Blog Post

Should Christians Practice NIA?

Debbie Rosas with former husband, Carlos Debbie Rosas with former husband, Carlos

CB writes: “Could you please help me to explain . . . why the practice of NIA is contrary to Orthodox Catholic teaching? I know in my heart it is wrong but struggle to find the words to convey why this practice is based in the occult ,dangerous & to be discarded. It was advertised in the parish bulletin & likely to lead others astray.”

For those who are unfamiliar with it, Nia is described as dance cardio fitness classes which are taught by instructors who are educated in "mindful movement guidance" and somatic education. "They employ 52 basic movements and techniques that draw on a combination of Jazz, Modern and Duncan Dancestyles, Tai Chi, TaeKwonDo and Aikido; and the bodymind healing arts of Feldenkrais Method,  Alexander Technique and Yoga" this website claims.

The co-founder of NIA, Debbie Rosas, claims that people who adhere to her practice “develop the most important relationship they will ever have: the one between their body, mind, emotions, and spirit.”

Debbie’s career began in 1972 when she began to operate an exercise business in the San Francisco Bay Area known as the Bod Squad. One day, Carlos Aya Rosas, a tennis instructor, came into her class and decided he liked it and wanted to teach it.

As this article explains, Carlos claims to have had a vision at the age of seven in which he was told that “when you grow up, you are going to create a system for self-healing the human body that will require nothing but the body itself. No pills, no drinks, no machines, no tools.”

Not long after their meeting, Carlos decided Debbie was part of his destiny. Debbie eventually left her husband and married him. Together, they began to research an alternative kind of exercise that was “body-mind” based, drawing on the principles of martial arts such as TaeKwan Do and Aikido, as well as Tai Chi and yoga.

rosas praying in classThey created 52 principles of their own which are taught in increments of 13 through four “belt” levels to NIA devotees.

For example, as Debbie explains, “Our white belt level teaches the body’s way, which is the map we follow that guides what we do. It also focuses on learning Nia’s first 13 principles that teach people the foundation for further study. Students go through the training to teach and represent Nia or for themselves, for personal growth. Many people come to the training thinking Nia is just an exercise program. They quickly learn that it is more, that they can transform themselves in more ways than just the physical dimension.”

In the brown belt level, students learn to “monitor their energy using the metaphor of a battery, noticing when you feel energetically full or empty, and noticing what drained your battery. This kind of sensing enables people to experience themselves in a special environment called the 'zone,' which is where you experience the sensation of expanded awareness.”

The fourth level is the black belt where students “learn to use movement as medicine and to consciously take part in their evolution. They learn that life can be lived creatively and guided through pleasurable sensation.”

She adds: “There is a level beyond black belt called first degree black belt that students are admitted to by invitation only. This level deals with the realm of consciousness, and focuses on integrating left brain knowledge with right brain experience and intuition.”

Does this sound like “just exercise” to you?

“Just exercise” doesn’t include principles such as receiving the mandate of Spirit, the realm of high magic, shaping consciousness, primary energy centers, the yin and yang of NIA, being multi-dimensionally conscious – which is just a sample of some of the other principles of this fitness regime.

But this is not surprising when we consider some of the entries on Debbie’s blog – which is very much centered on the popular New Age concept of “Self” worship.

“Self-reflect, self-reference, self-know: it takes a lot of selfing around to become wise.”

NIA goes beyond the acceptable physical demands of an exercise class and seeks to condition both the mind and the spirit of students in ways that are (obviously) problematic for Christians.