Saturday, November 28, 2009

Exercising Your Legs, and Oh Yeah, Those Feet: Nia Principle Number 6 out of 13

"Your feet are the hands that touch the earth and through your legs they carry the energy of the earth to your whole body.

Connect to your foundation, your feet, the hands that touch the earth. Focus on your feet and legs with intent to move in a grounded, functional, and safe way."

Pearls (words to trigger your mind and body to get the most out of the focus of Nia moves and your legs and feet): foundation, hands that touch the earth, balance, support, connected, texture, sensation, toes.*

Nia Moves: Relevé, Rock Around the Clock, Duck Walk, Squish Walk, Heel Lead, Smile Line (from The book, The Nia Technique)

Commentary by Julia Desmond,Certified Nia Instructor

In Nia, the base consists of the feet, the knees and the legs. The base provides us with support, stability and a sense of balance. It is literally the foundation of physical movement.

"Listen to your feet." (Nia White Belt Manual) The feet ground us to the earth, support our entire weight and feed us the information necessary for the rest of the body to remain in alignment. We dance without shoes in part to allow the 7,000 nerve endings in the feet to caress the floor. The feet sense the temperature, texture, and imperfections in the floor and the body makes constant alterations in balance and alignment based on this information. Dancing bare footed also strengthens the foot and keeps it agile and flexible. The lack of shoes is beneficial to the ankle as well because it stretches the tendons and muscles healing the damage we ladies do to ourselves when we wear high heels.

Our legs consist of three parts, the lower leg, the upper leg and the knee. Nia considers the leg to extend from the foot to the top of the hip because the muscles that help to move the legs attach to the upper hip. “We use the legs to dance, play, create, move, and express ourselves.” (Nia White Belt Manual) The knees transfer energy from one set of leg bones to the other. For the majority of people the first experiences of mobility were on these amazing joints as we crawled across the floor. Flexible knees promote strength in the entire leg. In order to keep the knees healthy the knee and foot should move together. When the foot moves the knee should move in alignment with it. This simple rule will prevent torque on the knee joint and avoid damage to the knee.

The steps, stances and kicks that are the basis for all Nia routines come out of Principle 6. The movements are designed to strengthen the base and can be modified to suit every one. They work from the ground up and are designed to be fun and creative. All the physical magic that is Nia begins with the base.

Commentary by Allison Frederick, Nia Studio owner/operator

Change Our Bodies from Heavy Burdens to Light Creatures

I've never been in an exercise class that places emphasis on the feet. Perhaps that is because our feet are normally bound in sweaty, cumbersome aerobic shoes. However, no body area is ignored in Nia. We extend and stretch our fingers which not only relieve tension stored in our necks, but can also elongate the arms and tone them. We use our toes and feet in Nia similarly. We are used to the fact that our hands make us highly functioning mammals but could our feet do the same?

When I focus on my toes in Nia, I find that I move in a more determined way. The heel lead method of planting our feet on the ground encourages me to be conscious in my step instead of simply plodding mindlessly along. My toes make contact with the mat, spread and provide not only stability but also a springiness that makes me feel like I can use momentum to launch into a graceful step. I also feel muscles in my legs engage (all the way up to my lower back) when I focus on my toes, arch, and ankles in each step.

If you were in Sandy's class Wednesday night, then you heard her teach those of us who don't feel graceful or who aren't usually light on our feet to move lightly like elves. She taught us to use our ankles and arches to rock our entire foot so that we move in a lilting fashion, or as they call it in Nia, a smile line. The smile line begins at the top of an arch, sways down and then uses momentum to carry ourselves and our energy back up. When a Nia teacher tells us to smile with our hip or with a move, picture yourself moving along this pendulum and your body will actually move with a smile.

Barefoot for Foot and Leg Strength

Julia just shared how Nia strengthens your feet and legs. There is a modern fitness movement encouraging us all to adopt more active movement in our bare feet. Several years ago, Nike created a shoe called Nike Free. Nike Free is a running shoe with minimal support. I have a pair and I love them. You don't wear any socks and can throw them in the washing machine to keep them clean. I take long walks in them and my feet never get tired.

More recently, you may have seen the "shoes" that look like a glove for the feet and have individual toe slots.

I am not so sure about these because the fashionista in me is dubious but I perhaps they are incredibly comfortable and therapeutic. If someone tries them out, let me know what you think.

According to some research, going barefoot strengthens the arch in the foot. Many people today are suffering from fallen arches. This is a painful condition which literally makes it a struggle to take one step. Some forms of therapy encourage arch support but this doesn’t strengthen the arch, it just supports the arch. An arch support may be necessary for short term relief but long term healing may be found with exercises to actually rebuild the arch.

“Our feet are one of the most muscle-rich areas of our body. In fact, there are 18 muscles within the arch of our feet, with additional muscles originating in our leg, inserting into the arches.”**

The website, has a great article about exercising and walking around in your bare feet. Click Here to read their article.

