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Nia: A Group Dance Exercise With Purpose

(10/22/03) Although it's been around for 20 years, this dance/spiritual group exercise format is still making waves across the U.S. In Swahili, "Nia" means with purpose. It also stands for neuromuscular integrative action, a unique form of kinesthetic dance/movement patterns.

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October 22, 2003 Portland, OR -- Teaching is about students' opportunities to explore their bodies, minds and spirits. Nia is about letting go of masks and inhibitions and giving a chance to be authentic and in the moment.

The Nia group exercise method combines nine types of movement, including dance, healing and martial arts, to offer a holistic, flexible and self-directed approach to health. Unique to Nia is a barefoot approach with zero impact, and vocalization, sounding or breath work. Athletic shoes are shunned because they force students to balance on the balls of their feet which can negatively affect stability.

Connection Between Self And Self

Carlos and Debbie Rosas, who founded Nia in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1983, share the barefoot, sounding dimension of Nia with the vision that "imagery promotes natural, personalized, whole body motion and sets up the most important one-on-one relationship, the connection between self and self. It is within this intimate and personalized relationship model that each person begins to create his or her own resilient and flexible boundaries. Within these self-directed boundaries, each person is safe to explore motions and emotions, becoming fully empowered to make their own choices and decisions on a moment-to-moment basis.


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Sounding, vocalization or singing is brought into play to express and release emotion as students call out a guttural "yes" or "no" as they move through a sounding routine of chopping away imaginary entanglements or dancing freely around the studio waving an imaginary scarf.

Nia provides three levels of intensity in every movement, a variety in range of motion, and user-friendly choreographic movement choices. It adapts to the needs of all levels of fitness. Three plane and level ranges support cellular action, an organic expansion and contraction of the entire body. Relaxation is infused into every movement, establishing dynamic-ease, grounding, connectedness, and moving from center, regardless of speed or intensity.

Scientifically Based

Nia is scientifically based in a multidimensional, systemic, body-core centered approach, using intrinsic and extrinsic muscular movement that is multi-dynamic and multi-directional. The craft and technique of Nia involves a variety of movements, speeds, styles, ranges of motion, and energy dynamics.

The biochemistry of the muscle action is triggered by imagination and by expressing emotion. Movements work with and against gravity and are perceived by the body through the senses, sensation derived from the action of: abduction, adduction, flexion, extension, eversion, inversion, dorsal flexion, plantar flexion, pronation, supination, horizontal flexion, horizontal extension, rotation inward, outward, upward, and downward, elevation, depression, and circumduction.

Source: Los Altos Town Crier

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