Embrace the Nia Way

Technique Leads to Sleek Physique


     Fitness remains a super buzzword as we all try to get in shape, stay in shape or change our shape. From aerobics to Zumba, there’s a method or style out there for everyone. One of the newest options for Alamedans seeking a sleek physique is the Nia technique, taught by Susie Schoonmaker at Rhythmix Cultural Works.
      “Nia offers a lovely transition for students who want to build fitness, maintain strength, preserve their health and explore self-expression,” says Schoonmaker, who has been practicing Nia since the early 1990s. “Nia has inspired me. It moved my body, but it was about wellness in mind and emotions as well.”
     The Nia technique draws from multiple disciplines such as martial arts, dance and yoga. The routines are performed to music, and Schoonmaker encourages her students to adapt the moves to make them body-friendly. Alignment is important, but finding joy in the practice is a key concept that she imparts.
     “The group environment and energy are conducive to joy in movement,” Schoonmaker says. “Teaching Nia helps me trust the process. I’m there to guide and to give my students an opportunity to explore.”
     Nia actually started in the Bay Area through the work of Debbie Rosas and Carlos AyaRosas, who were looking for a way to make fitness feel better. The founders immersed themselves in the study of fusion fitness, and the Nia technique was the result. Originally Nia stood for “non-impact aerobics,” but now Nia is just Nia.
     “People can attach their own meaning to the word,” Schoonmaker says. “For some, Nia is the Swahili for ‘with interest;’ for others, it stands for ‘now I am.’ ”
     Due to popular demand, Schoonmaker is offering a Wednesday evening class in addition to Tuesday morning class. She also wants to expand into leading Nia workshops on the Island. Such workshops will focus on integrating Nia, expressive arts and self-reflection.
     “There is a wealth of material,” says Schoonmaker, who has a master’s degree in expressive arts therapies. “I want to take the pulse of what people are asking for and offer workshops on certain areas and issues.”

Nia classes: 9–10 a.m. Tuesdays, 5:30–6:30 p.m. Wednesdays; Rhythmix Cultural Works, 2513 Blanding Ave.; $15 drop-in, four classes for $50. For more information, visit www.embodyyourbeauty.com or www.rhythmix.org.

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