nia dance

Nia is based on The Body's Way. Simply put, everything we do in Nia is supported by the design of the body, which tells us how and why we do what we do. The Body's Way is our map that when followed, allows the body's own elegant responses to create functional movement. It is a map that uniquely supports everyone's body, mind, emotions and spirit. Nia is an expressive fitness and awareness movement that is filled with depth, tenderness and clarity.

It blends steps and stances taken from the essence of nine movement forms including dance, martial arts, and healing arts. Nia offers an experience that embraces your individual creativity, self-inquiry, and free expression.

In Swahili, Nia means with purpose. It is a living system that works with the body's natural wisdom and intelligence. Nia supports the Pleasure Principle. If it feels good, keep doing it. If it hurts, stop. Nia can be done on your choice of movement levels one, two, or three on any exercise. The levels are basically just more creative and more difficult amplifications of the same movements so you can pump up the volume on any exercise at any time. Nia is a complete program that tones and trims the body superbly -- through pleasure, not pain. So kind to the joints, it is done barefoot. It starts with fitness and ends with comprehensive healing of the whole self. It is a cardiovascular program that uses whole-body, expressive, grounded movement, rather than repetitive jogging or lifting. Nia is adaptable to every level of fitness, every age, and type of body, even those with special limitations such as asthma, arthritis and is even adaptable during pregnancy.

That is what makes the method so much fun and so accessible; you are creating all the time, not following a tight, rigid method or teacher. You are creating from the inside out. Liberation of the body is the goal and liberation is fun. Liberation is breathing. There is no competition, no right or wrong (but there is better), no master teacher to heed and no goal except the liberation of the body. That liberation comes through building a deep emotional connection to the body through the movements.

"From the moment you step through the door, you know that your relationship to your body and your experience of life is about to change forever."

Nia is a path to condition, heal and express yourself through movement and sensation. A dynamic blend of dance arts, martial arts and healing arts, Nia revolutionized the face of fitness in 1983, and has since changed millions of lives and bodies across the globe. Balancing technical precision with free-form expression, Nia brings the body, mind, emotions and spirit to optimum health through music, movement and self-expression, guided by the sensation of Pleasure.

Nia is designed for anybody. It is ageless and limitless, transformational and effective for every person everywhere, from athletes, dancers and fitness instructors, to children, special needs groups and the elderly. With the philosophy, Through Movement We Find Health, Nia addresses the whole person through music and movement integrated from nine traditional movement forms.

Dancing Through Life: The Nine Movement Forms of Nia
Martial Arts: T’ai Chi, Tae Kwon Do, Aikido
Dance Arts: Jazz Dance, Modern Dance, Duncan Dance
Healing Arts: Yoga, Alexander Technique, The Teachings of Moshe Feldenkrais®

Through Nia practice, you learn to foster awareness of your life through physical sensation, allowing the Voice of The Body to direct your actions and choices, leading to a general state of what Nia calls Dynamic Ease.

Practiced barefoot to music, each person is invited to move at his or her own level of intensity, adapting the 52 Moves to their body potential at any given moment. While delivering cardiovascular, whole-body conditioning, Nia creates a loving relationship with one's own body by tuning into The Body's Way: the innate intelligence of the body.

Most of all, Nia is exhilarating and fun!

A Holistic Approach: The Nia Way
Rooted in a somatic (body-based) approach to learning, Nia education is designed to allow students to develop and participate in their own way, embodying cognitive information by engaging the whole person:

  • The Body is used for exploration, discovery, and sensory-based experience
  • The Mind is used to focus, witness and direct attention
  • Emotion is used to create a personal connection to experience, and thus becomes a conduit of body-mind connection
  • Spirit (that which is unique to a person) is used to recognize personal power, foster self-healing and expand each person’s potential


In 1983 Debbie Rosas and Carlos Rosas catalysed one of the most dramatic changes to take place in the fitness industry.


They sought a more pleasurable and expressive way to get fit that encompassed the body, the mind, the emotions, and the spirit. So they took off their shoes and eliminated what was the main staple of aerobic exercise: repetitive jogging up and down. These two acts completely changed the look and feel of fitness and triggered the emergence of a new genre of fitness known today as body-mind fitness. By moving away from the "no pain, no gain" of high impact aerobics, they created the "pleasure principle" of grounded cardiovascular movement.

