In recent years, the world of health has seen the advent of group fitness regimens. Instructor-lead dance classes like Zumba are the favorite of many, but in Oklahoma, even the most devoted dance aficionados may not have heard of one particular workout.
It’s called Nia, and it’s been gaining followers and popularity slowly, but surely over the last 30 years.
When Kari Starkey began taking Nia classes several years ago, she had to drive to Dallas to participate. The trainer there inspired her to become a teacher herself, hosting classes in a small studio in OKC.
“The whole point of [Nia] is to feel joy in your body as you move,” said Starkey.
She wanted to introduce Nia to more Oklahomans, so with the help of Carole Holloway, a fitness instructor at Pacer Fitness Center, she created Nia OKC Weekend, which runs Friday and Saturday.
The dance-oriented workout was born in California in the early ’80s as an alternative to traditional exercise routines.
At first, “Nia” stood for “non-impact aerobics,” then “neuro-muscular integrative action,” but simplified over time to just the initials.
The Zen response to “no pain, no gain” methods, it emphasizes seeking mental and spiritual health, as much as physical, through exercise.
Nia is a form of fusion fitness, which borrows techniques from jazz, modern dance, tai chi, yoga and a blend of others. Because it is non-impact, it is safe for people of all ages and physical conditions, and participants are encouraged to work at their own pace and adapt any movements that are too strenuous.
Peace with one’s own body is another tenet of Nia.
“You don’t have to be a fitness guru,” Starkey said. “You connect with yourself and let go of what you worry about. You don’t think, you just dance. You’re very in the moment.”
Aguirre, the featured Nia trainer, said her classes will emphasize “self-healing, getting fit and creating lasting changes in the body, mind and spirit.”
The purpose of Nia Weekend, said Starkey, is to invite those bored with normal exercise routines to try something different, and, hopefully, help them discover a workout that works for them.
At the very least, have a fun time dancing.