Sharlene Bliss — December 12, 2009 @ 1:22 am

I appreciate the great form that NIA affords. It’s great to see the Honolulu NIA sisters still enjoying the magic of NIA.

Comment by Alex Alexander — December 12, 2009 @ 2:43 am

I love NIA!!! It’s a ton of fun being in a space where you are encouraged to let loose, be a little whacky, and get moving! I always feel like I’m dancing in front of the mirror in my own bedroom in NIA class, which is always a good thing. Anything that gives me the opportunity to break a sweat, laugh at myself, and gain body awareness is an activity that I need on a daily basis! Sharlene Bliss is an awesome instructor. You must take her class!

Comment by Janna — December 12, 2009 @ 6:31 am

I am a Blue Belt Nia teacher in Georgetown, Ontario Canada. I sit on the Governing Committee for NIAC (Nia Instructor’s Association of Canada). If you are looking for classes in Canada you can find them on our Canadian website http://www.niac.ca I would also like to remind everyBody that Nia is no longer considered an acronym full of mumble jumble. In Welsh Nia means ‘lovely’, in Hebrew Nia means “movement or path” and in Swahili Nia means ‘with purpose’. “LOVELY MOVEMENT WITH PURPOSE!” Personally, I see it as a transformational and holistic life style. I have just returned from Israel where I “re-took” my White Belt training with Winalee Zeeb. This intensive is where the students discover the true depth of the Nia way and real transformation exponentially takes off. The intensives are not only for those aspiring to become certified instructors, but also for those who wish to enrich their class experiences. My journey with Nia has been exceptional and I recommend it to everyBody. Male, female, young, old… This is something very unique and amazing. Nia’s healing properties are boundless. The philosophy is so deep and yet so simple to follow. The 7 days are truly ‘intensive’ and steeped in self discovery. To find an intensive training near you, go to the international site http://www.nianow.com No Nia experience is necessary, just the desire to find the Magic that lie with in YOU.

Comment by (Mrs) Denis Karda — December 12, 2009 @ 9:26 am

I’m also a Blue Belt teacher, but in the Chicago area. So funny, I see that “oh-my-gosh-what-if-I-laugh” face on soo many of the new students! I love “sexy spine” – like “feline spine” one of my favorites. Nia is a brilliant fitness program. Rich, layers upon layers of somatic information just waiting to be uncovered and peeled away. Juicy, saucy, sexy – nothing like Dancing Through Life! Cheers!

Comment by Catherine Ehret — December 12, 2009 @ 12:20 pm

Marisa, thanks for sharing the experience of your first Nia class. I think you have accurately captured the feelings that alot of us had after our first encounter with Nia and I think it is also true that the more you do Nia the better you like it. Yes Brian(#18), there are guys doing Nia–we are usually in the minority in any given class, but you should definitely give it a try.

Comment by Brad — December 12, 2009 @ 3:47 pm

I do adore Shar and my Nia Sisters! We’ll take brothers too! I am a breast cancer survivor,dancer and Physical therapist and heavy into the spirit and Power of our moving bodies….you go girl,happy blogging and shaking it up with NIA the wonderful way to Joyous movement!!!

Comment by Tracey V. — December 12, 2009 @ 5:33 pm

I’ve been hearing so many great stories about NIA…can’t wait to try it. Need to get to that class ASAP! Thanks for the story blog Marisa, can’t to try SEXY SPINE :)

Just typing that is liberating…haha!

Comment by Lauren — December 13, 2009 @ 4:37 am

Yes, Brian. There are MEN who practice Nia! When I took my first Nia classes we had men moving with us who added a phenomenal energy. It would be great to welcome more men to the community! So come out and give it a try!

On a personal note, I went through a tough time before I discovered Nia. After a back injury my doctor told me that I should be happy to be able to nod my head to the rhythm of music. I used to be a vivid step aerobic girl and dumbbell swinger. For stress release I also went wild dancing in house clubs. When I asked my doc if I were to go clubbing again, he was just laughing at me.

A few years later, after I learned new methods of pain management which are mainly based on the principles of integrative and holistic medicine I moved to Canada and met Tanya, a Nia teacher at a local yoga studio, who introduced me to my first Nia class. It was great. It had all I needed. Martial arts kicks punches and stances, dance movements, yoga as well as the Alexander Technique and The Teachings of Moshe Feldenkrais The latter two methods were introduced to me before I heard about Nia, by my integrative physiotherapist in Europe during the recovery of my back injury. So knowing that these forms were build into Nia made it a no-brainer for me. I could do this! And most of all, I was able to do this! I got hooked right away.

Shortly after I participated in the Nia Master Classes in Toronto held by Debbie and Carlos Rosas, the co-founders of the Nia Technique.

Further inspired by this event, I completed my Nia White Belt intensive training under Nia Black Belt Trainer Martha Randall in 2007 and I am now a certified and licensed Nia teacher.

For me, Nia is not only a fitness class, it is a lifestyle. My Nia practise is a journey of personal development and growth, a path to develop personal power, strength and grace. Nia practice always surprises me through new discoveries.

Comment by Anja G. — December 13, 2009 @ 9:18 am

I’m so happy to hear the wonderful experiences people have had with Nia, as well as the piqued curiosity for the class, AND the meanings of Nia in different languages! It seems like the Nia community is strong… and growing. Almost like a sisterhood of support. I’ve seen Sharlene and other fellow teachers group-teach classes and pass off the microphone so that other “sisters” can get a chance to lead the class.

Comment by Marisa — December 13, 2009 @ 4:06 pm

Nia sounds like a very liberating form of exercise and self-expression…will definitely check it out. Thanks all for sharing your thoughts and experiences!

Comment by Tami — December 15, 2009 @ 12:20 am

I took a Nia class last week in San Antonio and we danced to the Nutcracker. I felt like I was 6 again dancing for my Mom and Dad. It was an emotional experience and I loved every minute of it!

Comment by Jennifer — December 21, 2009 @ 7:54 pm

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