In 1989, Nia was introduced at IDEA, a leading fitness industry convention in the United States, becoming the very first alternative body-mind fitness program to be offered to fitness professionals.

In 1995, Nia began testing special applications by positioning qualified teachers to teach Nia in specific markets to people with special needs. For example classes were offered for people with autism and prison inmates.

It has also become an accredited program in American schools, colleges and universities.

Nia is now successfully offered in unique settings, and models how to integrate fitness, somatic education, and healing and personal growth into community services and businesses.

The Art of Sensing-The Body's Way: Your senses will tell you exactly how to move; you just need to know what to "sense" for. The five of the components of movement:

Strength is sensed as energy moving inward, a squeezing in or packing of energy against bones; it is the physical sensation of containing and sustaining power. Dynamic strength-the perfect balance of power and grace-is sensed as relaxation, not tension.

Flexibility is sensed as energy moving outward and is the physical feeling of releasing power. Dynamic flexibility-the perfect balance of contraction and release-is sensed as opening and lengthening.

Agility is sensed as a shifting of dynamic tension, the ability to easily start and stop movement; it is the physical feeling of pulling and pushing. Dynamic agility-the perfect balance of movement and stillness-is sensed as a balance between yin and yang.

Mobility is sensed as energy in constant motion, moving all around and generally within a range of motion that varies slightly; it is the physical feeling of juggling power and creates a sensation of continuous energy flow and excitation of the nerves around the joints. Dynamic mobility-the perfect balance of excitation and relaxation-is sensed as youthful freedom.

Stability is sensed as energy moving from the center and out in all directions; it is the physical feeling of harmony and peace, combined with readiness for action. Dynamic stability-the perfect balance of all the sensations-is sensed as powerful peace.

The Body's Way Teaches You: The Fundamentals of Nia

The Joy of Movement Is the Secret of Fitness. Stop exercising. Start moving. Follow the pleasure principle: If it feels good, do it; if it doesn't, stop.

Stop exercising. Start moving. Follow the pleasure principle: If it feels good, do it; if it doesn't, stop.

Stop exercising. Start moving. Follow the pleasure principle: If it feels good, do it; if it doesn't, stop.


Fitness Must Address the Human Being, Not Just the Body. Exercise that's done strictly for its own physical sake, divorced from the emotions and human spirit, isn't satisfying, isn't fun and eventually fails. To achieve whole-being integration, you must address the whole person. Nia accomplishes this by combining several classic movement forms.

Movement Must Be Conscious, Not Habitual. Whole-being fitness begins with heightened awareness-of both body and mind. Turn off the automatic pilot that so often governs your movements and thoughts. Instead, start focusing throughout the day on all the physical sensations coursing through your body, and start moving with purpose. Stop performing conventional repetitive exercises, because they limit movement choices, reinforce robotic living and often lock in mental and spiritual blocks.

Use Your Body the Way It Was Designed to Be Used. Gain fitness by doing movements that shift your body's own weight, with varying levels of intensity, range and speed. Replace and/or supplement jogging, jumping and lifting with stances, postures, steps, blocks and kicks that are compatible with your body's natural structure and that feel good. These movements will burn calories; reduce body fat; create strength and muscle definition; and promote balance, grace, flexibility, endurance and good posture.

Use Your Body to Heal Your Mind, Emotions and Spirit. Every muscle in the body has neuronal nodal points, memory receptors that are connected to the brain. These receptors help create muscle memory and help store the physical components of emotional traumas. In Nia we use the body to heal the mind and spirit by joining muscular movement with introspection, intention, visualization, imagery and expressiveness. Body language and verbal expression are used to help bring forgotten feelings-pleasant and unpleasant-to the foreground of consciousness.

Take the Path of Least Resistance. Contrary to conventional fitness wisdom, the easy way is the natural way. To achieve lasting body-mind-spirit fitness on this path of least resistance, you must move in accord with the Body's Way. Even more precisely, you must move in accord with your own Body's Way, because no two bodies are alike. Function follows form, and proper function of the body is always easier to perform, and is more physically rewarding, than improper function.