Nia Testimonial: Deborah Redfern, Nia Teacher
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Of course like many teens I danced whenever I got the chance. But the first opportunity I had to do any organized creative movement was in skating and ice dance. After moving from my small home town, jazz dance was pretty much a constant, but I added ballet, modern, folk, Scottish and ballroom dance into my practice.
Eventually I moved on to yoga and began a teacher training program in Iyengar Yoga. After becoming injured in a yoga retreat, it took such a long time to heal (literally years), and I really wasn't sure if my body could handle that kind of movement again. After a few different personal reinventions I became a certified Feng Shui practitioner and teacher, learned the healing arts of Therapeutic Touch, Reiki, Aromatherapy, and became a T’ai Chi student.
I made a big life change at age 45 when I moved from the east coast to the west coast. Nia classes, which I’d heard about when I was doing yoga, were available and I was interested. Still, for whatever reason (probably in part because of a fear of re-injuring myself), it took a few years for me to actually make it to a class. And once I did, it surpassed all my expectations.
Why do you practice and/or teach Nia?
I began to practice Nia for the joy I felt when I did it – and to recover my health. I began to teach Nia because I wanted to deepen my commitment to myself, to a healthy lifestyle which included movement and experiencing more joy. When I teach, the sense of joy I experience gets multiplied. I have the pleasure of witnessing my students find joy in their body and soul.
Where and with whom do you take Nia classes and/or trainings?
I took my White Belt Training with Martha Randall.
What is one thing most people don't know about Nia?
Nia is sneaky fitness. It is all about the routine. Where traditional dance classes focus on conditioning muscle groups in isolation (for example the barre work in ballet), Nia mixes fitness in with dance moves. Each Nia class is a choreographed routine practiced to beautiful and diverse music styles. And although each routine has a theme or focus, the moves are varied so that by the end of the one-hour class it feels like there is no body part you haven’t moved.
Nia is fun, and it could be easy to miss exactly how much conditioning is going on in your body. We stretch, tone and build muscles, develop endurance and strengthen our cardiovascular systems, and even exercise our brains!
What tip can you give someone who is considering trying Nia for the first time?
I find that many new students are concerned with "doing it right." In a Nia class you can let go of that. When we were little kids, we didn't have to be told how to move correctly; we just instinctively twirled, hopped, kicked, wiggled and danced. The emphasis in Nia is on finding your body's way.
In other types of classes I've taken, there has been a sense of competition, of striving for a level which may not be attainable. There isn't that sense of competition in a Nia class at all. However, I have felt inspired by other people's expression of energy and freedom.
How is Nia a lifestyle practice?
Nia is a great story-telling venue. Each class takes you through a story that can be read on several different levels. First of all, the music for each routine tells a story, as do the movements chosen to go with the song. The story might be exploring sensations in the shoulders, or finding the balance between strength and softness. Then there is the personal level, our own stories that we carry with us into class that are made up of our history or whatever has happened on the way to class.
The warm-up portion of Nia is an opportunity to ground your energy and remember to breathe! Each song invites you to let go a little more. When I was a Nia beginner I struggled with letting go. As my body began to get tired, I’d find myself compulsively looking at the clock every few minutes to see how much longer was left in class. I learned to become more comfortable with letting go of the need to control. I learned it was okay to get tired, sweaty and messy. Week by week, I became stronger and developed more endurance.
Often at the peak of the cardiovascular part of the routine, I enter into a kind of walking meditation – a state of being very present and letting go of whatever drama is going on in my life. And as the routine winds down I return to myself, grounded, softer and energized and balanced. Ahhh - bliss!