Taking Risks & Discovering Nia

“One hour of life, crowded to the full with glorious action, and filled with noble risks, is worth whole years of those mean observances of paltry decorum.”
– Sir Walter Scott
Photograph provided by Nia Technique (www.nianow.com).

Out of Habit:

Like most mornings, I awoke a creature of habit. I had no intention of stepping out of my comfort zone on this day.  Nor did I plan to throw a temper tantrum.  Yet, a temper tantrum was exactly what I needed.

It was the final day of the Narcolepsy Network Conference 2011.  I put on a business casual dress, fixed my hair and makeup and headed to breakfast. At the breakfast table, I leafed through the conference schedule. The couple next to me discussed the Nia(tm) class.
I’d heard of Nia, a sensory based movement practice incorporating martial arts, dance arts and healing arts. Some people with narcolepsy love Nia, but I’d never considered it for myself.  It was…. new and different; out of my comfort zone.
When my entire breakfast table decided to try Nia, I couldn’t think of a good enough excuse to skip out.  So, I tagged along – nervous and unsure what to expect.
Stepping into Nia:
Problem #1 –  I was wearing a dress.  The Nia instructors, Sue and Stacey, said this was no problem and welcomed me into the circle to begin class. “Just do whatever feels comfortable,” Sue said.  
Soon, we picked up the pace.  Nia is Non-Impact Aerobics. The music was timed perfectly with each movement.  My dress and long hair flowed along like waves in an ocean. 
Problem #2 –  my lack of coordination.  Although the steps were simple and easy to follow – I mixed up my feet and fell out of sync quickly.  I smiled and laughed.  A “serious athlete” in other places, I had to let go here and embrace the awkward innocent beginner in me.

In one step sequence, our feet touched the four corners of an invisible square, outlining our personal space.  “Remember, you are the center of your own world,” Stacey said.

This was a refreshing reminder.  All too often, we prioritize the hopes and expectations of others. Sometimes we lose touch entirely with our own needs. Outlining my square, I re-claimed my position at the center.

Losing My Temper:
Towards the end of class, the practice moved to the floor. Not wanting to expose myself – I followed along from a seated position in a chair.  Some of the movement was organic and interpretative. And then, we stretched our legs and arms out.

 “Shake it out! Yell! Have a temper tantrum!” Sue instructed.

Did I hear her correctly? 

According to my older siblings, I was an expert temper-tantrum thrower as a kid. It had been a while… Yet, I’d already stepped out of my comfort zone more in the past 45 minutes than I had in the last 6 months.  Why stop now?

So, I joined in – flailing my arms and legs aggressively and letting out a childish loud “Ahhhh!”

Shaking it Out: Photograph provided by Nia Technique (www.nianow.com).

My inner child emerged quickly – bringing me back to a time before I found the words to express frustration and before I learned to seal this frustration neatly behind my lips.  After a long busy conference weekend, this temper tantrum was right on time.

Dancing Through Life:
 In conclusion, I loved Nia because it was FUN and easy to pick up. Nia IS for every body.

The Nia website describes: “Every class offers a unique combinatino of 52 moves that correspond with the main areas of the body: the base, the core and the upper extremities. Stiff beginners and highly fit athletes alike can adapt Nia to meet their needs by choosing from three intensity levels.”

Yet, trying Nia was still taking a risk for me.  Risks are scary, but certainly not boring or sleep-inducing! Since returning home, I’ve taken a second Nia class at a local studio. Classes are offered in over 45 countries all over the world.

I hope to continue practicing Nia, and most of all, I hope to remember the feeling of stepping out of my comfort zone, throwing a temper tantrum and walking away a little more alive than ever before.

Short video clip (I am the one in the dress and Sue D. is leading us):


A big thank you to Sue and Stacey for facilitating our Nia sessions at the NN Conference 2011.

Stacey Hall’s Bio:
Stacey Hall is a certified Nia(tm) Technique Brown Belt instructor. When she attended her first Nia class more than 16 years ago, she suffered asthma and debilitating pains in her legs, which kept her from running and walking long distances. Both conditions are now part of her history because of the body awareness she received through the Nia Technique. Stacey is the creator of “Chi-To-Be! Achieving Your Ultimate B-All” Program.

Sue Dambrauskas’ Bio:
Sue Dambrauskas is a Nia(tm) Blue Belt and has been practicing Nia since 2007. She works as a health communications professional for the federal government. Nia brings her great joy as she dances through life, while helping her stay fit. The NN 2011 conference was her first taste of stepping in as a Nia instructor, and it was delicious! She hopes to keep serving up Nia at future conferences and beyond.

Learn more: www.nianow.com


  1. Ann's Fab Fifty on November 12, 2011 at 10:17 am

    Yipee!!! So glad you made it to the class!! It sounds like you had a great experience, perhaps even transformative!

    I also have narcolepsy and since starting Nia…well, it's changed my life! My symptoms are SO much better. Nia gives me such joy which in turn helps my energy levels…and of course, I sleep better!

    Yes, I too had a lot of emotion to let out. I cried so many times during the first six months…letting go of all the grief I carried in my body. Now, when I think of Nia, I get a huge smile on my face. My Nia community is such a beautiful group of people and we get to dance and play with each other a few times a week!!! We laugh, giggle, exclaim…and at other times we are quiet and serene. The beauty of Nia is that you do what your body needs. There aren't "rules" like in some other fitness classes. I don't feel like I have to "keep up" with anyone since we are all working in our own bodies!

    When I started Nia, I couldn't even look at my image in the mirror. I was so angry at my body and the cards I felt life had dealt. I couldn't move my hips – at all! The idea of doing a "shimmy" horrified me. I felt awkward and uncoordinated. But over time, the layers started to fall away and my little girl inside – the one who stop playing a long time ago – started to come out to play again!

    Now…well, it's a whole new day. I'll dance anywhere and am so confident about how I move through life! I am 50 years old, but inside, I feel like I'm 30!

    Nia has changed my life! 🙂

    Ann Austin
    St. Louis, Missouri

    Here's a link to my story if interested:


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