Dance yourself into Wellness
Our Harmonizing Consultants use their training to complement their existing interests; it’s fascinating for us to see the different ways it can be weaved through other therapies and disciplines. Melanie Stahl specialises in Nia – a fusion of dance, martial arts and mindfulness, which tones your body while transforming your mind. She has just launched a new weekend retreat combining Nia and Harmonizing in Colorado and we couldn’t wait to hear all about it …
what is nia dance?
What are the origins of Nia Dance? Debbie Rosas and Carlos AyaRosas created Nia together after many years working in the fitness industry. Through practicing martial arts Debbie realized she could incorporate new energy patterns and movements into class, and from that day forward she realised she never wanted to put her shoes on again to workout. At that time the widely accepted health mantra was, “no pain, no gain.”, but together they rejected this notion and defined a new approach to wellness – one that broke away from high-impact aerobics, repetitive movement and mind-body separation. Athletes, dancers, casual exercisers and gym-haters alike began to embrace the movement lifestyle because it felt good. Nia ultimately forged the category known as mind-body fitness today.
What makes Nia Dance more than just a fitness techinque? Nia is so much more than just a workout, it’s a holistic fitness practice addressing each aspect of your life – body, mind and soul. Classes are non-impact, practiced barefoot to amazing music, and adaptable to any body at any fitness level.
Nia has a very sneaky way of making you forget you are actually exercising. It is crazy fun! You are greeted in every one of my classes with a warm welcome. Together, we step into class leaving distractions behind. We warm up and then we get moving! We laugh. We sing. We become peaceful warriors. We free-dance around the room like we don’t have a care in the world. We connect to our bodies and we sweat like crazy! Nia is exhilarating and not guilt-driven; expressive instead of one-dimensional. Healing, not exhausting. It is a life changer for many.
What are the benefits on your physical and mental well-being? I call Nia my “attitude adjuster”. Whether I’m teaching, or participating as a student, I leave feeling better than when I arrived. Every. Single. Time. Nia encourages us to move in ways that fill our heart, connect us to ourselves and others, and allow us to let things go. A fellow teacher said, “You know Nia is working when your life gets better, not just your dance moves.” It’s so true! How many fitness techniques can say that?
Is it accessible to anyone? Absolutely! We use “levels” in Nia so you can be in charge of your own experience. In Level 1 your range of motion is much smaller and closer to your own body. You may not sweat as much, but you will get a yummy movement class for sure! In Level 3 your range of motion is as big as you want it to be, as long as it feels good. You will be dripping with sweat and even the most athletic bodies are challenged. And Level 2 is somewhere in the middle. I once taught a class with an 8-year-old girl, a marathon runner and an 82 year old woman. We can all do Nia together thanks to levels. I’ve had students do class sitting in a wheelchair, on an exercise ball, against a wall for balance and on the floor – wherever they’ve felt most comfortable. Nia is truly adaptable for everybody regardless of size, age, gender or fitness level.
When did you start practicing and why? After I had our second child in 2006, I was desperate for a way to lose weight that didn’t make me miserable. I went to a few different classes, but none of them excited me and some actually hurt. I received a free class pass for Nia at a Women’s Expo. I had never heard of it but the teacher, Loretta Milo – now one of my dearest friends – encouraged us from the very beginning to just have fun and told us the moves didn’t matter. Thank goodness, I couldn’t get any of them “right” and was laughing most of the time. By the end of the class, I was delightfully sweaty and laying on the floor listening to the most beautiful music while Loretta encouraged us to breathe and relax. It was the first time in years that I could just be me. I didn’t have to be Mom, wife, business owner, sister or BFF. I could just be Mel and tears were running down my cheeks. It was such an amazing experience that I went back the next week. That class was totally different but just as fun!
harmonizing with nia dance
How does it fit with Harmonizing? Nia and Harmonizing both guide us to be the best versions of ourselves, without pain and without judgement. Both have a gratitude practice and encourage us to find our natural rhythm and flow. They teach us how to move through the world in ways that feel good and bring joy to the body, mind and spirit.
What principles/similarities does Nia share with Harmonizing, and in what ways does it complement the philosophies? Both Nia and Harmonzing encourage us to grow, to rest, and to dance through life in natural time. In both practices we are given permission to create boundaries, to feel and to let go. To laugh. To cry. To embrace our masculine and feminine energies. Most importantly we are given the space to co-create. In Nia, it is with our bodies, with music and movement, and with our communities. In Harmonizing, it is with the universe. What a beautiful gift they have been in my life.
How has Harmonizing influenced your approach to Nia – both in personal and professional practice? Thanks to Harmonzing, I have finally embraced my yin energy. I no longer view it as weak or too soft. I was often the high intensity mover who loved the martial arts side of Nia the most. I now realize there is just as much value in going inward, embracing the gentler moves, connecting to my breath, and how much I can feel vs what I know. My personal Nia practice is more balanced than it has ever been. My teaching now goes deeper into the emotional and spirit realm by using intuition – something I hadn’t quite tapped into before. This creates not only a richer experience for my students, but for me as well. The hugs, tears and, huge smiles I receive after class truly fill my heart.
girlfriend getaway retreats
Can you tell us a bit about the new space you have found for hosting retreats in Colorado, and how you will blend Harmonizing and Nia dance there? I am very excited about the Girlfriends Getaway retreats – A Summer Series of Connection at The Catamount Center in Woodland Park, CO, USA. Their focus is Environmental Science & Education but they were kind enough to invite us to their beautiful 177 acre property in the Rocky Mountains thanks to the unique way Harmonizing and Nia reconnect you to nature and to yourself. We will be dancing Nia overlooking the lake in the morning, followed by group experiences designed to grow us from the inside out. We will enjoy Japanese Forest Bathing lead by the owner, Julie Francis, as well as eating gorgeous plant-based meals and green juices prepared by our loving chef. My intent for the retreats is that each guest leaves feeling more connected to their bodies, to nature and to what makes them happy. Hopefully they are inspired to seek out more!
Mel Stahl is a Emotional Wellbeing & Happiness Coach as well as a Nia Black Belt Instructor. To find out more about her services and retreats, go t0 melstahl.com