• Image about Debbie Rosas
Art by Nathalie Dion

When it comes to working out, forget that whole idea of getting physical. Instead, get aware.

If the ’80s fitness craze was about ignoring what your body had to say, the wave of the future is listening to it. During the high-impact aerobics and Nautilus machine days, trainers preached, “No pain, no gain.” And, yeah, people lost weight and got buff. But what they didn’t do was stick around. That’s the thing with trends — especially trends that turn out to do as much, if not more, harm as good.

In 1983, aerobics instructors Debbie Rosas and Carlos AyaRosas were a major part of that universe. That is, until they decided to leave the traditional fitness world behind after watching a number of their teachers and students alike become injured and disenchanted. Rosas and AyaRosas were ready for something completely new, something that involved listening to the body’s inner voice rather than what the outside world was saying. This inner voice became the Body’s Way, a method of using the body according to its natural design and function.

No more “working out.” It was time for “working in.” And thus, Nia, a practice originally named as an acronym for nonimpact aerobics or neuromuscular integrative action, was born.

Considered a cardiovascular body-mind-spirit exercise, it’s based on principles that mix forms of dance, martial arts and healing practices. (In fact, Nia blends tai chi, jazz dance, the Feldenkrais Method, tae kwon do, modern dance, the Alexander Technique, aikido, Duncan Dance and yoga.) But don’t let the ingredients fool you.

That combination equates to hourlong classes that put all your joints and all your muscles (including ones you never knew you had) to work. And because you do what feels good for your own body instead of simply aping your teacher’s movements, the result is as challenging as it is healing. It also means that anyone can do it. Seriously, anyone. You don’t have to be coordinated or even athletic; you just have to be game.