An occupational therapist took her first Nia class this week and then wrote a thank you letter to her Nia Teacher, Laura Bulatao. Check out all the benefits of Nia she noticed in just one hour and how clearly she articulates them!
Thank you for my first complimentary Nia session! As an Occupational Therapist, I couldn’t help making a few observations about Nia, and I thought you might be interested.
1. I was surprised at how aerobic it was! I am presently trying to reach the American Heart Association’s recommendations of 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise. This certainly fits the criteria and will help me achieve that goal.
2. Lots of active range of motion especially of the shoulder girdle and pelvis. When you see people walking, running or on elliptical exercise machines, there is either very little motion of the scapulas and shoulder joints or else there is movement in a single plane of motion. The pelvis and hips are also performing repetitive motions in mostly an anterior/posterior plane of motion. Rotational movements engage all of the muscles around a joint and have a relaxational effect when done without force.
3. Lots of wonderful diagonal flexion and extension motions. These activate core stabilizers and are often needed for functional movements such as unloading the bottom shelf of a dishwasher and placing dishware up in a cabinet. When someone lacks flexibility or stability, they consciously or unconsciously separate the requirements of the task into a combination of single plane motions order to reduce diagonal movement. This will in turn make oblique musculature weaker and tighter over time resulting in an increased risk of injury.
4. Diagonal motions can also address restriction of diagonal fascial trains. Over all our muscles and all throughout our organs there is connective tissue that forms anatomical paths called trains. The diagonal ones are often the most restrictive since we use these motions the least. As a result, they can contribute to a lack of flexibility and to pain.
5. Lots of mini squats! (I think you call it sumo position). As people age, they lose muscle. They participate in less physically demanding activities often due to fear of injury. They move to places without stairs and avoid getting down onto the floor. This especially weakens the quadriceps and gluteus muscles required to maintain our independence with aging such as getting up from a chair, out of a car, or even up off of a toilet!
6. You have to use the whole brain! There is not only the visual memory of sequence of movement, but there are different counts, changing of sides, legs, direction, not to mention that your arms are doing something different all the time - Oh! and don’t forget the clap! I’m sure that after time, it becomes more familiar and uses less cognitive effort, but research has shown that the brain becomes more integrated after performing physical actions that move the arms and legs across the mid-line of the body. These activities involving cross-lateral movements are being used in schools and are called Brain Games because of their positive neurological effects.
7. Last but not least, the mindful act of being present with the dance and “whatever makes your body happy.” What a great way to create a calming effect and actual neurological change, a process called downregulation, in your nervous system!
Thanks again for this opportunity. I hope to enjoy the benefits of Nia in future classes with you.