I had my first experience of NIA over 12 years ago, and from the moment the class began I was struck by the ease and the playfulness of the journey. As someone that has long danced for the pure joy and exhilaration of it, I loved that this natural approach to movement was beginning to emerge, and I predict that in years to come, freestyle dance studios will be just as common as yoga and pilates classes.
NIA is a dance class developed by former fitness leaders Debbie Rosas and Carlos Aya Rosas, over 30 years ago. And here below is an excerpt from recent research on the benefits of imagination and movement that I received via a NIA newsletter.
Science now shows that fitness training through practices like Nia Technique, which integrates our playful nature with functional movement, is reportedly the most effective way to improve strength and conditioning, and in the last 5 years has been a tool used by elite coaches to enhance performance of professional athletes.
Good news! Exercise is more effective with a playful, curious, adventurous mind! Magic happens when we connect movement with imagination, or get into our playful mind-space. Embodied movement occurs when we are less self-conscious and more self-aware. Notice the difference when you move from the shoulders through your full range of motion, and then switch how your mind engages with the movement, this time imagining large broad, powerful wings expanding and filling the room, giving your spirit freedom to soar, sensing dynamic ease! The muscles engage more through your torso, legs and arms as your imagination senses the space surrounding your agile form. Sport psychology and neurophysiology aims to get athletes out of their head, and more in their bodies, improving quality of movement and engaging an instinctive body-mind connection.
Athletes master their structure, but now it is recognised that over thinking can interrupt a person's ability to move with greatest ease, so their imagination is key. Nia says, ‘it’s not how it looks, but how it FEELS that makes a difference.’ When we invite imagery to inspire our movement, our conditioning improves naturally. We choose our wings. And bringing gifts of imagery into our everyday activities gives us the ability to ‘Dance Through Life’.