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The NIA Experience continued...

In fact, the biggest benefit of the workout is "getting people in their body and connected to sensation," Rosas says.

She believes that many diseases occur because people don't notice early on that something is out of balance, citing as an example a man whose bleeding ulcer might have been averted had he detected tension in his abdominal wall and seen a doctor sooner.

Exercise physiologist Cotton concurs.

"Body awareness is increased through body movement," he says. "NIA, is new, cutting-edge, so it's hard to find research that proves a benefit like this. But it certainly appears to be making a difference in people's awareness of their bodies, of when something is wrong."

Students say they've noticed other benefits to getting connected to their bodies

"NIA helps you become aware of your own body, of what's painful versus what is pleasurable, so that you seek out pleasure," says Kim Dawson, who has been taking classes for about a year.

"There's genius in its simplicity. It's grounded in that it teaches us to move our joints the way they want to be moved, to use our bodies they way they are designed to be used," says Dawson, creative director of NIA Technique Inc., the Portland, Ore., based-NIA headquarters that trains instructors worldwide.

"Through movement, NIA helps us to find health -- physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually," Dawson says.

But there's more. NIA boosts the heart rate, enhances flexibility and coordination, and improves breathing, which can in turn improve circulation, Rosas says.

A Natural Stress-Buster

Plus, NIA is a natural stress-buster, says Deborah Kern, PhD, a NIA trainer based in Huntsville, Ala.

For her doctoral thesis in the mid-1990s, Kern followed 40 people who took NIA classes for seven weeks, along with 40 other people who did low-impact aerobics. "Joyful, peaceful, and energized emerged as the three common denominators of those in the NIA group," she says

Both groups saw cardiovascular benefits, says Kern, whose study was not published. But overall anxiety levels, as measured on a commonly used psychological scale, dropped in those who took NIA classes while increasing slightly in those who did low-impact aerobics.

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