Shannon Mairs first experienced Nia, a sensory-based movement practice that draws from martial arts, dance arts and healing arts, in 2003. The mother of twins (then 3 years old), she was overweight and easily became winded and short of breath. She knew it was time to make a change.
Mairs began running, lifting weights and working out with a trainer in late June. By October, she had lost 30 pounds and run her first 5K—a goal she had set for herself. Once that goal was accomplished, she wondered what was next; she needed motivation. Mairs found it when she saw an ad for Shape magazine’s Shape Your Life Retreat at Red Mountain Spa, in St. George, Utah.
“It was an opportunity to participate in activities with like-minded women,” she explains.
“I wanted to do something for me, so I decided to travel to Utah alone and take part in the week-long retreat.”
While at the Spa, Mairs wanted to book a massage. She saw Nia on the schedule and decided to make an appointment, even though she wasn’t familiar with the practice. When she walked into the class—in a beautiful, sunny room with lots of windows—the instructor told the participants to inhale and smell the moment. “It hit me like a bolt of lightning,” says Mairs. “I knew this was for me. I was in awe during the remainder of the class. It was magical. We danced like crazy for an hour and my body felt great.”
Recognizing the power of the unique movement, she returned to Dallas and immediately began taking Nia classes. Back then, not a lot of information about Nia existed; yet, Mairs felt a strong desire to know more—and to spread the message of Nia. A self-described quintessential student, she decided to undergo training. “Nia had awakened parts of me and I wanted to share the power of awareness, pleasure and sensation with others,” she explains.
Mairs describes Nia as a sensation-driven fitness program that stimulates and integrates the mind, body and spirit and leaves participants feeling recharged and rejuvenated. Created by Debbie Rosas and Carlos AyaRosas in 1983, Nia draws from nine movement forms, including tai chi, taekwondo, aikido, jazz dance, modern dance, Duncan dance, yoga, the Alexander technique and the teachings of Moshe Feldenkrais.
Done barefoot to diverse and inspiring music, each one-hour class explores unique combinations of 52 moves that work the body’s base, core and upper extremities. Mairs says that every class empowers people of all shapes, sizes and fitness levels, because it can be modified to meet each individual’s needs and goals. “Nia isn’t about how fabulous you are or how well you can move, but how you sense your body,” she says. “It is about creating an awareness of where and how you are living in your body. You do what your body tells you. Every movement is for self-healing.”
Like the traditional martial arts model, the Nia training series includes several progressive belt levels, with the black belt representing the highest level of mastery. Mairs completed her white belt in February 2004 and then became a licensed Nia teacher. “When I got my white belt, I didn’t know what to do with it,” she notes. “I wanted to deepen my practice and become a master student, but realized I wanted more.” What happened next was serendipitous. Robin Parker, founder of MoveStudio, asked Mairs to teach Nia classes at the studio on alternate Sundays. In July 2004, she taught her first class and she was hooked. Today, she still teaches that same class every Sunday.
She went on to earn her blue belt, brown belt and black belt. In 2009, she completed her green belt, which is dedicated solely to the craft of teaching. In 2011, Mairs was invited to become a member of the Nia faculty of trainers as a Nia white belt intensive trainer. Most recently, she completed the Nia 52 Moves training with Nia co-founder Debbie Rosas. Mairs now teaches seven weekly classes in Dallas and Denton counties and trains future white belt Nia instructors, as well as master students who desire a deeper connection to the practice of Nia.
For Mairs, her Nia training not only changed her path, it changed her life. “This community of students and teachers is so fantastic and I feel lucky to be a part of it,” she says. “There’s no greater gift than seeing someone in awe of their own body and watching their face light up as they dance.”
For more information, call 469-879-5283, visit NiaNow.com/smairstx.