This Unique Form Of Fitness Helped Me Heal After Intense Trauma

by Jerald Dyson

While I was going through this traumatic, difficult time, a dear friend of mine showed up to see me on a regular basis for three months. She sat with me patiently, even when I told her I hated myself and my life. At times, I even told her I hated her for showing up to see me. Yet, she kept coming back. 

Eventually, she noticed that small parts of me might be willing to shift—even before I realized it myself. That’s when she invited me to take a Nia class with her—telling me it was time to get moving. I had no idea what “Nia” was at the time, but I learned it’s a sensory-based movement practice that draws from martial arts, dance arts, and healing arts. Nia actually stands for “neuromuscular integrative action.” 

So three months after burying my daughter, I went with my friend to the local Y to try one of these classes. I had been a dancer and an athlete my whole life, but I stepped into that Nia class incredibly skeptical—I figured I’d just stand in the back of the class and not move. (As a lifelong performer, the fact that I wanted to stand in the back really demonstrates how I was feeling.)

Honestly, I didn’t love my first class. I completely froze—just like in the face of trauma, I froze, because I didn’t actually want to feel my own feelings or be transported back to what happened. But in that class, the instructor guided me through gentle movements, focusing on comfort, and I remember hearing the words “safe in your body,” which actually resonated with me.

So little by little, I got more comfortable with the movements, and I truly believe it gently brought me back to wanting to be alive again. I started taking one class a week, then two, then three. Over time, the movement and exercises in those classes helped me see my body as a gift. I was able to step back into my body and start living again. 


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