What is Nia?

What is Nia?

A Unique Mind-Body Workout

by Heather Murphy, Chapel Hill Nia teacher

Nia is weird and wonderful. The routines move your body in ways that feel novel at first, and liberating. Every joint feels unlocked, muscles worked but loose. An interesting effect of this movement is that your heart feels open, your mind free and your spirit lifted. Nia is an exploratory practice, not an exhibitionist one. It takes you inside yourself, and through movement, teaches you how to love yourself, let go, find strength and stability and experience childlike joy. I haven’t tried any other workout that does all that!
Nia is structured like many other movement fitness classes with a warm up, an active middle section, and a cool down, which often includes floorwork, but it combines a unique set of 9 movement forms- 3 from martial arts (tai chi, aikido and tae kwon do), 3 from dance arts (modern, jazz and Duncan dance), and 3 from healing arts (yoga, Alexander Technique and the work of Moshe Feldenkrais). This harmonious blend of movement styles results in a body able to strike and kick with power and precision, dance fast or funkily, and feel flexible, stable and mobile through stretches and a focus on postural alignment.

I came to Nia at a time when I was struggling with my new identity as a mother. I had transitioned out of a career teaching English as a Second Language and working in international student relations, as well as running a world dance studio and dancing with a professional dance troupe. I chose instead to spend my days with my sweet, joyful, exhausting then 1 year old little boy. Being a mother is the most rewarding job I have ever had, and likely will ever have, but for those of us who are new to the role, it’s easy to lose yourself while meeting the needs of your child. My goal in life was always to just be a good person, but I knew I had to be better, for myself, and for my family.

Nia is helping me get there. It keeps my body healthy so I can continue to pick up and hug my increasingly heavy toddler. It boosts my confidence in my body and the supple, strong muscles I have developed. More than anything physical though, Nia has helped me to develop a greater sense of emotional stability and calm, which is much needed for the many messes, tears and trials that come with raising a child, and with all the other challenges in life. In Nia, you are allowed to move in the way your body needs to in that moment, to breathe, shout and punch any tension or worry away, to draw in and receive connection from others, garner energy from within and healing for yourself. I carry the feeling of freedom and release I get from dancing in a Nia class with me for the rest of the day. It allows me to truly dance through life’s ups and downs with more grace than before.

About the author:

Heather Murphy, Nia InstructorHeather Murphy’s Nia classes are uniquely enhanced by her background as a ballet, jazz and modern dancer, her study of Pilates, and her career teaching international students. In 2010 she combined her love of dance and cultures and helped open World In Motion dance studio where she taught tribal bellydance and performed with the troupe, Dayanisma. After having her first child, Heather began practicing Nia and found much-needed release from the physically demanding role of motherhood and greater emotional stability to deal with daily stress. In July 2013, she traded in her bellydance hip scarf for a Nia white belt. Currently Heather teaches Monday and Wednesday morning classes in Chapel Hill and substitute teaches around the Triangle. For more information about Nia and Heather’s classes, please email hewmurph@gmail.com or see her Facebook page, CommunNia: https://www.facebook.com/NiaWithHeather

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