A little over four years ago I walked in to my first Nia class. I never would have guessed that such a small step would have had such a profound impact on my life. I am a much different person today than I was four years ago, and much of the difference can be attributed to Nia.
I went to that first class at Nia Underground in Seattle because I was overweight and had high blood pressure. I had heard about Nia from a few people, but I never really thought much about it. I was not the kind of person that sought out exercise, and I definitely was not the kind of person that would ever consider an organized class. Faced with taking medication for the rest of my life or loosing weight to control my blood pressure, I decided that it might be time to get off the couch and start moving a little more regularly. Aside from backpacking and an occasional cross-country ski trip, I really had not been physically active since I was forced to take P.E. classes in high school. When I started contemplating my options for classes, I remembered seeing this great sandwich board for Nia Underground. It was brightly colored and had such a cool name that I decided to google them. At their website I found some information about Nia, a link to the main Nia website, and a daily class schedule. With 13 classes a week, I knew I could make this work if I liked it.
I bought a new student card for three classes, and I stepped out on to the dance floor in my pajama bottoms and a very loose t-shirt. As I stood there in my bare feet feeling nervous about a class I knew very little about, I surveyed the other people in the class. It was a small group of people of all shapes and sizes. The instructor talked for a few minutes, and then we started moving. Before I knew it, class was ending, and although I was sweaty I also felt like I could do this.
I went back the following day, and the day after, and then religiously for the next 13 months. The only time I missed a day of Nia was if I happened to be out-of-town. Even then, I danced to videos. I talked about Nia endlessly to all of my friends and family members, and I convinced my husband that he should try Nia. He loved it too.
After a few months of dancing, I had lost 17 pounds. My body looked and felt very different to me. Clothes that were once tight were in danger of falling off, and things that had languished in my closet for years suddenly fit. I had hoped that this would be the result of finding an exercise program, so I was really happy about my relationship with Nia. What I did not anticipate or expect was how Nia was going to change my life in other ways. I NEVER would have thought that I was missing community in my life, and I had no idea how much anxiety I was carrying around with me. Nia made me feel connected to people who I danced with but rarely, if ever, spoke to. I enjoyed moving with these people even if I didn’t know their names. I always left class feeling more centered and focused. I no longer cared about what happened at work that day or what someone might do or say or whatever it was that I used to worry about.
After a year of daily dancing, I had lost 40 pounds. I did not look or feel like the same person that I had been the year before. I was so much happier and stronger. When I went skiing, I felt much more in control of my skis, my balance was better, and I had endurance. Instead of dreading a ski trip where I would be the slow one or the one that would fall all the time, I looked forward to it. Nia changed my relationship with my body in so many ways, but the biggest change for me was finally feeling like I was physically capable and strong. Nia changed my opinion about my abilities. Instead of accepting failure as the inevitable outcome, I believed that I could probably do whatever it was that was on the agenda. That was a huge shift for me.
My husband graduated and got a job in Tennessee. I was distressed to see that the closest Nia class was over an hour away and only taught a few times a week. So, I decided to become a Nia teacher. Three years later and one more move under my belt, I can easily say that teaching Nia is the high point of my week. Sometimes as I prepare for class, I marvel that the girl who hated P.E. is going to stand at the front of the room and teach other people about movement. Because Nia has been such a gift in my own life, I feel compelled to share it with others. This is what gives me the courage to stand up in the front of the room and ask my students to follow me…in their own way.