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Testing UTrain: Nia

Combining dance, martial arts, yoga, mindfulness
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Nia’s focus is mindfulness.MAHIKA JAIN/THE VARSITY
Nia’s focus is mindfulness.MAHIKA JAIN/THE VARSITY

It’s midterm season, and that means we are all under a little more stress than usual. While keeping a routine is useful to keep stress under wraps, it’s also good to take it easy — especially in terms of your fitness.

So, to give myself a break from high-intensity exercise, I decided to try Nia, hosted by Hart House on Sundays at noon. If you are a Nia novice like me, Nia is a comprehensive workout class that combines dance, martial arts, yoga, and mindfulness.

It looked like the perfect mental and physical break from studying that I was craving. I was hoping that this holistic fitness practice would have me leaving energized and clear-minded. 

The workout

The instructor was Jennifer Hicks, who is an internationally-recognized Nia movement instructor. Before the class began, many of the regular members were already there, catching up on each other’s lives and discussing the Toronto jazz music scene. It was clear that Hicks had built a community around these classes. 

For the newbies like me, she gave a quick introduction to Nia and reminded us that it was about listening to our body. She recommended that we adjust the movements to make them more intense or more relaxed, depending on our body’s needs.

The class involved simple movements and choreography to a wide range of music. Hicks explained things well, and I could always follow along. My hips were moving, my arms were doing circles, and I was bending everything. 

We did jazz circles to “Jammin’ ” by Bob Marley & The Wailers and other funky songs that I wouldn’t normally work out to. Around 35 minutes into the workout, we slowed down and moved into stretching exercises and arm workouts on our yoga mats. 

The class ended with Hicks re-centring our mental focus. I really appreciated the class for its comprehensive attitude toward health, encompassing both physical and mental aspects. 

The verdict 

Overall, Nia was unlike any workout I’d ever done, and I really enjoyed the change of pace from my regular workouts — it was a nice solution to the Sunday scaries. 

Hicks let us know that, for the foreseeable future, she will be teaching these classes from the Hart House studio instead of her home, so we can expect more consistency in sound and video quality from her classes going forward. 

So if you feel overwhelmed on Sundays, attend the Nia UTrain session at 12:00 pm to help put your mind at ease.