The Power of Nia

The Cancer Support Community Greater Philadelphia is excited to announce that free NIA classes are returning to its Ridgeland location in September, thanks to the generosity of the of the Bob Brockman NIA Fund and the Brockman family!


What is NIA?

Nia is a fusion fitness practice that gives you the opportunity to kick off your shoes to dance and exercise your mind and body! This joyful workout allows students to enhance their physical and emotional well-being, relieve stress, and improve calmness.  Nia was created in 1983 and incorporates the wisdom of various movement forms including yoga, tai chi, tae kwan do, aikido, Alexander Technique, and the work of Moshe Feldenkris.


Meet Lisa, our future NIA instructor

Lisa Zahren has been practicing NIA since just after her son was born in 2007.

“My body had changed and my joints were not ready for things like running,” Lisa remembers, laughing, “and NIA spoke to me. It let me tap into the magic of the human body.”

Lisa describes NIA as not just a dance class, but more a class that uses dance as a tool to help you feel connected to your body.

“Students find their own body’s way to move within the structure of the class,” she explained. “And the choreography is used to create alignment within your body and to use every joint and muscle in every class. It is an idea of ‘use it or lose it.’ You use everything in every NIA class in order to keep your range of motion, flexibility, and keep the flow of energy open through your body. While other exercise classes are about sets and reps and weight loss, NIA is about FAMS: Flexibility, Agility, Mobility, Stability and Strength.”


NIA and Cancer

Lisa is excited to come share NIA with members at the Cancer Support Community for several reasons, one being her own personal connection to cancer.

“My nephew was diagnosed with a rare type of leukemia when he was four years old,” Lisa explained. “We all spent several years with him on that journey. I’m happy to report that he’s now a healthy, happy sixteen year old … and about to get his driver’s license. Which of course means my poor sister-in-law gets to be terrified all over again!”

Lisa not only knows about the stress and fear that accompany a cancer diagnosis; she knows what a difference NIA can make for those living in this state. In her years of teaching NIA, she’s seen how transformative the practice can be for people at all different stages of their life.

“Practicing NIA is a huge release for any student. It’s getting out of your thoughts, mind, anxieties, and connecting with your body,” Lisa explained. “Doing that is healing for anyone. To be able to spend an hour out of your thoughts, but just enjoying movement with your body, that is a part of healing. NIA helps us learn how to be in our bodies and the practice of NIA – the dancing and the movement — can help shape our thoughts and outlook.”

That’s a perspective echoed by one of Lisa’s former students, Julie, who’s also a cancer survivor. Julie explained that NIA was able to release things for her in a way nothing else has ever been able to. While she sometimes found herself shedding a few tears, she always felt good about the release, and left her NIA workouts feeling calm and uplifted.

Julie initially found NIA 20 years ago, lost track of it for a while, and then found a class taught by Lisa in Mount Airy. She was thrilled to hear that Lisa would be teaching at the Cancer Support Community, allowing others affected by cancer to benefit from NIA.

“Lisa is a delightful, beautiful, and wonderful guide and teacher,” Julie said. “It is terrific news that she’ll be teaching at the Cancer Support Community.”

For those new to NIA, we encourage you to keep an eye on the Cancer Support Community calendar for the class to appear on the schedule in September – and then to come check it out!

Photograph provided by Nia Technique (