Didi Wilson has been dancing all her life, and now, having discovered Nia, she says she’s never looked back.
The local Nia instructor loves the holistic approach of the music and movements, designed to help mind and body wellness — mentally, physically and emotionally.
She also loves the kind of community developed through Nia, of people who are providing love and encouraging wellness for each other, she says, and the ease with which it’s practised — “you just follow the steps.”
It’s a good workout, “but it touches other parts of our lives. I hear from so many people that when they dance, it changes them. They feel a lot better — they can come in feeling tired and stressed, but it’s so uplifting, they leave feeling energized.”
“We need to connect, we need kindness and we need love. Nia provides that. Everyone walks out thinking ‘What did I just do? I feel great.’”
The technique is a mind-body physical conditioning program of non-impact aerobics, a health and fitness alternative, meant to be softer and easier on the body. Nia combines martial arts, modern dance arts and yoga in a workout set to music.
Steffanie Bjorgan, a regular in Wilson’s class, says that to her, Nia stands for “Now I Am.” When she steps onto the dance floor and into the routines, “everything else is left behind.”
“For me it’s not about the physical fitness. That’s definitely a benefit, but it’s also such a great release of emotions, a time to be free and shut everything else out,” she says.
The music and the movements provide “such a mind-body connection, you can forget everything else.”
Bjorgan says sometimes she catches sight of herself in the mirror during a Nia class, “and I realize I’m smiling. It’s just such a great sense of escape. And it’s got a great spiritual vibe to it.”
Perhaps what is best about Nia classes is “we’re our own little community. We’re each living our own lives, but there’s a connection between all of us,” she says.
“I also love the multi-generational nature of it. Age doesn’t matter at all. Didi is in her later ’70s, and she’s a great friend and mentor, and a lot of fun.”
Bjorgan has been going twice a week for six or seven years, she says. “I plan my week around Nia. I try my hardest not to miss it. There have been so many things going on in my life during that time, but when I get to Nia, I let it all go. It’s been great to be able to do that.”
To those who might be hesitant about giving it a try, Bjorgan says, “you don’t have to be a dancer, and you don’t need any level of physical fitness. I’ve danced my way through several injuries. Anybody can do this.”
Shari Hartwick has been a member of Nia for 10 years, and it’s also helped her enormously, she says.
“For me it’s been different things at different times of my life. I started when I’d been going through a difficult situation at work, a bullying situation. A friend took me to Nia, and I found the martial arts part of it really helped get rid of frustration and anger in a productive way. I could go home afterward and put it behind me.”
And yet there is a softness to the movements, encouraged by Wilson, who reminds them to be kind to their body, she says. “It’s so much gentler than aerobics, and that’s important as we get older.”
There is a meditative end to the class, she says, “which is a great cool-down, and really relaxing. It puts you in a Zen-like state.”
The feeling of belonging to a community of like-minded people is also important, she says, and she too tries to get to two classes a week.
“I row as well, but I work the rest of my life around Nia.”
Although in the winter, when people are away, only half a dozen people smight show up to dance, at other times there could be as many as 30, she says.
“I was a very self-conscious dancer when I started, but it’s changed so much for me. Now it doesn’t matter. It really is dancing like nobody’s watching.”
Wilson’s community centre classes are Mondays at 6:30 p.m. and Thursdays at 10 a.m.
Wilson and the Niagara Region Nia ladies are hosting their eighth annual Dance and Dine, with live music, and proceeds to go to Women’s Place South Niagara.
Dress theme is red, black and white, Saturday, May 11, beginning at 5 p.m. at the Kinsmen Hall on King Street. Tickets are $45. For tickets go to niagaraniadineanddance.eventbrite.ca.