Can you dance and meditate at the same time?
Manly Observer journalist Alec Smart stumbled across a form of exercise, called Nia, in Dee Why recently. Apparently, this form of exercise combines non-contact martial arts with dance moves and.. meditation? All accompanied by music.
The idea is to dance like no one is watching, says ‘blue belt’ Nia instructor Melinda Nassif, who runs classes in Dee Why Surf Life Saving Club. Manly Observer dropped in on a class and spoke to Mel about this trending training technique.
What does Nia involve and what do the three letters actually stand for?
“Nia is a blend of dance, martial arts, and mindfulness holistic practices… An all-in-one great cardiovascular workout,” she explained.
“Nia started with Carlos and Debbie Rosas, aerobics instructors – with leotards and all! However, they moved away from fitness that was stressful on the body to adapt more mindful practices, and developed Nia – Non-Impact Aerobics.”
She continued, “as time went by, Nia evolved into a more fluid fusion of movement and philosophy, so its name transitioned to Neuromuscular Integrative Action. Furthermore, ‘Nia’ in Swahili stands for purpose, which follows the theme that fitness should be a conscious way of movement, bringing joy without injury.”
What drew you to Nia and how did you come to teach it?
“I was studying acting when a friend of mine recommended a naturopath who also taught movement dance… the Nia technique.
“I took up a few classes and learnt more… I then decided to do the first white belt in training.”
To become an instructor, do trainers wear similar coloured belts to karate and kung fu, which mark your ascension to different skill levels?
“Nia Intensive Training follows a similar structure,” she confirmed. “We have White, Green, Blue, Brown and Black Belts – you go deeper into the techniques and principles of Nia at each belt level and acquire more knowledge of anatomy, movement and music. The training is also an experience of self-exploration; you develop your own movement patterns whilst becoming fitter and stronger…”
What is it about Nia that participants enjoy?
“Several things, here are a few: Dancing your own way. How light and great it feels after a session – you get a great workout without feeling like you’ve done a workout! Good for pain relief if you’re experiencing any aches.
“You get a mind-body connection, releasing the stresses of the day while feeling connected with yourself and at peace.
“Nia is for all ages, body types and fitness levels, so anyone is welcome to join. We are not about getting the move right, but rather, how the moves feel in your body, and you can tweak it so it feels right for you. It’s also a great way to also have fun and meet the community.
“The most rewarding thing after teaching a class is seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces and saying how good they feel.”
Where and when does she host her classes?
“I currently teach Nia every Wednesday, 10am at Dee Why Surf Life Saving Club in the Swan Lounge room, which overlooks Dee Why Beach – such a fantastic view to dance with!
“I am starting up a monthly Saturday class at the same venue (DYSLSC). The next one will be on 23 September at 10.30am.
“I’ve also joined my fellow instructor Diana’s class, teaching monthly at the Collaroy Swim Club room on Monday nights 7pm.”
Nia classes on the Northern Beaches:
Mondays 7pm, Collaroy Swim Club Room (Instructor: Diana Belot)
Wednesdays 10am, Dee Why Surf Life Saving Club (Instructor: Melinda Nassif)
Thursdays 6pm, Avalon Recreation Centre (Instructor: Mandy Loveday)
Fridays 9.30am, Avalon Recreation Centre (Instructor: Mandy Loveday)
Saturdays 10.30am, Dee Why Surf Life Saving Club (Instructor: Melinda Nassif)