5 Mind-Body workouts that are about to Break out
NIA: A post-modern fusion
SOUL'S CODE — The founder of modern physics, Sir Isaac Newton, famously framed the laws of motion by saying that every action has an equal and opposite action.
You could say that Nia, a made-up word that stands for "Neuromuscular Integrative Action," was a reaction to the cardio workout craze of the 1970s — a craze first embraced by California Baby Boomers, and popularized by their most polarizing poster girl, Jane Fonda, whose videos now look as cheesy as a late-night Tony Robbins infomercial.
The founders of Nia, Carlos and Debbie Rosas, ironically cashed in on the Jane Fonda era: They had 50 teachers who taught a combined 100 aerobics classes every day. But the Rosasesn realized that it was a dumb mind-body mode because most of their instructors, and half of their students, were sustaining injuries. The worst workout of all was jogging, another silly '70s fad parodied by Tom Hanks in the movie, Forrest Gump.
So the Rosas aerobics entrepreneurs asked themselves, what does the body actually want to experience?
Their answer is a fusion of nine mind-body traditions, including Tai Chi, martials arts and Alexander Technique.
Speaking of Alexander Technique, it is a fascinating example of a mind-body workout that stays below the radar and fails to break out to the masses. Created by an Australian actor named Frederick Alexander at about the same time that Joseph Pilates developed his eponymous practice, Alexander technique is inspired by animal movements and postures, kind of like yoga but with more kinesiology. Like Pilates, the Alexander Techniques was preserved, almost underground, by the professional dance community in North America through WWII and the post-war period. In fact, Alexander Technique was all the rave in dance faculties across North America in the 1970s.
But in the late 1990s, Pilates won.
It's an example of how hard it is for an esoteric mind-body practice to break out to the masses, and how fickle we humans can be. Will Nia suffer the same fate? At the very least, it is recycling the best parts of Alexander Technique.
Soul's Code contributor Katy Leask is a Nia enthusiast who has actually gone away on a Nia retreat; You can read her first-person experience of doing a Nia class at this link.
An excerpt: "It felt a little strange in the beginning, but by the end of the hour I was dancing, kicking, chopping and shaking myself into a body-high. The last few minutes were spent in a short meditation where we were guided to stretch and relax into what needed to be relaxed. I walked out feeling almost giddy, the nasty day forgotten."
NEXT: Proprioceptive training