Neuromuscular Integrative Action or Nia is an aerobic workout that combines dance, martial arts and healing therapies to promote wellness, fitness and a healthier lifestyle. Empowering people of all fitness levels, Nia creates a unique movement experience that can be adapted to an individual and facilitates connection between body, mind, emotion and spirit. Nia is practiced with the intention that “Through Movement We Find Health”.
The move set of Nia comprises of 52 movements that vary from the precise and technical to the experimental and free-flowing; these movements are adapted from popular dance forms, martial arts practices, and the healing arts. Nia teaches us to listen to the body by following the Pleasure Principle: If a moment feels good, keep doing that. If it doesn’t, tweak it with small adjustments until pleasure returns.
From the dance arts, Nia includes movements from Jazz Dance, Modern Dance, and Duncan Dance.
- Jazz Dance is a dance of showmanship; it allows individuals to let go of their inhibitions and have fun.
- Modern Dance is the dance of mood and emotion; it provides an opportunity to express emotions through dance.
- Duncan Dance has a playful nature; it encourages experimental and free-flow movement.
Nia incorporates martial arts movements from Tai Chi, Tae Kwon Do, and Aikido.
- Tai Chi is a series of slow, fluid, purposeful, physical movements with controlled breathing and relaxation; it allows movement with intention and grace.
- Tae Kwon Do is a Korean martial art; the kicks, punches and bocks of Nia come from this form of martial arts.
- Aikido is a Japanese martial art known as “the way of the peaceful warrior”; it incorporates spiraling motions and turns and circular movement.
The healing elements of Nia are inspirited by Yoga, Alexander Technique, and the teachings of Moshe Feldenkrais.
- Yoga is a movement therapy utilizing a combination of meditative practices, breathing techniques and specific body poses; it allows for the alignment of mind, body and spirit through combining the breath and mental focus with body poses.
- The Alexander Technique is a movement therapy that focuses on improvement of balance, support, flexibility and coordination; it is used to correct issues of posture.
- The teachings of Moshe Feldenkrais encourage small adjustments in movement in order to find comfort and ease; it promotes finding pleasure and joy in each
How does Nia work?
Why should I use Nia?
There is a growing body of evidence that supports the use of dance arts, martial arts and healing arts during and after cancer treatment. The combination of these practices embodied through Nia may be effective in:
- Improving well-being
- Improving quality of life
- Reducing anxiety
- Reducing fatigue
- Reducing depression
- Reducing stress
Nia also invites students to play with emotion. It is not always acceptable to express emotion in an outward way in our society. For some people, it is difficult to express any emotions at all, so Nia classes provide playful exploration of a wide range of emotions in a safe environment. This allows students to express emotions that do not have an outlet, in so doing, it may provide a sense of healing through the release of pent up emotion.
As a pleasure-based movement form, Nia encourages students to listen to the body and make conscious movement choices that bring pleasure and joy to the body. When movement feels good people tend to feel better from the inside out.
Is Nia right for me?
Nia is adaptable for people of all different health and fitness backgrounds, as such Nia may be adapted to meet individual needs. It is recommended to wear comfortable and loose-fitting clothing that will allow you to move around freely without restrictions throughout your practice. Students are encouraged to bring water to class as well as a yoga mat for movements that require attendees to lie on the floor.
- Nia classes usually cost around $10-$15 per class
- Nia classes are typically 60 minutes long
- Nia classes follow the seven cycle system
How do I choose a class or Nia instructor?
Nia teachers are licensed through The Nia Technique, Inc. There are five different belt levels that Nia teachers may achieve, which each emphasize different aspects of Nia practice. When choosing a Nia class, it is important to check on licensure status of class teachers and their belt level.
How do I talk to my healthcare provider about using Nia?
It is always important to consult your primary care physician before starting any type of complementary therapy, including Nia. When talking to your healthcare provider, it may be helpful to come with a list of your health concerns in relation to the practice of Nia and discuss your personal fitness goals.
It is also important for you to inform your Nia instructor of any health concerns or any treatments you may be undergoing. Let your Nia teacher know what your physical limitations and restrictions may be so that the teacher can support you in modifying the Nia practice to create one that is beneficial, healthy and safe for you.
Have others with cancer used Nia?
In 2010, a clinical trial at the University of Virginia Cancer Center studied the effect of Nia practice on the quality of life among women treated for breast cancer. The study found that the stress levels of women in the study dropped significantly after participating in the trial. More than 80% of the women who started the trial enjoyed it so much that they continued to attend classes every week for up to two years after their initial 12 weeks had passed.
Some comments from the trial participants:
- I like Nia even more than I thought I would when I started the program.
- It's been a slow change for the better. I'm moving more and feeling more comfortable in my own skin, especially after having lost a breast. Because of the direct correlation between excess weight and breast cancer, I feel the importance of this kind of activity can't be underestimated.
- These classes have helped me realize that I have some control about bringing joy into my life.
- I love Nia. It helps to reduce the stress.
- I'm able to exercise without pain, and I have a greater ability to achieve relaxation. This class has become a support group for me.
- It's great doing something so positive with other breast cancer survivors. It's good to do something beautiful, healthful and fun with our bodies after going through treatment.
- I actually feel that this has made a huge impact in my life. Nia was really the first form of exercise that I did after having breast cancer, and I had no idea I would feel this energized by its inclusive and joyful methods. It's gotten me moving in a way I never did before, and helped me feel more comfortable in my body. All very positive changes.
- I look forward to dancing with the other women and our teacher each week. It's always good to have something to look forward to and to meet new people, especially those who understand having breast cancer.
This class has a following of women (myself included) who look forward to dancing and relieving stress every week. For me, this class is like an hour of excellent therapy every week.
What is Nia like?
If you are interested in acupuncture but would like to see a session before you try it yourself, we invite you to watch a video featuring Kristy Harvey, Brown Belt Nia Instructor.