Nia: Where Dance Meets Fitness. ~ Jenny Block

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I’m not going to lie to you. I hate to work out, and I hate the gym.

I don’t like all of the competition and the stealthy looks. I don’t like the pain, regardless of the gain. I don’t like using the machines that other people have sweat on. And I don’t like feeling inadequate no matter how much I lift the weights, spin the bikes or tread the mills.

I do, however, like to stay in shape. And therein lies the problem.

I used to do Jazzercise. But that got boring and quickly started taking a toll on my knees and ankles. I’ve done a lot of power walking. But no matter how scenic the location, that can get tedious too. There are only so many playlists to play and so many trails to walk. I was ready for something new.

So after the millionth time passing a studio with a sign that included Nia in its offerings, I decided to check it out. I had heard of Nia. Sort of. I heard it was something about dance, which I love, and something about fitness, which I needed.

Nothing to lose, I figured. But at that moment, I had no idea just how much I stood to gain.

The studio was full of all kinds of people; mostly women, but a couple of guys too. There were all ages and sizes. All sorts of attire, from yoga clothes to flowy pants and tops. The teacher, who turned out to be Jule Aguirre, looked one part athlete, one part friend, one part spiritual guru.

As the music started to play, Jule invited us to literally step-in to the class. I was swept away from that moment on.

You know that feeling you have when you go somewhere and feel like that’s where you belong? When you do something that your body simply seems made to do? When you meet someone who you have no idea how you lived without before?

That’s what Nia felt like to me. It felt like coming home.

Nia is a dance/fitness class. It can help you lose weight. It will definitely get you in shape. And, it will get you centered and focused. It’s a tall order. But it’s true.

Nia is comprised of 52 moves that are drawn from the dance, martial and healing arts. That means punching and kicking, spinning and reaching, stepping and bending. The dances are choreographed to terrific music. Best of all, to my mind, “no pain no gain” has no place in Nia.

I’ve been practicing Nia for more than two years. Every time I do it, I feel surprised that I actually, finally like exercising. I have made some of my closest friends in my Nia classes. And whenever I am away for too long, my body starts to crave it. I can’t think of any better sign that I’ve found something I’m made to do.

It makes sense, really. Co-founder Debbie Rosas designed Nia to work with the body instead of against it. As a fitness pro, she saw her instructors and students getting injured and bored after too many aerobic classes. She knew there had to be a way to improve the body without harming the body. That’s what Nia does. And wherever you are in terms of fitness level, Nia will meet you there.

You don’t have to be a dancer to do Nia.

But I’ve loved to dance ever since I was a little girl, and Nia certainly gives the dancer in me the chance to come out to play. The funny thing is that in the very same class there are people who are into tae kwon do and yoga and hardcore training. That is, until they came to Nia.

They may still want to do those things. But they don’t have to. Because, just like Nia feeds my tiny dancer, Nia also feeds their inner-warrior, their sacred meditator and their fierce personal trainer.

It’s funny. There are all kinds of misnomers out there about Nia—that it’s not really a workout, that it’s hippie dancing, that it’s only for old ladies, that there’s incense and scarves involved. All of those things are wrong, of course. I’m just relieved that I didn’t let them get in the way of me trying it out.

I have to say that I can’t imagine where I would be—body, mind and spirit—without Nia.

Nia has given me a great backside and an equally appealing outlook on life. It’s an exercise class that became my lifestyle practice. Who would have thought?


Jenny Block is a writer and the social media strategist for Nia Technique. You can find her work across the web. and connect with her on Facebook at






Editor: Cassandra Smith

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anonymous Apr 30, 2013 10:47am

[…] the most part, the fitness world, including what is advertised as fitness yoga, is inadequate. The majority of people are adjusted to this low standard of information, often […]

anonymous Sep 28, 2012 6:00am

[…] out some infusion classes. Practicing the same exercise everyday can lead to cranky joints and tight muscles. So change it […]

anonymous Jun 26, 2012 10:25am

"Nia certainly gives the dancer in me the chance to come out to play." I can relate to this! I loved the dance classes I took in my 20s. As much as I enjoyed taking ballet classes, my hips would not be happy about trying to attain that perfect turn out. Come to think of it they weren't too happy then, either. Nia is a better way for me and my body to express myself and move and still have that feeling of being the dancer.