**arch quote source:

More articles on The Thirteen Principles of Nia

*Nia Principle descriptions are taken directly from the fitness book "The Nia Technique: The High-Powered Energizing Workout that Gives You a New Body and a New Life" by Debbie Rosas and Carlos Rosas.

Castle Rock Nia Fitness Studio
Do you have questions about this class? Do you wonder if it is right for you? You are welcome to take a Nia class for free to see if it is right for your fitness routine.

Request a Coupon for a FREE Nia Class or call us at 303-522-4740

Listen to the music and see what Nia is like, watch a Nia video.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Nia White Belt Training Experience – for Personal Development - or to become a Nia teacher

Given the fact that Nia exercises incorporate moves with outstretched, overhead arms for stretching and rolling around on the floor to increase flexibility, I shouldn't have been surprised when during my Nia White Belt training, I vacillated between high highs and low lows. I was so shocked by my energy.

At times I was exhausted, left thinking that I wouldn't be able to budge from the ground for a week! Then, one of the patient Nia trainers would encourage the class to get on our feet, move our bodies slowly and then – BAM – she would play an irresistible song and we were once again dancing and moving to the beat with boundless energy.

I felt like a stranger to my body, tapping into reserves I never knew I had.

Nia (pronounced "knee-ah") is a mind body fusion fitness program that expects a lot from its teachers. Nia carefully evolved from extensive analysis of anatomy and physiology so that each of the moves compliments the body's normal function and movement. This premise in Nia is referred to as "The Body's Way." If done properly, Nia exercises will not stress joints but will strengthen your entire body. Nia teachers are expected to understand basic physiology and learn how to teach to Nia students so that the students get the most out of exercising and do not injury themselves.

The Nia White Belt training (the first level of advanced training for any Nia teacher), focuses on how a body functions. Because I chose to train in Portland, Oregon with one of the co-founders, Debbie Rosas, I had the opportunity to learn from the developer herself. I’ve studied anatomy in university and yet I never heard anyone explain anatomy in such a clear way.

You do not have to want to teach Nia to go through this training. In my class we had about 30 participants from all over the United States and I would say only half were going to become teachers, the rest were there for personal development.

This program emphasized several aspects that I think would help anyone come into a greater appreciation for their body.

Building Body Awareness – What is my body "thinking?" What makes my body happy? What is my body trying to tell me?

Building Body Appreciation – This training provided tools that we could use once we became aware of our body messages. These tools helped us learn how to appreciate our bodies.

Expanding Pre-Conceived Limitations – As I mentioned with my energy levels, this program brought me to my perceived limits then gently lifted me past them. It made me realize that I can accomplish so much more than I think I can, especially when I am having fun!

Building Community & Friendships – Our class of 30 people immediately built rapport and trust with each other that didn't disappoint. We created a safe place where each of us could share some struggles and receive the support and suggestions we needed to transcend those challenges.

How Does the Nia Advanced Training Work?

First of all, the Nia training is different than taking classes or workshops with your Nia teacher. Advanced trainings are held for an entire week – 6 full days. The training is progressive so each person begins with the White Belt Training. The training levels were inspired by the martial arts progression, which has different color belts. You begin with white and after many years of training and passing through the other belts, you can end with black. Unlike a martial arts program; however, the white belt does mean that you have begun your journey through the advanced training. In martial arts, every new student in regular classes receives a white belt and then the other color belts reflect more advanced training.

Where are Nia Advanced Trainings Held?

Many cities with established Nia classes around the world hold advanced Nia training; including Colorado were we hold a couple each year. My training began at 5 PM on a Saturday evening then classes were held every day from 7 AM to 7 PM through Friday. We did have a nice lunch break in the middle of the day. We spent some time in lecture, sharing, and dancing. It was intense but honestly, not too rigorous. I was worried that I wasn't in good enough shape but staying true to Nia philosophy, the teachers encouraged us to take breaks when we needed and to take good care of ourselves.

Some Nia teachers I know chose to take the advanced training in a location near their home. I think this would have been really challenging. I was tired after class and would not have wanted to deal with normal everyday responsibilities. Fortunately I chose to go to Portland, Oregon to Nia Headquarters for my training. This time away from my family, Nia studio, and other responsibilities allowed me to focus on my growth in an uninterrupted way. If you are considering the training, I would strongly encourage you to go out of town where you have to stay in a hotel. Portland was an excellent city with remarkable food and very safe and clean. Also, you can’t beat learning Nia from the founders.

In Conclusion

I was intimidated to attend this training but I am so glad I didn't let that stop me. The Nia White Belt training can be so much more than preparation to teach an exercise class. It is another step in a journey for learning how to feel confident and feel comfortable in your own body.

