My name is Ondine Constable. I'm a teacher of Nia—a fusion of dance, martial arts, and healing arts. I love the way it makes me feel—energized, relaxed, and strong. It's a means for fitness and creative expression that I can enjoy throughout my life.
I love to share the experience and see my students' faces light up with the Joy of Movement! (Please see my Profile for info about Nia classes.)

In this blog I share personal experiences that enrich my life, including Nia, Transcendental Meditation (which I have practiced for 40 years), and my exploration of natural approaches to health. I offer ideas that I hope will bring you greater health and happiness. Your comments & questions are welcome.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Celebrating 25 Years of Nia: A Conversation With Fitness Pioneer Carlos Rosas

This article by Anne Lowry, Black Belt Nia Instructor, and Ondine Constable, Green Belt Nia Instructor, was originally published in New Life Journal, Spring 2009.

In 1983, Carlos Rosas and Debbie Rosas created the Nia Technique, an internationally acclaimed “body-mind-spirit movement and lifestyle practice”. They have presented at such leading conventions as The National Wellness Conference, Sound Healers Conference, the Science of Consciousness Conference, and currently sponsor Inner IDEA, an association of holistic fitness professionals. Carlos and Debbie continue to develop training programs for more than 2,000 certified Nia Instructors in 37 countries.

Last November, Carlos led two advanced Nia teacher trainings in Black Mountain, NC, attended by Nia Teachers from around the world. Anne Lowry and Ondine Constable interviewed Carlos for New Life Journal.

A&O: You define Nia as "body-mind-spirit" fitness, rather than "mind-body" fitness. Please explain.

Carlos: [Mind-body fitness] invites people to be inward instead of being so outwardly concentrated. Nia is a "body-mind-spirit" practice—spirit stands for all that is unique and different to each person.

"Body-mind-spirit" also includes emotion. When it's mind-body it tends to be dualistic. Spirit breaks the dualism. To us, the word mind means using your mental faculties as much as your physical faculties. In Nia, just as we are for body relaxation, we're for mental relaxation. Instead of saying “be mindful," I'd rather say "be aware of your body, be sensitive." The practice of Nia has some qualities that are like mind-body programs, but it’s truly more expansive.

A&O: Can you suggest any Nia principles that people can apply in their current exercise routine?

Carlos: Whatever people do, most likely there's some kind of rhythm or cycle that they can pay attention to, instead of mental busy-ness. When the mind is brought to the attention of a cycle, the mind relaxes. When the mind relaxes you get fit in such a way that the body releases certain hormones, loosens up the joints, the brain waves change, etc. That’s an aspect of living meditation.

A&O: What are some examples of cycles?

Carlos: It depends on the sport. If someone is running, they can count their steps or every time their hand comes to the front, every 10 for example—“1 and 2 and...” then they step on 10 again—or rowing or working on a machine. There is a cycle—a beginning, middle and end—and then the mind comes back to the beginning. When the caring of your body is present, it happens.

A&O: Would you say that people who’ve mastered the techniques of their particular sport are doing Nia without even knowing it?

Carlos: That aspect of Nia, yes. The awareness of cycles and the way that they focus. All Olympic athletes do it. They go into the zone, an altered state of consciousness. They focus, and they count their strides. Any activity where you put your mind on something like that will do it.

A&O: Anything you'd like to say about Nia’s 25th anniversary and its future?

Carlos: The 25th anniversary has given people an opportunity to say "wow, Nia has been around a long time," and there's a new appreciation of what's been accomplished. What I see for the future has to do with creating a new educational program so (that) Nia is more openly seen in the mainstream.

A&O: What changes do you observe that are a natural part of healthy aging?

Carlos: I am 56 years old. The energy reservoir of my body is very different from when I was 40, when I was 30, when I was 20. I pay attention to that and say, okay, now that my body is here, what do I need to do differently so that the youthfulness returns. Part of that is learning to be more efficient—through the efficiency of movement, of how I eat, of living in a meditative state. So while [I am] older and some things feel different, at the same time I have twice as much energy at this age than I would have if I’d continued to stay status quo. I find I can be very productive, I can be highly energy efficient. I’m not following the [common] approach, like okay, I’m going to take it easy, or I guess I need to eat less. I’ve had to explore before I came to this [understanding].

I don't have a formula. I couldn't say to someone "you're 56 so do these things." But I do know that Nia has really helped me, a lot.

It's not that I want to be young again, I just want to feel youthful. I'd rather have my joints loose and relaxed than have body definition. I'd rather be flexible than have body definition or be super strong. With the flexibility, and the mobility which comes from the joints, then I can build around that. And of course I want my body to be agile.

When I was 45, my sense of balance was already off. Then doing these things that I am doing now, it has come back. Have you noticed when you watch someone after a certain age when they get up, the first step is a little off to the side. Or they want to go upstairs and they reach for the banister right away, or they want to go down and they stop to look down. Those are things to pay attention to.

My body is a chemical plant. I've come full circle to where I can see how my emotions and my thoughts affect my chemistry. I'm interested in how (things) affect me chemically because that translates into energy. Food is my main source of chemistry. A lot goes into that... And meditation is most powerful. It’s a great balancer.

For more information, see the Nia Technique Book by Carlos Rosas and Debbie Rosas, and also visit

As of October 2009, Carlos now goes by the name Carlos AyaRosas.

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