By Anaa Mansouri
We get the lowdown on Nia and why you should be dancing it.
When I lived in the US, I loved going to this one workout that was outside the “workout box,” called Nia. When I moved to Sharqiya, meeting a Nia instructor locally made my heart skip a beat! So, I interviewed Manal Aldabbagh to help spread the love of Nia to our community.
So, Manal, what is Nia?
Nia is all about joy in movement. There are 52 base moves and everything we do is combinations and variations of those moves. Nia draws its essence from healing arts such as yoga, dance arts such as Jazz and martial arts such as Tai Chi and Taekwondo, melding the three into one flowing experience.
Nia encourages you to be fully aware of your own body and how it moves; how your body feels is all you need to pay attention to. That’s why we practice Nia barefoot, allowing us to feel all the sensations from the 7,000 nerve endings that we have in our feet.
Who is Nia for?
Nia works for everybody because it works with every body; since the focus is on your own body, you can adapt Nia to any condition you might have.
In a regular gym the principle is, “no pain, no gain,” right? Nia flips that on its head and says “no joy, no gain.” There must be joy in movement.
Nia honors the mind-body-spirit connection. Often when people struggle to do Nia it’s because it’s an emotional struggle first and not a physical one.
How did you find Nia? What is your Nia story?
I came to Nia by chance as an alternative to the gym. I ended up going at least twice a week for two years before deciding to go for the training, started teaching in Houston in 2011 and then in South Korea. Now I teach classes in Sharqiya, as well as Jeddah and Dubai when I get the chance.
My journey is ongoing as I am a brown belt teacher now and planning to go for black belt training in the summer.
Tell me about your best Nia moment.
As a student, I remember having a really hard morning with my child one day. I dropped him off to school that morning and went to Nia class already feeling exhausted. One of the songs we danced to had an African tribal beat and I just poured my heart into the beat, the moment and the movement. I mean, I let it all out and I felt so much better afterwards! The Nia instructor commented after class that she couldn’t take her eyes off of me.
Has Nia changed your life?
As a workout, Nia has allowed me to embrace all of what my body can and can’t do, letting go of what I used to think of as its imperfections.
As a practice and lifestyle, I’m better able to connect with the sensation of ease when my body tenses up under stress. Sensing my feet and connecting to my breath helps me go through situations that normally would’ve caused so much stress.
But I would say the biggest gift I received from Nia is being more of who I am, being comfortable in my own skin and connecting to my own unique spirit.
To find out about classes, contact Manal Aldabbagh.