Tips if you go to Portland

I highly recommend staying at the Mark Spencer Hotel. It is several blocks from the Nia Headquarters but the blocks in Portland are short and it takes about 5 minutes to walk to the headquarters. The Mark Spencer hotel has kitchens in each room which will save you a lot of money in eating out. You can pick up food at farmers markets or there is a Whole Foods a few blocks from the hotel. The hotel is also at the edge of an incredibly fun district called the Pearl District. This neighborhood is amazing with fantastic restaurants, breweries, indie film house, and of course, Powell's Bookstore.

Look on Mark Spenser's website for the best price. They have a week discount rate (this is true as of the time of this writing).

Find Advanced Nia Training - Belt Training

Read about Sandy's Brown Belt Training Experience

Does Nia sound like something you want to try? We invite you to take a free class at our Castle Rock Nia Studio in Colorado.

Castle Rock Nia Fitness Studio
Do you have questions about this class? Do you wonder if it is right for you? You are welcome to take a Nia class for free to see if it is right for your fitness routine.

Request a Coupon for a FREE Nia Class or call us at 303-522-4740

Listen to the music and see what Nia is like, watch a Nia video.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Nia Belt System: the Science and Craft Behind

Nia belt training will cause you to levitate!
Disclaimer: This statement has been documented but scientific evidence is still forthcoming.

Commentary from Sandy Enke, Certified Nia Instructor

As many of you know, I completed my Nia Brown Belt certification in October. There is so much depth and richness inherent in the Nia Technique; and for those of you who experience the end product--a fun, enriching, joyful movement experience--what's behind the crafting of a Nia class is decades of science and study, and a profound love for the Body's Way. Did you know that you can go through the belt system for personal enrichment, without actually teaching Nia? And there are some who do just that.

There is simply no way to fully encapsulate all that we receive in the week long intensive trainings in a short article. It has often been said that we're peeling away the layers of an onion; one layer at a time. In a nutshell, the Nia White Belt focuses primarily on learning how to become aware in the physical body, and embody the concept of the Joy of Movement. The Nia Blue Belt takes us one step further, and teaches us how not only to be aware, but also to actually be in relationship with our bodies, with others, and with our 4 realms: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. The Nia Brown Belt takes all that we have embodied in the White and Blue Belts and reveals how everything that is experienced as a sensation in the body is an energy experience; and teaches us how to use energy in effortless ways to co-create the Nia experience.

After the Brown Belt I feel as though I have a much larger experience of the world around me. Working with energy has helped me feel more grounded, centered, comfortable in my skin, and aware of my connection with everyone and everything around me. It's a really beautiful sensation--my spirit is soaring! I highly recommend it.

I'll look forward to seeing you in class for our next "energy exchange"!

- - Allison also shares her experience with Nia training in Portland, Oregon, CLICK HERE to read.

Castle Rock Nia Fitness Studio
Do you have questions about this class? Do you wonder if it is right for you? You are welcome to take a Nia class for free to see if it is right for your fitness routine.

Request a Coupon for a FREE Nia Class or call us at 303-522-4740

Listen to the music and see what Nia is like, watch a Nia video.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

When We are Great People, We Know Great People...

A friend of mine from Austin explained that a group of her friends meet monthly for brunch. To keep the group dynamic and fresh, each person is strongly encouraged to bring someone they know. The idea is that if they are a good person then they know good people.

She said the group has turned into a fun, strong collection of amazing people and many new friendships have started.

That is what is happening for us at Nia. For those of you who have come in to class, you already know that we have an incredible group of interesting, kind women. So many of you have, in turn, brought friends and relatives to class and it is no surprise that they are also great to be around.

Our Saturday morning kick-off was no exception. We had the chance to meet your friends, neighbors, and later, even a sister. Thank you for sharing your friends with us and sharing Nia with them. You all are helping us foster a wonderful environment to exercise in!

Don't forget, as a modest way of saying thank you for helping us share Nia, we offer 15% off a 10 punch card for the Nia member who brings someone they know if that person decides to purchase a 10 punch card. The person you bring in also receives 15% off a 10 punch card.

Nia testimonial from a Castle Rock Nia member:
Myrnan of Castle Rock says:

"Nia Rocks!
I've been attending Nia for over a year and for me it rocks! I exercise 6 days a week and Nia is a key part of that routine. I enjoy Nia because it offers variety to my exercise options and is the most fun of anything I do. The low impact aerobics of the routines allow me to participate despite an arthritic knee. I also enjoy the variety of music. I'm hoping the Nia classes in Castle Rock are able to expand their schedules and offer even more classes. I think I'm hooked on Nia for life!"

Castle Rock Nia Fitness Studio
Do you have questions about this class? Do you wonder if it is right for you? You are welcome to take a Nia class for free to see if it is right for your fitness routine.

Request a Coupon for a FREE Nia Class or call us at 303-522-4740

Listen to the music and see what Nia is like, watch a Nia video.