The following post is written by Nia Teacher Gretchen Musgrove of Seattle, WA. It was first published on her Blissful Fitness blog

Earlier this month I met Nia Instructor Jill Pagano at Diva Espresso in her West Seattle neighborhood – a cozy oasis for this lovely NiaDiva. Jill, along with fellow Nia instructor, Leslie Tinker co-created NiaDivas. They offer Nia classes, workshops and education to the West Seattle community at the Youngstown Cultural Arts Center. These ladies spread the good news: through Nia you can love your body and love your life.

Immediately I noticed something suave about Jill. She truly embodies a core principle of Nia: pleasure. By this I mean she is comfortable in her own skin. But, she’s more than comfortable; Jill savors the delights her senses offer - the taste of her fresh apple turnover, the softness of her sweater, the long length of her dark mane. The girl likes being herself, right here and right now.

Clearly, comfort and joy paves the way to Jill’s fitness of body and soul. But, before she found Nia in 1996, her approach to wellness was just the opposite. “In college I was a hard-core, Jane Fonda, do-it-till-it-hurts fitness instructor.” A pattern of obsessive exercise created divisions in her life, rather than wholeness. The harder she worked to perfect her physical self, the further she felt from peace in her body.

Nia introduced Jill to a revolutionary approach to fitness: by following the sensation of pleasure she could achieve a loving and healing relationship with her body. This concept turned her adversarial regard for her body to one of expanding freedom and love. She is also beautiful, because she has learned how to listen to the voice of her body, and nurture – not work – her way to joyful living.

GM: Describe your relationship with Nia.
JP: “Nia is the longest relationship I’ve had – even before husband and kids. Sometimes it’s close and sometimes it’s distant. I took five years off while I had small children. The great thing is that Nia is always there – for me, for everybody.” For a time, Jill was focused on learning about Nia, but today as a teacher in training to deliver the White Belt, Jill is also passionate about sharing the work. And, not just within the White Belt trainings. “I want fellow Nia instructors to know that I am available to help them develop their paths as Nia educators.”

GM: Describe your experience at the Nia White Belt training.
JP: I took my White Belt back in 1996, before StudioNia was in existence. It was much different back then. The training took place at Debbie and Carlos’ house! We rolled out our mats and slept on the floor, and Debbie drove us around in a van. As a group, we were attached at the hip. I loved it.” Jill has taken all of her Nia belt trainings from Nia Technique creators, Debbie and Carlos Rosas.

GM: What do you love about Nia?
JP: “Nia frees me. I get to enjoy the moment. For example, I have released preoccupation with holiday foods, parties, coffee with friends – I don’t worry about the apple turnover! Nia creates freedom, opens doors to use my energy in more functional ways. When I dance it feels like coming home.”

GM: How do you describe Nia to those who are curious about it?
JP: “I describe it as a ‘complete workout,’ ‘complete conditioning,’ or ‘uncomplicated dance.’ It’s a way to love your body and love your life. It’s a personal experience. I have felt resistance to influence people to try it. I have learned though, that a class is just a tool to deliver the science and philosophy of Nia.”

“My greatest ah-ha moment: to stand for Nia and to know that it’s beneficial to those who do it, and revolutionary for people who study it. For a long time I did Nia, for a long time I taught Nia, and now I practice and study Nia. The party just keeps getting better, after 14 years.”

So what’s next?
Training: Jill plans to complete her [NGT training] this year and begin working as a White Belt trainer in summer 2011. That’s really cool.

Teaching: Jill will teach a winter quarter Nia class at Bellevue College. “My intention is that there will be a for-credit class at the college. MIT has it! Why not here? I’m expanding to start teaching out of West Seattle - I’m traveling to the mainland! I also offer workshops. They help me deepen my training. My latest one is called The Beauty and the Benefit of Nia.”

Learn More About Jill and her Nia Classes
http://www.niadivas.com/