Yoga Rockford: The Nia experience

By Jennie Williford

Pranayama Yoga Studio

Many years ago, I taught yoga at a studio in Fort Worth, Texas. Along with yoga, the studio offered other such familiar things as rolfing and tai chi, but then there was Nia, a form of movement I had never experienced before. So, since teachers at the studio could try other classes for free, I wandered into the studio one day for Nia and was immediately drawn to the energy, freedom, and movement Nia had to offer.

According to the Nia Web site, “Nia is a path to condition, heal and express your self through movement and sensation. … 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.” Integrating movements from nine traditional movement forms—tai chi, tae kwon do, aikido, jazz dance, modern dance, Duncan dance, yoga, Alexander Technique, and Feldenkrais—Nia forms a new style of fitness. Balancing technical precision with free-form expression, Nia brings the body, mind, emotions and spirit to optimum health. The movements are designed for any body and follow the philosophy, “Through Movement We Find Health,” addressing the needs of the whole person.

Much like yoga, reading about Nia can be uplifting, but at the same time a little daunting. It isn’t until you make the time to experience it that you understand. If someone told me I would need to dance, I would have shrunk and thought mainly of my lack of coordination and shyness. If someone mentioned martial arts, I would have had a flashback to my younger years in karate facing much bigger and scarier opponents. But Nia brought up none of those insecurities and inhibitions, and allowed me to let loose and free myself in a way I really hadn’t found in any other form of exercise. Plus, it is just plain fun!

Stepping into the room, barefoot and ready to go, the music starts, and immediately you are transported to some other place, a place where you are able to connect to your own self and move with your body, not against it. The routines are set to fabulous music, each with its own theme and message, giving guidance without strict reinforcement and enough free-dance to let loose any restrictions. The Nia teacher is trained to give levels of intensity to those who need it, and is with you all the way through.

For me, it is the perfect complement to my disciplined yoga practice, going from mental conditioning of the body to bodily conditioning of the mind. When I am a little too stuck in the mental process of yoga, I can be freed of my tethers through the movements of Nia. When the path of yoga gets treacherous, it is Nia that can lighten the load. The energies of the two merge within me and create perfect balance.

Nia began in California in 1983, and has spread slowly, but mainly in larger cities. It has changed the lives of many, including Rockford’s own Debby Gaines, and she has made it her mission to share the joy through teaching. Debby has joined us at Pranayama Yoga Studio, and would love to expand her classes around the city. She invites everyone to experience Nia for the first time FREE, and will gladly tell her story of transformation and healing through the power of Nia.

Please join Debby to experience Nia at Pranayama Yoga Studio, Wednesday mornings at 9 a.m., and special Monday nights (see for details). But, she is also available for any class requests at any time. Please call (815) 985-7025 or e-mail her at

For more information about Pranayama Yoga Studio, visit or call (815) 968-9642.

From the October 28 – November 3, 2009

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