In the first newsletter I received from my then soon-to-be Nia (Non-impact aerobics) instructor, she talked about how Nia allows you to dance with both yin and yang. Both the masculine, and the feminine. On reading her words in the newsletter I thought, “Well golly this sure makes it sound like Nia has been tailor made for me!” After all, for most of my life I felt like an ogre crashing through my days, thus putting me far afield from the graceful ways that as a woman I feel pressure from society to conduct myself in with at least with a modicum of savvy. For me, doing something that would help me move and carry myself with more grace struck me as really important. At the same time carrying myself as someone who is able and strong, positioned to defend herself likewise struck me as really important as a woman in our society. It was with those thoughts in my head that I was sold and soon thereafter I took my first Nia class. When I say, “I’ve started taking Nia classes,” the most common reply I get is, “Cool! But— Just what is Nia?” Nia is a mashup of martial arts, dancing and the healing arts with a common thread of movement wrapping all three elements together. As it happens, said mashup of things make up the core discipline of Nia where each can be broken down into three sub-parts:
- Tae Kwon Do, Aikido, Tai Chi cover martial arts
- Jazz, Modern Dance, Duncan Dance take care of the dance
- FinallyYoga, the work of Moshe Feldenkrais, Alexander Technique are for healing
When these disciplines are applied in a Nia class you end up punching the air and shouting, “Yes!” for one move, then in the next you may find yourself doing a funky little dance step. Near the end of class you may well find yourself in the yoga position downward facing dog as your body begins to cool down. All told, there are 52 moves to guide your body through, and adapt to how your body is most comfortable moving. Getting started in Nia for me has meant becoming very aware of just how much arm and leg I have hanging off me as I’ve klutzed through each move my instructor calls out. Good news is as I move through more classes I do feel like I’m starting to find the grace of movement that I wanted to bring out of myself. I’m still having a little trouble moving left when I’m supposed to move left, or move right when I’m supposed to move right, but I’m having a lot of fun and feel no external pressure to perform the moves correctly, which leaves me free to figure my body out at my speed. While I was attracted to amplifying my grace through Nia, I was also attracted to the aggressive moves. Nia emphasizes finding a way to control, and it has increased my comfort with my aggressive side. Day to day I’m apprehensive in showing aggression because being aggressive is associated with masculinity, and I think I have strong enough ties with that. Yet for career advancement, or at times when there is a stand to be made, aggression is useful. Aggression, but not anger. I’ve found while writing this piece I’ve been getting aggression and anger confused. Now that I’ve caught the distinction it makes me wonder if I’ve picked up some new wisdom through Nia. I’m not sure, but I do think that I’m beginning to find a way to balance grace and aggression and self care because of these classes. I wanted to write about Nia because I really enjoy the balance and comfort that Nia is helping me find in all aspects of my life. During class one day I found myself thinking it was very likely that others would find the same benefits I am getting. Which brings me to in conclusion, if you’ve been inspired by what I’ve written here, all I’ve left to do is encourage you to find a teacher and experience Nia for yourself.
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