Why do you now teach Nia and not swimming or traditional fitness?
Nia is a positive life path, a way for your personality to unfold. It’s about the joy of being alive, about harmony; you get to know yourself and you experience what’s going on inside – and in so doing, you grow both spiritually and physically. Of course, when we talk of the positive effects of Nia, the physical fitness benefits deserve particular mention. Nia makes you stronger, slimmer, more attractive. I’m not talking about that perfect figure you can train at legs, bums and tums sessions. In Nia we move in such a way that by the end of the hour, we sense harmony and beauty. People who do Nia sense their beauty and they move beautifully – and that means that they also look good.
When did you first realize ‘Wow, Nia is for me!’?
Oh, I remember it well. A girlfriend took me to a Nia class in Stockholm. I felt out of place: terrible panpipe music started up and I felt like I was dressed all wrong. But at some point the teacher said we should try a particular move: push ourselves up from the floor and fall into the air. It struck a chord with me. It reminded me of how I used to push myself off from the edge of the pool when I was a swimmer. That was the moment in which I felt for the first time that there was also a place for me in the world out of the water; that I too would be able to find good movement, and a good life for myself on the ground. That drew me in.
How do you incorporate your physiotherapy knowledge into your trainings and Nia classes?
Nia brings in elements from yoga, tai chi, the Alexander technique and the Feldenkrais Method, which means that a range of healing and relaxing postures and movements are offered in class. In order to make these movements accessible to participants of Belt trainings or classes, we use what we call ‘pearls’ in Nia. These are images that make the movements easier. When I tell the dancers to turn themselves into a feather or a robot they can immediately imagine what I’m talking about and translate it in their own way. Obviously this stimulates creativity but the best thing about it is that these images automatically allow you to discover the right moves for your body. It’s magical.
As a former professional athlete, you’re used to being drilled. How much of a role does this play in Nia?
That’s the great thing about it – there is no pressure in Nia; no one is asking you to punish yourself. The focus is always on the joy of movement. Nia offers several levels of intensity at which we can dance – Levels One, Two and Three. Every class I teach is an invitation to my students; my attitude is “Hey, sense and decide for yourself how far you want to go, what level you are at – today”. I love the principle ‘less is often more’ that you can experience at Level One. On the other hand, I also encourage athletic participants to go for powerful, dynamic movement. Those who are familiar with and can choose from all three intensities not only have more when fun when they dance but also develop a higher level of body mastery.
Have you been particularly touched by the story of any one participant?
The dance and the development of every single participant touches me. Each one of them is unique; each one is wonderful. Time and again I see how my students surpass themselves; how they not only become stronger or fitter but also more graceful, self-confident and softer. Or take better care of themselves. I have to say, seeing that is always an amazing moment for me.