Aerobic Belly Dancing to Zumba
Illustrations: Elena Ray
(page 5 of 6)
“…you have a beauty in yourself that’s just about being yourself.” — jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis
“I definitely see Nia as a conduit for people’s creativity,” says Britta von Tagen, a black belt Nia instructor. Von Tagen’s atmospheric Nia of Sun Valley studio in Ketchum certainly reflects that creativity—trimmed with glowing white Christmas lights and decorated with antique mirrors, a red star-shaped light, a bronze sun, and multi-colored ribbons hanging down the walls. Von Tagen’s blonde hair falls to her waist and silver bracelets curl around her arms. A couple of participants are adorned in tie-dyed T-shirts.
The artful exercise routine was created by fitness instructors Carlos and Debbie Rosas. They combined the free fluid movements of modern, jazz and Duncan dance, the discipline and precision of martial arts (tai chi, tae kwon do and akido), and the flexibility of the healing arts (Yoga, Feldenkrais and Alexander Technique) with a powerful new musical m_lange.
Nia originally was the acronym for Non-Impact Aerobics or Neuromuscular Integrative Action—integrating the mind and body in movement. Created in 1983 at the height of the no-pain-no-gain exercise movement, Nia was meant to be a fitness class that emphasizes the natural joy of movement instead of the pain.
“The first principle of Nia is the joy of movement,” avows Hailey’s white belt Nia instructor Mona Linehan enthusiastically. (Different levels of training earn different belts—white, blue, brown and finally black.) Linehan was turning 50 and needed something new in her life when she “fell in love with” the music of Nia. She was finding the repetitiveness of cycling class boring and was ignited by the spontaneity of Nia—there are times during the class when the bare-footed participants are encouraged to let the music move them to create their own dance—legs jumping, arms swaying.
The music is certainly one of the most striking aspects of Nia. Original musical blends inspire the participants. Nia routines such as “Firedance” bring the enthusiasm of Celtic music. “Dreamwalker” elicits the shimmies of African dance and the kicks and slashes of akido and tae kwon do.
“Opal” flows to New Age music. The music is powerful and elicits a different experience in each class, although every class includes the regular elements of warm-up, body-conditioning, cardiovascular and stretching.
“It’s a great way to start your day,” says Linehan as her class begins in the Pure Body Pilates studio looking out at the pink hills of the Hailey sunrise. Besides conditioning, she says there is an emotional/psychological element. “It’s changed the inside of me. I have more self-acceptance.”
This is the healing aspect of Nia. It has been practiced by breast cancer survivors and Linehan says it is helpful during menopause and has been recommended by menopause expert Christiane Northrup, M.D., author of The Wisdom of Menopause.
But Nia is for all ages, says von Tagen, one of only 13 Nia trainers in the world today. She has students beginning at age two and also teaches Aqua Chi—water Nia—at the YMCA and Zenergy pools. Some of the goal elements of Nia, she says, are “agility stability, mobility, strength and flexibility.”
Some of the principles, she shares, are “dancing through life” and an “awareness of yourself moving through life so you’re more fluid moving from place to place. It’s not repetitive or rote. The movements follow the music so closely that you feel like you’re a part of the music.” >>>