anonymous Jun 24, 2012 4:04pm

Nia is relatively fun, especially when one can land a teacher who isn't sloppy or attempting to give me a spirituality lesson. I've been a student on and off for a few years and have taken a few workshops as well. I dare say, however, that I did not get the guns I have doing Nia, but by weight training. I do not see how Nia would build an athletic physique. A toned one, perhaps. But…without an emphasis on muscle-building, muscles simply won't build, at least to a level I was looking for. My experience with Nia is that it is quite aerobic, and that is all fine and good. We need to circulate. I do find the "routines" rather dull especially if the teacher insists on doing it each and every time. I felt the music was rather one-dimensional and lounge-like as well. I felt like I was in a Buddha-Bar exercise class. One thing I wish for the Nia organization, however, would be to drop the language of movement forms. I saw no influence of 9 movement forms, but rather, just a nice blend of textures. You do not need to make all these claims that there is aikido and Alexander technique influencing the work, because I think that claim is REALLY thin. Just go on joy of movement and a wide palate of movement dynamics. There's your definition of what Nia is!

    anonymous Jun 25, 2012 10:23am

    There is too much wrong with my feet and knees (I usually wear one arch support while barefoot dancing) these days, I have the book Non-Impact Aerobics (before the practice/program became known as Neurmuscular Integrative Action, and much later as Nia); and a few audiocassettes by the Rosases, and have studied and learned plenty from them back in the day. I turn my 5 Rhythms into intense, Nia-like sessions to the extent possible. If in a class, the 5 Rhythms facilitator knows this.

    It's all good.

anonymous Jun 24, 2012 3:32pm

Unlike Jenny, I love working out. I also love to be outside on the trails, and it's never tedious. While I adore the variety and mental challenge of Nia, I'm not there because it's the only fitness I could love (though I have students who say it's the first time they've smiled while working out). What I've found in Nia is a path, a way, just as people find it in Yoga or Running or CrossFit or, well, Parenting. It's a way into knowing my body more and caring about my body more. I use this knowing not just to teach Nia but also to teach myself how to take care of myself. So I can work out as hard as I like, and I can cross-train and run trails and do hot yoga, and I can deal with inevitable injuries, because I've practiced sensing my body and showing others how to move and groove to great music and not get lost in that but get found.

anonymous Jun 23, 2012 6:15am

Great article in my favorite blog!!

anonymous Jun 23, 2012 6:06am

I was searching for a fitness programm- something combined with dancing, when I discovered Nia 5 years ago… And I found a new life!
Nia changed my body (lost about 8 kg of weight), my lifestyle, brought me friends in the whole world- and that´s the truth: 2010 I spent 10 month for a sabbatical for personal growth and development without spending any money for hotels… travelling Europe, Canada and the USA visiting Nia brothers and sisters! – My deepest friendships grew in the Nia Community.

I built up a new community in Graz / Austria, we reached hundreds of people since I started teaching 4 years ago. Nia touches people somewhere deep inside. It reaches layers, you don´t know their existing. And it brings out the best "YOU"! No matter if man or woman, young or old (my youngest student was 8, the oldest over 70- the average is between 30 and 65). And all this besides having a blast, sweating like hell, laughing, breathing and sounding…

anonymous Jun 22, 2012 10:33pm

Great article! Love, "My body craves Nia." My body certainly does crave Nia – when it is exhausted, when it is happy, when it is heart broken – my body desires to move and Nia is the avenue in which it moves most freely, as Nia allows me to move in my body's way in my body's time!

anonymous Jun 22, 2012 6:18pm

[…] Nia: Where Dance Meets Fitness. ~ Jenny Block […]

anonymous Jun 22, 2012 1:42pm

This is the most succinct, accurate description of Nia I have read to date. Thanks, Jenny, for so compellingly capturing the essence of Nia, which has seduced me, on a daily basis, into the joy of movement for twelve years. FYI: I'm 57 this month, and regularly kick the asses of twenty and thirty somethings. In a good way. Thank you, Nia!

anonymous Jun 22, 2012 11:32am

Nia is a phenomenal, killer movement program. 'Fitness' is an understatement for what Nia classes delivers If you want fitness that is fun, expressive and makes your body feel good while you get super fit, this class is for you. You get to be an dancer, a ninja and a yogi all in the same class. Nia teachers are so skilled offering options and making the practice adaptable that you will see a variety of ages, body types, and fitness levels in class. Check out it and discover what Nia has to offer you!

anonymous Jun 22, 2012 10:23am

Loved this post. As the creator of Nia I am always tankful someone busts the stories about what Nia is. The description here is personal and also easy to get. Nia is for the body, for a woman's body and it leaves room to find yourself and express yourself. Move, it's natural – I get it. Thanks Jenny for giving me the opportunity to fall in love with my body and my life, to respect the work I do and Love: Making people fall in love with Nia, loving their body and life. Debbie Rosas, the 61 year old Co-creator of The Nia Technique who can still do one handed push ups!

anonymous Jun 22, 2012 1:19am

[…] get you in shape. And, it will get you centered and focused. It’s a tall order. But it’s true. Source RELATED NEWSIt’s All the Banks’ Fault!ticker-26-05#12M One People Dance Flash MobJune 24 for […]

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