24 March 2010

The Nia technique

Tired of putting your body through gruelling gym workouts? Try Nia to revitalise the body and mind.


Tired of putting your body through gruelling gym workouts? Try Nia to revitalise the body and mind.

What is it?

The Nia Technique refers to a series of movements that integrates the movements and philosphies of martial arts, dance and healing arts, giving movement the power to promote personal growth, fitness and general well-being.

It has its roots in the US and comes out of 80s aerobic craze, when teachers Debbie and Carlos Rosas noticed injuries among their students doing high-impact, repetitive movements. They set out to create something that was both more pleasurable, and less injurious.

In 1987, after receiving support from the medical community because of the cardiovascular benefits derived from non-impact aerobics (Nia), it was launched nationally and teacher training began.

Nia in South Africa

In 2002, the Nia technique was brought to South Africa by American Kathy Wolstenholme. She has a background in teaching, and when Nia was an instant hit Kathy was well placed to train more teachers. To date, she has given more than 200 people white belt intensive training, the first level of Nia.

From acronym to purpose

Although the meaning behind the acronym is now almost irrelevent, and Nia has variously been described as meaning 'neuro-muscular integration' and ‘with purpose’, the definitions still have their place: 

  • Neuromuscular – going straight from the nerves to the muscles, bypassing the ‘thinking’ brain. Movement is copied and absorbed straight into the body and not performed by means of thought.
  • Integrative – systematic, whole-body movement integrating music, movement and sensation.
  • Action – the power of now, continual movement in the moment.

Proponents say Nia is more than just an exercise routine - it nurtures the whole being, making you happier, healthier and fitter. It's based on 13 principles that provide the framework for fitness and personal growth. First is the pleasure principle, its the joy of movement. Seeking and finding joy in every move is the foundation of Nia.

The Nia workout is done in seven cycles, of different intensities. It uses 52 moves and nine levels of energy, and is preferably done barefoot.

The benefits of Nia

Nia lubricates the joints and also brings about balance. There are five sensations:

  1. Flexibility
  2. Agility
  3. Mobility
  4. Strength
  5. Stability

The Nia belt system

There are four basic belt levels that take approximately four years to complete.

  • White belt focuses on learning mind-body basics and the foundation of Nia. After completing this level you would be eligible to be licensed as a Nia teacher.
  • Blue belt has an emphasis on learning communication and intimacy skills that support mind-body teaching.
  • Brown belt is centred around energy and the ability it has to strengthen and empower Nia movement and your lifestyle.
  • Black belt explores different levels of mind-body awareness to stimulate creativity and the ways in which you can heal, transform and harmonise the body, mind and soul. 

A Nia session

Classes are around an hour and 15 minutes long.

To find teachers and classes visit Nia South Africa and Nia Gauteng.

(Leandra Engelbrecht, Health24, December 2007)

-Nia now
-Nia South Africa
-Nia Gauteng


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