The power of NIA
AT first glance you would think Stephanie Robinson was training for a carnival jump-up, but when she completed her workout, there was a distinctive glow in her face, energy in her movements and joy in her voice.
"That's what NIA does to people, you just do not feel exhausted at all. In fact, you are more invigorated than before you start the exercise," said Robinson.
NIA, formerly known as Non-Impact Aerobics and Neuromuscular Integrative Action is a form of exercise that fuses dance movements, the healing art of yoga, and martial arts to create a freeness in body, mind and spirit. Now it is referred to only as NIA.
Robinson, of South Carolina, USA, spent one week in Trinidad training locals to teach the NIA technique. She was sponsored by Xtreme Fitness gym, at Naipaul's Supermarket, Chaguanas.
NIA, was created by Debbie and Carlos Rosas. They have been pioneers in body-mind fitness since 1976. The internationally acclaimed programme is offered in gyms and fitness settings college accredited PE, Dance and Theatre Departments, drug, alcohol, sexual abuse and cardiac-rehabilitation clinics, spas, wellness dance and martial arts centres. So far, they have video tape workouts, meditation tape, and a book. There are only 19 fully trained NIA instructors in the world.
Robinson, who said she had been in aerobics most of her life, learnt about the NIA technique through a special convention and has never turned back since. She became an instructor since 1996. She described NIA as a high-powered energising workout that gives your body new life. During the seven-day speciality workshop in Chaguanas, four local girls were trained in the white belt stage of NIA. To get higher training , they would have to go to one of NIA's foreign bases. Meanwhile, they would all teach the technique at Xtreme Fitness gym. The four licenced and certified NIA teachers who can teach up to white belt standard. They are all at Xtreme Fitness gym. They are Indira Naipaul, Jerry Burnett, Kelon Philbert, and Sharlene Naipaul.
The gym is an extension of the Naipauls Supermarket. It began about two years ago, and there are about 450 members to date.
NIA has four belt levels, the white belt which is a seven-day programme that focuses on embodying body-mind-spirit basics and learning of foundational principles of NIA.
Robinson said: "Joy is a healing energy and NIA is based on joy. It gives you an opportunity if you have low back pain, shoulder pain or any pain at all to do some NIA moves, sitting, standing, or floor moves. There are over 52 basic moves, but with the hundreds of muscles and bones in our body there are unlimited opportunities and potential in the movements. " She stresses, that the body can be moved in certain ways for the sole purpose of self-healing.
Nia is for men and women. "Everything is happening so fast in the world today, that we feel obliged to offer you an hour to free your mind and body. We are living in a high-frequency world, that we are looking for things that strengthen and support our central nervous system. From my experience, I believe that a lot of people are gravitating to things that strengthen their nervous systems and that's crucial," said Robinson.
Among the benefits of NIA, she said, are increased mobility, flexibility, strength, stability, agility, inner freedom, joy and much more. "There are so much "hecticness" in life, so if you can give yourself an hour a day to get cardio-vascular benefits and experience an hour of pleasure of joy in body through relaxation and exercise, even while burning fat and calories, it would only help."
NIA can be taught to the old and young alike. "I have had students who were 75 years of age, and who did not move a lot. Those types of people do the exercise sitting on a chair. It's helps people toward their own transformation."
The actual exercise involves a bit of stepping forward, backwards and to the sides, as if in a warm up dance movement. Then there are the stretches, lifting of arms and legs, kicking of feet, wiggling of shoulders and hips and much more moves. "It's really free movement expression."
The exercise is best done barefeet, "so you have more sensitivity to the moves and it also tones the soles and engage proper muscles moves,"Robinson pointed out.
She, went quickly from white belt, to blue which works on communication and intimacy of relationship, brown which represent energy, and black belt which she describes as the unknown, which must be experienced. "In 2001, I was asked to be a NIA trainer. I did specific training in NIA's headquarters in Portland. There are only 19 NIA trainers in the world. We go all over the world to train teachers.
Robinson was invited to bring the NIA technique to Trinidad and Tobago through the Xtreme Fitness Gym at Naipaul's Supermarket, Chaguanas. Business woman, Vindra Naipaul had experienced NIA in England some years back and she wanted to pioneer it here, said her daughter Sharlene.
The manager of the gym, Sharlene said: "We intend to keep NIA going on in the gym and all of us who did white belt will continue further training when the time is right. She said if there is a great call by other gym instructors for the course again, they would be willing to bring Robinson back to Trinidad.
"We just wanted to be a gym that made a difference in people's lives. We are about the growth of people and not just fitness. We are about mind, body and spirit. We embraced NIA and wanted to give the entire community a different form of feeling good about themselves," said Sharlene.
Whether it is a s spiritual sweat or physical sweat both Sharlene and Robinson believe NIA is here to stay, "because it really invigorates people from all the stress in life."