Finding Nia and The Joy of Movement

Before I move on from exercise and movement, I want to share my experience with Nia. What is Nia, you ask? I’ll get to that in a minute, but I want to start by letting you in on a little secret – I don’t really like to exercise. I know –  shocking, right?! Many people have the false belief that health coaches and other wellness professionals work out for hours on end, eat only healthy foods and never struggle with the temptations that others battle every day. WRONG. We’re human too and are faced with making the same choices as everyone else regarding food, exercise and other lifestyle behaviors.

Exercise as “work”

As I mentioned in a previous post, I struggled with being overweight as a young adult. Becoming active in school sports helped me shed the excess pounds, but from that point on, I believed that I had to exercise to stay thin. In college, I took advantage of the campus fitness center and found a walking buddy. After college, I joined the local gym and spent many hours in aerobics classes, or on the treadmill. Occasionally, I worked up the nerve to use the weight machines or lightweight dumbbells to add some strength training. After my daughter was born, I bought a treadmill and some hand weights so I could exercise at home. I also found a series of walk at home DVDs and dabbled in some yoga and Pilates. But the whole time, from college forward, there was always this underlying sense of dread – that exercise was a chore, one more thing to check off on my daily to do list. Until I found Nia – and (re)discovered the joy of movement.

The Nia Technique®

The Nia Technique® is a holistic fitness practice addressing body, mind and soul. Nia combines movements and philosophies from martial arts, dance arts and healing arts, such as yoga, to help tone your body while transforming your mind. The classes are non-impact, practiced barefoot, and adaptable to individual needs and abilities.

I first learned about Nia through my wonderful massage therapist (and Nia teacher), Laura Ghantous. I must have complained enough about how much I disliked exercising but felt the need to do so to maintain a healthy weight. I recall she mentioned Nia at least a few times before I finally took the plunge and decided to give it a try. I won’t lie and say I loved it from the get go. I found it hard to let go of feeling self-conscious during the free dance portion and seeing a bunch of grown women roll around the floor at the end was a little…odd to say the least. But I did find myself connecting to my lifelong love of music and dance – it had been so long since I had danced! I forgot how much I loved it.

So, I stuck with it. I signed up for a class on Saturday mornings and with each class, I grew more comfortable – with myself, with my body, with the freedom to move MY body’s way. Unlike all those years I spent at the gym, in group fitness classes or on the treadmill, I never find myself watching the clock during a Nia class, wondering how long until it’s over and I can move on to do the things I really want to do. Now, I find myself disappointed when an hour passes too quickly and I realize class is over. What an amazing shift in perspective for me.

From student to teacher

After taking Nia classes for about six years, something clicked for me last year and I knew I was ready to take things to the next level. Nia training mirrors the colored belt system used in martial arts, and you can also choose to become a licensed teacher. In March, I successfully completed the first level of training, the White Belt Intensive, which focuses on physical sensation, body awareness, and self-knowledge – and is the minimum training required to teach Nia. There are 13 principles in the White Belt training. Principle One is the Joy of Movement – Sensing Life Force. The Joy of Movement is sensed as the “vibratory aliveness of being.” Now, that’s what I want to feel when I exercise. And I hope to inspire that in others as I begin teaching Nia classes this fall.

To learn more about Nia and to find classes in your area, visit www.nianow.com. If you live in the Triangle area of NC, visit www.TriangleNia.com to find classes near you.

Nia: Through movement we find health.

 

 

Movement, Exercise and Rest – Part 1

This dimension of the wheel is quite comprehensive so I am going to split it into two posts. The first will focus on Exercise and Movement; then, I’ll follow up with a post on Sleep/Rest.

By now, you’ve probably heard that “sitting is the new smoking.” That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but research does show that prolonged sitting may be harmful, even if you exercise regularly. The more time we spend sitting — whether at a desk, on the couch or in the car — the greater the risk of premature death, cardiovascular disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes. And unfortunately, even an hour at the gym every day, huffing and puffing on the treadmill, might not be enough to counteract the effects if you spend most of the rest of your time sitting.

One of my favorite fitness experts, Leslie Sansone, said it best on one of her walk at home DVDs: Our bodies are meant to move. Humans were not designed to be sedentary! We wouldn’t have all these wonderful bones, muscles and joints that allow the body to move in all directions. Unfortunately, as our world has evolved and society has developed more modern conveniences, the unintended consequence has been less overall movement for most of us. It’s not really anyone’s fault – it’s just what happened. The good news is we can do something about it. It just may take a little extra effort to make it happen.

Exercise

Let’s talk about exercise first – and by exercise, I mean physical activity that you engage in on a regular basis for more than a few minutes at a time. It can be as simple as walking in your neighborhood or completing the CrossFit Workout of the Day.  So, what is the best exercise? The one that you will do! Yes, it may sound cheesy and cliché, but it is true. Finding something that is fun and enjoyable for you is the most important thing. Why? You’ll stick with it. You don’t get stronger or fitter or leaner from exercising one time. You get stronger or fitter or leaner by exercising on a consistent basis. And it’s human nature to engage in activities that we enjoy doing. So maybe start by thinking about what activities or sports you enjoy – perhaps you like the challenge of training for a road race or maybe you prefer playing tennis with your spouse. Have fun experimenting until you find the activity (or activities) that work best for you.

Some of you may be looking for guidance on how long or how often to exercise. In general, most adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity per week, for general health and to maintain your current weight. This typically translates to about 30 minutes five days/week. To lose weight, the recommendation is 200-300 minutes of moderate intensity activity (with the greater amount typically leading to faster weight loss). This would mean closer to 45 minutes every day or 60 minutes five days/week. Moderate intensity is defined as activity that increases your heart rate and makes you break a sweat, such as brisk walking, cycling at lower speeds, water aerobics, etc. Everybody is different so it is a good idea to talk to your doctor if it’s been a while since you’ve exercised or if you have health issues that could limit your ability to participate in certain activities.

Movement

Perhaps more important than exercise though is the need to build regular movement into your day – particularly if your work or home life finds you sitting most of the time. There are some simple steps you can take to reduce sitting time, including:

  • If you work at a desk or on a computer most of the day, stand up and/or walk around for a few minutes every hour (or even half-hour if possible).
  • Consider a desk that lets you work both standing and sitting down. You could also explore a treadmill desk that allows you to walk slowly while you work.
  • Park your car further away from the building so you’ll be able to walk more. Stand rather than sit if you ride the bus or subway.
  • Try standing or doing chores while watching TV. Build in brief fitness breaks during commercials.
  • Become less efficient – consider not multitasking to get more movement into your day. For example, pick up and put away one item in the house at a time instead of doing it all in one trip.

Adding short bursts of standing and movement like this will keep you from becoming an “active couch potato,” someone who exercises regularly and then remains largely sedentary the rest of the time. Think of fitness as something that entails what you do the entire day, not just during your workout.