Nia fitness helps instructor heal, lose weight and gives her a calling

Fit & Fun

By Casey Hans
AAPSNews Service

When Teresa Myers started her journey with Nia nine years ago, she found it to be the only type of fitness activity that she could handle.

Myers had just recovered from surgery from a rare form of muscle cancer in her back and found that other forms of exercise – including yoga, aerobic classes and even Tai Chi – weren’t helping. “I could do Tai Chi, but my body needed more than that,” she said.

Then she discovered Nia, where she learned to tune her body, mind and spirit and found a path to healing. Not only did her body ultimately heal from its cancer and subsequent surgery, but using Nia, Myers toned up, lost 85 pounds and has found a calling that brings her joy.

Nia fitness class
Teresa Myers leads a Nia fitness class at Community High School.

A human resources professional by day, Myers said she is happy to embrace a practice that offers her – and her students – a chance to tune out the everyday world and spend time for themselves.

Today, Myers teaches Nia classes around the community, including a Monday night session at Community High School through the Ann Arbor Public Schools Community Education and Recreation Department. This is her second year teaching the class for Rec & Ed.

“It’s really about being in tune with your own body and what your body can do,” she said. “We’re a well-kept secret, but slowly getting out there.”

Nia uses 52 moves combined in a variety of routines set to music and is a combination of dance, healing arts and martial arts. It is recommended that students do the routines barefoot and they are encouraged to do them at their own pace – which Myers said might be different from one session to the next. Students range in age from very young to older and, although anyone is welcome, Myers said her classes are mostly made up of women.

Myers said Nia might sound like a low-key exercise routine. But, she said although it is not a muscle-burning cardio class, it elevates heart rates and gives a good workout.

The class has seven cycles, which takes students through a warm-up, movement and cool down. While most classes are 60 minutes, there are some Nia classes that are up to 90 minutes in length. The Rec & Ed offering is a 60-minute routine.

“This hour really is for you, it’s about you,” Myers said. “Nobody’s looking at you, nobody cares.” She said that because of the 52 basic movements, once a student has started Nia, getting used to new routine is simple. And, she added, new students can feel comfortable starting a Nia class anytime.

Nia can also develop a sense of community for its participants. Wendy Felgner, an Ann Arbor resident, has been taking the class from Myers since she started teaching it in fall of 2009. Felgner had done other fitness classes around the community and has settled on Nia.

“I like walking and being outdoors gardening, but we have a limited window (of time) for that,” she said. “This was a good fit. My exercise has changed as I’ve gotten older. I haven’t done as much of he demanding repetition as I used to do.”

She said she also appreciates Myers’ leadership in the classes, which she said is a “work at your own pace” model. “It’s not competitive at all,” she added.

Another student, Anita McKay, also of Ann Arbor, said she appreciates the class too. “It’s nice for me,” she said. “It’s easy to get yourself moving. It’s quite a workout and the music’s really good.”

Myers said her cancer is in remission and with the help of Nia, she has been virtually pain free. She said Nia has strengthened her body’s core, allowing her to sit for longer periods of time without support and has given her a quality life. Many of her close friends are ones she made through her Nia practice.

Her healing took time. “Now, I realize there was a haze there,” she said of her life shortly after her surgery. “There was something there that was lifted and I know it was through the Nia.”

Rec & Ed Nia sessions run fall, winter and spring and more information can be found at the Rec & Ed website: Call 734-994-2300 for more information.

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