Exploring Nia: A Movement Practice Beneficial for People with Parkinson's Disease

Thu 17th Aug, 2023

Dr. Lisa Shulman, a renowned neurology professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and Fellow of the American Academy of Neurology, has dedicated her research to understanding the positive impact of exercise on individuals with Parkinson's disease (PD). Her recent study compared the effects of treadmill walking and resistance exercise (using weights) on PD patients. The findings highlighted that treadmill exercise improved cardiovascular conditioning while weight-based exercise enhanced muscle strength. These results underscore the varied benefits of different exercise forms for PD patients.

One pivotal aspect of exercise for PD is mindfulness, which involves a conscious focus on body movements. Many PD patients grapple with a disconnection between mind and body. This perspective prompted the emergence of Nia, a sensory-based movement practice that integrates elements of martial arts, dance, and healing arts. Co-created by Debbie Rosas, Nia has garnered popularity among PD patients due to its holistic approach.

Nia classes welcome diverse participants--standing, sitting, and even accompanied by caregivers. The practice encourages individualized movement, fostering whole-body engagement. Rosas emphasizes that Nia prioritizes the wisdom of the body, nurturing self-improvement regardless of one's health status.

Rosas, who experienced her own medical challenges in childhood, discovered the transformative power of exercise in managing depression. In collaboration with Carlos AyaRosas, she birthed Nia in 1982 as a medium for self-expression and wellness. The practice focuses on patterns, repetition, vocalization, and rhythmic movement, enabling participants to reconnect with their bodies and voices.

Despite limited scientific studies specifically targeting Nia's impact on PD symptoms, its principles align with those of effective therapies like tai chi. Tai chi's emphasis on balance and mindful movement resonates with Nia's philosophy. Anecdotal accounts from PD patients engaging in Nia classes point to improvements in balance, strength, endurance, and emotional well-being. Participants report increased confidence in mobility and reduced depression and anxiety.

Nia's holistic approach caters to individuals at varying stages of PD. Caroline Kohles, a senior director of health and wellness, leads Nia for PD classes, emphasizing repetition and self-expression. Singing is encouraged, benefiting PD patients who often grapple with vocal challenges.

Debbie Rosas, Nia Co-creator Debbie Rosas, co-creator of Nia. Nia not only supports physical well-being but also fosters a sense of community and empowerment among PD patients. Amy Lemen, program supervisor of the Edmond J. Safra Parkinson's Wellness Program, incorporates Nia into comprehensive PD treatment. She highlights Nia's potential in harnessing the brain's adaptability and positive impact on emotional well-being.

While primary care consultation is advised before enrolling in any exercise program, Nia holds promise for PD patients seeking a comprehensive and inclusive approach to movement. As Dr. Shulman underscores, routine exercise, tailored to individual needs, stands as a vital complement to medical care, contributing to enhanced overall well-being for those navigating Parkinson's disease.

If you want to experience the fun and the bliss of NIA dancing in Munich, then get in touch with Cheraldin from NIA mit Cheraldin

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