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Energize with the Nia Technique

Get moving with a fusion of dance, martial arts and healing arts.

March 21, 2013
Cindy Schumacher - Contributing Writer , The Maui Weekly

Come and get moving with a functional, fun-fitness program designed for everybody! The Nia Technique, an internationally acclaimed movement and lifestyle practice for over 27 years, is a dynamic cardiovascular workout offering a gentle and safe challenge as well as an energetic athletic workout. Nia empowers through its sensory-based program drawing from nine different movement forms, three each from the dance arts, martial arts and healing arts.

Maui resident Ann Paquin, a Nia-certified black belt and certified dance meditation teacher, offers classes in Kihei. Paquin has been studying and teaching Nia since 2002 and earned her black belt in 2009 with its co-founders, Debbie and Carlos Rosas.

Nia, which stands for Neuromuscular Integrative Action, presents a new approach to well-being. It is designed for participants with multiple levels of ability to build muscles and to give the heart a real workout. It is founded in the idea that fitness means not only physical, but emotional and spiritual health, and that pleasure and joy rather than pain and guilt produce lasting results.

Article Photos

She teaches the Nia Technique, an internationally acclaimed movement and lifestyle practice.
Photo: Cindy Schumacher

"What drew me to my first Nia class was reading about its fusion of dance, martial arts and healing arts," said Paquin. "I felt a powerful and physical sensation of being relaxed, energized and happy," she said.

Nia's aim is to make movement more conscious to allow the release of blocked energy. The fun movements are connected to music, so Paquin was able to increase her energy in a way that feels natural and not forced.

She said, "It enables participants to connect to a greater whole and learn to be guided by the pleasure principle--'If it feels good, do it'"

"I was able to replicate my energy fullness with each class," said Paquin.

She was also very inspired by how the program has helped students of different ages and body types with physical conditioning.

"Nia is supportive of all kinds of healing, from shoulder, back and knee injuries, and post-surgery, as well as grief and challenging life transitions," she said.

The Nia method draws from tai chi, taekwondo, aikido, jazz dance, modern dance, Duncan dance, yoga, Alexander Technique and the teachings of Moshe Feldenkrais. Every class offers unique combinations that correspond to the main areas of the body--the base, the core and the upper extremities. Stiff beginners and highly fit athletes can adapt Nia to meet their needs.

"Moving arm bones in different directions, ranges of motion and intensity levels conditions the arms and torso," said Paquin. "Arm bone actions move the spine and can even help move along lymph fluid."

"Participants move barefoot to music," Paquin said.

Nia's process of warming up, movement, cooling down and floor work brings functional fitness and reduces stress, free of injury. Without any prior experience, students leave class feeling relaxed and energized.

"I feel the freedom and beauty of sacred movement while working out at the same time," said Trisha, a devoted Nia enthusiast. "The unique blend offered in the Nia Technique allows the dancer, athlete, warrior and child within to expressively emerge."

Like the traditional martial arts model, the Nia training series includes several progressive belt levels, with the black belt representing the highest level of mastery. The belt system is for those wanting to teach or take Nia to a deeper level personally and professionally.

"Training includes four belt levels: white, blue, brown and black," said Paquin.

Each belt-intensive addresses five core competency areas: movement, music, anatomy, science and philosophy while exploring 13 unique Nia principles. There is a green belt dedicated solely to teaching.

"As you progress through these levels, you develop an increasingly refined and expanded skill set, heightened sense of self-awareness and deepened connection to your body, mind, emotions and spirit," she said.

"Those who choose to become certified Nia teachers evolve their love of the Nia practice into a viable and fulfilling career," added Paquin, who loves that she can step into a Nia class anywhere in the world and feel welcome.

Paquin envisions working with children to teach them how to use their energy as expressive outlets.

"Seniors also enjoy Nia," she said. Most would feel comfortable and accepted coming to any class, adapting moves to their own "body's way." "I have a client in her 80s!" she noted.

"Throughout the world, Nia has been taken into hospitals, to hospice training centers, to schools and more," said Paquin.

Currently available in over 45 countries, Nia's goal is to grow a worldwide community of wellness and holistic living.

So, get moving! Nia classes are held three times a week at the Maui Yoga Path at the Mana Kai Maui Resort, 2960 South Kihei Road. Paquin is also available for private sessions to help you become your own conscious personal trainer.

For more information, visit or email Ann Paquin at



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