Founder of Your Write, freelance writer, editor, corporate communicator and TV Producer in my spare time, around being a busy mum to 3 little ones and managing our team at Your Write.
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Published November 14th 2013
Dance your way through life
Sing like no one is listening, dance like no one is watching... or so the saying goes. Dance? In public? In front of real, live actual people? I'd prefer not to, thank you very much. Well, not unless you need a good laugh. I am more than a little rhythmically challenged when it comes to moving my body and my dancing is stuck circa 1990. But when I was invited to join Oriana's Nia class, I overcame my trepidation and gave in to the intrigue that is the Nia Technique.
Nia is a described as a "joyful movement practice that leaves you feeling energised and alive". I have to confess that I am not really a "joyful movement" or spiritual sort of person. I keep fit through running several times a week, as well as running after my children every day, and while I have tried things like Pilates, yoga and aerobics and mainly enjoyed them, they were not quite enough for me to keep them up for any sustained length of time.
[ADVERT]I was invited to participate in the Classic Nia class with Oriana, which she holds several times a week in Brisbane's eastern suburbs (although classes are held all around Australia, and overseas). It's hard to describe Nia - part dance, part Pilates, part yoga, part low-impact aerobics, part meditation, part gentle stretches, with a good measure of martial arts like Tai Chi and Tai Kwando thrown in too. But what I can tell you now is that, despite myself, I loved it. I do feel energised, I do feel alive and although I now can't quite believe it myself, I did dance like no one was watching and I just didn't care.
I also got an amazing workout - although I had so much fun, that I really didn't know that was happening. I can only attest to the fact that I can feel every muscle in my body today. Not in a bad-I-can't-walk kind of way, in a good-what-great-exercise-but-I-didn't-even-realise-that-I-was-exercising kind of way.
The Nia Technique evolved as a response to high impact aerobics. If you've ever done these (as I have, being a child of the 80's), they are anything but nurturing, can lead to many injuries and don't leave you feeling particularly good afterwards. The Nia Technique is all about pleasure - the idea being that if want something and enjoy it, you'll want to keep doing it. Nia teachers, such as Oriana, also believe that movement of your body, promotes healing and health. It can correct posture, balance and stability as well as help with strengthening, stress-relief and relaxation and so many other benefits.
So I slipped off my shoes and barefoot, crept tentatively into the hall. The music started and Oriana led by example, simply walking around the hall and breathing deeply. With Nia, this is known as 'belly-breathing', where you breathe deeply from right at the bottom of your lungs. It is a skill we all possess, but something so many of us rarely take the time to do properly. It may have been the beautiful view from Norman Park, overlooking the city and the hills to the south, or it may have been that I had simply taken some time for myself, but I'm pretty sure it took me all of 30 seconds to forget my nervousness and self-consciousness and start to enjoy myself.
Each week the class focuses on a different area of the body, or an element or chakra. In my class we focused on Earth or earthing, which meant lots of slow, grounded movement, balance and a focus on stability. Oriana had me following her through 60 minutes of floor-play, Nia free-dance, high kicks and many an empowering hip-wiggle.
Unlike some exercise classes I have tried where I struggle to keep up and find the right foot to move with the right arm, while instructions are shouted at you by the instructor to high volume, fast beat music, the Nia Technique class was so relaxed. There are no wrong moves; you are just encouraged to follow the routines where you can and the gentle instructions whispered to you feel more like pleasant suggestions. For whatever reason, while I can never seem to coordinate my body to do what everyone else is doing in a gym class, I could in the Nia class. Not that it seemed to matter one way or another, anyway. I just got into it and enjoyed the moment.
And the movement. Looking back, I can't quite believe that was me. I'm not sure how Oriana did it, but I'm determined to go back as soon as I can to find out and do it all again.
It is hard to describe Nia and I have tried my best to convey my experience of it. It's more energetic than yoga, more varied than Pilates, more relaxing than aerobics. So grab your drink bottle and lose your shoes. All I can do is to urge you to try it for yourself and dance through life.