Nia Lifestyle

Yu Shing Ting
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Friday - March 19, 2005
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Laishung Choy, LaVina Chow, instructor Kiwi Heilman,
Eda Sakimoto-Iinuna and Grace Moon practice their
Nia technique at the Honolulu Club

Energized, yet relaxed. Strong, yet feminine. Free, yet in control. That’s how I felt during and after my first Nia class led by Kiwi Heilman at the Honolulu Club.

Nia, which stands for neuromuscular integrative actions, is the hottest new trend in bodymind fitness and lifestyle programs. Its technique incorporates movements and philosophies from different movement forms, such as tai chi, aikido, tae kwon do, jazz and modern dance, duncan dance, feldenkrais,Alexander Technique and yoga.

“Nia is a lifestyle and fitness practice that empowers people to achieve physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health and well-being,” explains Heilman, a blue belt Nia teacher who was the first to teach it on Oahu in 2002. “One of my sayings is: nia is a low-stress exercise high.”

The exercise, developed in 1983 by Debbie Rosas and Carlos Rosas, has become a popular exercise choice for men and women of all ages. It’s practiced all over the world, and has a strong following locally.

The students I spoke with can’t stop raving about it. They talk about how it has changed their lives, how much they enjoy it and all the benefits they’ve experienced from it. They claim it’s a fun way to get in shape, lose weight, make friends and find happiness.

“Nia has given me an inner change,” says Eda Sakimoto- Iinuma, who has been doing Nia for the past two years and is white-belt certified. “I’ve had a lot of things happen in my personal life, such as death in the family and business-type issues. And Nia has helped me go through the grieving stages, the anger management, and just the challenges of daily life.

“It’s made me more confident, and helped me be more directed with my goals. And physically, I’m 55 now, and I’m really in better shape now than I was in my 20s.”

Students can’t stop smiling as they dance around the room. It’s a feeling that’s hard to describe. You just have to experience it for yourself. There’s the strength of pilates, the flexibility of yoga, the muscle tone of strength training, and more.

“It’s so good for the soul,” adds student LaVina Chow. “It’s refreshing, healing and joyful. Also, you get a good cardio workout and you meet tons of nice people. Personally, it’s helped me stretch. I feel taller.”

Sharlene Bliss believes Nia has helped her to lose at least 17 pounds and drop two sizes in the past year. “My weight loss and body toning really started to show when I made Nia my primary fitness regimen,” explains Bliss, who is also a white belt Nia teacher at Clark Hatch Fitness Center. “I was taking four classes a week, and I’d taken a oneweek Nia intensive training workshop to become a better Nia student. I was also supplementing Nia with aqua fitness and stretch classes, and occasionally yoga.

“I practice Nia because of the many wellness benefits I receive. Most importantly it brings joy into my life and then it keeps me physically fit and healthy, inspires my body to move and never feels like work.”

There are at least five certified Nia teachers on Oahu. Heilman plans to start a Nia program for children at the Ewa by Gentry Community Center, where she is the community center and activities director. She says the five primary physical benefits from Nia are mobility, flexibility, stability, strength and agility. And, like martial arts, there are different levels of intensity within Nia — white belt, blue belt, brown belt and black belt. There’s also a newly released book called The Nia Technique.

“There are thousands of Nia teachers worldwide,” adds Heilman. “And now it’s finally gaining ground in Hawaii. People are making more of a choice to not be in pain. They’re choosing softer workouts that aren’t as damaging and unpleasant.

“I think the other thing that is neat about Nia is that it centers around building a relationship with your body and with others. There’s a sense of community around doing this practice.”

On Oahu,Nia classes are available at:

• Honolulu Club with Kiwi Heilman (11:30 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, 5:30 p.m. Wednesdays and 9 a.m. Saturdays). Honolulu Club membership required, except on Tuesday and Thursday during the second week of each month, Nia classes are open to the public for $12.

• Clark Hatch Fitness Center with Sharlene Bliss (6 a.m. Mondays) Open to the public, $10. • Holomua Elementary School in Ewa Beach with Kiwi Heilman (6:30 p.m. Mondays) For more information, call Kiwi at 620- 5517.

• Guts n’Grace Nia workshop by Kiwi Heilman (Sunday, April 17 from 1 to 3:30 p.m.) $27 for Honolulu Club members, $37 for non-members

• Kailua Movement Studio (151 Hekili St.) with Shanon Jenkins (6:15 to 7:15 p.m. Tuesdays, 9 to 10 a.m. Thursdays, and 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Saturdays) For more information, call 927-1931.

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