NIA: Exercise with purpose

About three years ago, I stumbled (serendipitously, I believe) into a dance class at my local Y that made me shift my Type-A thinking about exercise. Being of the “no pain, no gain” camp, I was hurled headlong into this heady experience, this concept that exercise can heal without the hurt. If running is repetitive, if it’s time to postpone the pranas and poses, or if you just need to step away from step aerobics for awhile — all fabulously rewarding forms of physical activity — then you might check out NIA.

Created in 1983 by fitness experts Debbie and Carlos Rosas, NIA is an expressive, cardiovascular dance movement practice that uses fusion fitness, a blending of two or more classical movement forms, to achieve physical, mental, and spiritual fitness and well-being. Set to an eclectic range of music and practiced in bare feet, it can be an energizing, challenging, therapeutic exercise for people of most ages and physical ability.

Though it means “with purpose” in Swahili and technically stands for Neuromuscular Integrative Action (NIA), its devotees — including me — are still challenged to find a way to describe it. (Maybe dancing yoga?) NIA definitely helped me with weight loss, flexibility, core muscle strength, endurance, and circulation, not to mention its calming, truly very spiritual effect. Quite frankly, how can you put words to something that so powerfully transforms you? But one thing is for sure: NIA is just the right medicine for my body, mind and spirit. To find a NIA class near you, visit here.

For those of you who have tried NIA, how would you describe it and how it has altered your view of exercise?

Author by Kristi Anderson