HW: Nia promotes fitness through music and dance

Vicki Johnson leads a Nia class at Yoga West.

Nia instructor Vicki Johnson talks about working out like she’s an abstract painter.

“I can self express and no one judges,” Johnson said. “I think that’s part of why I love Nia.”

Created 25 years ago, Nia is a fusion of music and dance with loosely choreographed moves.

Johnson received her certification to teach Nia in June 2007 at Studio Soma in Denver but only began teaching Nia locally two months ago after moving to Grand Junction from Carbondale.

On a recent Tuesday morning, Johnson led May Storey, 61, and Sylvia Wilhelm, 55, through a 60-minute Nia class at Yoga West, 1025 Main St.

Music with distinct beats filled the studio for the entire class, enabling Johnson to select moves to go with the music while the women exercised by moving freely throughout the room.

Several of the movements made the women laugh as they were told to shimmy and shake their lower bodies. They even got down on the ground for movements called “floor play,” Johnson said.

“I’ve done aerobics, step, weights,” Storey said. “This is gentle and flowing. It seems to be more healing. ... I’m 61, and this doesn’t hurt my back.”

Johnson said Nia is for all ages and fitness levels. Three different levels of moves help a person dance at the appropriate level for their body and balancing ability.

“Music has a way of entering our cells and staying there,” Johnson said. “With Nia, music is the core of the exercise, with the movements designed to the beat almost like a choreographed dance.”

“I like the creative movement of Nia,” said Wilhelm, who practices Nia and yoga.

Johnson, 50, credits Nia with helping her lose 25 pounds in 18 months.

“It’s not only the pounds,” said Johnson, who teaches Nia twice a week in Grand Junction and travels to Glenwood Springs to take classes from other instructors. “I’m in better shape than I’ve ever been in my life. I never get tired of it.”

Johnson said she also travels to Denver for training and recently returned from a choreograph camp where she was taught how to create her own dances with the basic 52 moves used in Nia.

Nia was created 25 years ago by Carlos and Debbie Rosas, a tennis player and an aerobics instructor, respectively, while they were trying to find a way to exercise without injuring themselves

Nia is a holistic practice designed to integrate mind with body, according to http://www.nianow.com, which is also a good source of information about Nia, Johnson said.

Johnson teaches classes from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. on Mondays at Academy of Yoga, 102 S. Fifth St., and from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. on Tuesdays at Yoga West.

Drop-in classes are $12 or punch cards can be purchased from Johnson. No equipment is necessary, but a person may want to bring a bottle of water and wear comfortable clothing.


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