Meet Nia, the cardio-dance workout for all fitness levels

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The author (in red) leads a Nia class through a routine. Nia is described as a cardio-dance workout that combines movement with mindfulness.

BY VICKY DEMERCER
Being808 Contributor

If you’ve never heard of Nia, you’re not alone. The workout routine is growing in popularity, but it isn’t a household word (yet).

So what is Nia? The workout’s developer describes it this way:

Nia is the art of movement the body’s way. Nia is a cardio-dance workout, a movement practice, and lifestyle based on the intelligent design of the body.

That sounds pretty daunting, I know. To me, Nia is a way for me to dance in my body, for my body, and with every fiber of my being (body, mind, emotions). That’s what makes Nia such a great practice to add to your activity sheet.

I didn’t always feel this way. In fact the first time I saw a Nia routine, I thought to myself, “What are those crazy people doing?” This was in 2008. I’m happy I didn’t let that first impression get the better of me. I decided to try it. And when I did, man, did I love it.

Let me back up a bit. I was not a dancer. (I was actually kicked out of hula class at age 3.) I was not an athlete. I knew I had a body, but before Nia, I didn’t bother doing much with it activity wise.

In short, I wasn’t sure what would happen once I started Nia, but I know having Nia in my life has positively impacted my personal health and well-being. To encourage other people to try this workout routine, I wanted to address some of the questions and comments I usually get about Nia.

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IMG_28791. I’m not a dancer. Nia takes too much coordination.

Nia does take some coordination. The same amount that you might need to walk, run, or wipe the kitchen counter. One of my favorite aspects of Nia is that as a student, no thought is required. You are free to move the way that you move. If you attend a Nia class, you might notice that the instructor is showing the class the choreography, but each student has his or her own way of tweaking the choreography so that it works in their body.

2. I’m too stiff to move like that.

Nia doesn’t require that you do it perfectly every single time. That’s why it is a practice. It does require you to move. Regardless of your level of fitness, body type, or age, if practiced regularly, Nia will help to increase flexibility, agility, mobility, strength and stability.

3. So how is Nia different from Zumba?

I’ve heard a longtime Nia practitioner say that Zumba is your one night stand and Nia is your long-term relationship. The meaning of this statement is that Nia will encourage natural, organic movement in your body. Choreography in a Nia class is demonstrated by the instructor, but danced by the student. This means you get a great workout, with the right intensity level for you. And since Nia routines have a focus, you’ll have a few moments before and after the routine to notice how your body, mind and emotions have changed.

4. I don’t get it. Is Nia dancing yoga?

Nia is built on a foundation of the dance arts, martial arts, and healing arts. Each movement art uses three different forms of movements to create the 52 moves you’ll find in every Nia routine. We can punch and kick using the influence of Tae Kwon Do. We can find balance and alignment by using yoga to influence our movements. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

5. Why is Nia done barefoot?

There are over 7,000 nerves in your feet. The feet are a great way to sense what is going on in any body. While some folks do require foot wear due to medical conditions, doing Nia barefoot is encouraged, but not required.

Being a Nia student empowered me. Since finding Nia, I’ve gone back to hula, become an ecstatic dancer, and a yoga and aerial yoga enthusiast. I practice Nia on a daily basis. Whether I’m in a class or typing at my desk, I’m using the tools I’ve been provided as a Nia instructor to observe and listen to my body. It is through my personal practice that I am able to dance through life one day at a time.

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Vicky DeMercer has been a Nia instructor since 2009. She’s trained in water Nia and the Nia 5 Stages of Self Healing. She believes through movement, we can find healing. At the core of her Nia practice is the first principle of Nia training: The joy of movement. She encourages healthy, mindful, and healing movement practices regardless of age or body type.

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