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Exercise body and mind for higher ‘sensory IQ’

Fusing martial, dance and healing arts with nine different disciplines, Nia is a low-impact workout that gives you inner peace as well
/ 04:30 AM August 04, 2015


This workout aims to restore your health and lead you on a path of wellness and fitness. By connecting your mind, spirit, body and emotions, a calmer, more centered version of you will emerge, said Nia black belt teacher Lourdes Jimenez.

Nia was established 31 years ago by California-based fitness instructors Debbie Rosas and Carlos AyaRosas. It was developed after both sustained sports-related injuries from high-impact aerobic classes. They wanted a safe, low-impact alternative exercise, so they created the Nia Technique, a modality for a body and mind-based movement.


Fitness icon Tina Juan first brought Nia to the Philippines more than six years ago.

The Nia Technique fuses three arts and nine disciplines in a one-hour class.

Nia incorporates the principles of martial arts, dance arts and healing arts. Under martial arts is the circular movement discipline of aikido, the meditative strokes of tai chi and the chops of taekwondo.

From the dance arts, it has jazz to develop agility, modern to encourage creativity and individuality, and Duncan dance, developed by Isadora Duncan, who modernized ballet. Yoga, the Alexander technique for spine alignment and the Feldenkrais method for awareness of the self and the surroundings fall under the healing arts.

Nia workout

THE 52 moves correspond to the main areas of the body: the base, the core and the upper extremities.

Fluid and uninterrupted

That may sound like a lot to take in, especially for a rookie, but don’t be intimidated. All 52 movements in class are fluid and uninterrupted, and before you know it, an hour has gone by.

“As a teacher I’m their guide and facilitator, because this class will be all about your body, not mine. Our bodies change from day to day in the way we move. It’s gathering and dispelling energy. So you need to be smart about how you’re moving,” Jimenez said.


A class, for example, begins with you “stepping in.” Jimenez said this is an important step, since this is the part where you let go of your day to become focused on the present.

“We call this ‘jumping into the river,’ when you let go and try new things,” Jimenez noted.

She has been practicing Nia for more than 15 years now. She first discovered it in Canada during a ballet class for adults. But it was not until she returned to the Philippines to care for her ill mother that she realized how much the practice meant to her.

When her mother passed on two years ago, Jimenez got certified, worked her way up her Nia path, and started teaching.

“Nia touches not just the physical realm, but the emotional realm, too. I’ve broken down sometimes in class. The music sometimes moves me to tears. It removes your emotions. It detoxifies, it de-stresses and you become more agile and stronger,” she said.

Integrative health practitioner Lia Bernardo never liked exercising. She had never exercised in her entire life until she discovered Nia. She kept coming back, she said, because the class is so much fun. She has even taken up yoga, and will earn her Nia white belt certification this November. Bernardo plans to teach Nia someday.

Nia workout

“I USED to be a triple A personality, then Nia taught me patience,” said Lourdes Jimenez, Nia teacher.

Nia workout

NIA helps you to become mindful of yourself and your surroundings.

Natural design

Nia, Jimenez said, uses the body’s natural design to improve function. Your imagination, emotion and the music fire up the joints and muscles into action. Your body works against gravity, and that’s how you gain strength. There are no dumbbells or resistance bands in class.

Nia workout

DEPENDING on your preferred intensity, Nia can also be an excellent cardio workout. PHOTOS BY LEO M. SABANGAN II

“Sometimes I tell my class to pretend they’re in a bowl of jello, and must try to move out of that bowl. So they move like there’s an opposing energy in every direction,” she said.

Movement can work with or against gravity, she said. A class, for example, will zero in on strength, flexibility, agility, mobility or stability. By focusing on just one aspect per class, it is able to condition the body and the nervous system.

“It’s called the sensory IQ. With Nia, the body perceives, experiences and processes every movement,” she said.

Depending on your level of fitness—as this is all about you and what you are capable of achieving at the moment—Nia can give you a good cardio workout.

Nia improves posture, concentration and cognitive functions. It can also help you lose weight, tone and increase muscle definition and gain strength, relieve stress and calm the mind, improve flexibility and endurance, improve your cardiovascular and lung health, enhance your sensory awareness and strengthen your immunity.

“You can even increase your height as it aligns your spine, and increase your libido. Nia is about lifestyle. You will feel an inner peace, and yet you are energized. The things you learn in class manifests in your personal life. You will be happier and comfortable in your own skin,” Jimenez said.

There are four certified Nia instructors in the country: Tina Juan, Cecilia Schrijver, Julie Ang (Cagayan de Oro City) and Lourdes Jimenez.

Follow Nia Philippines on Facebook; e-mail; text/call 0915-9324853 to find a class near you.

Follow the author on Twitter and Instagram @justdoitdumbass

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