I teach Nia. I have been teaching Nia for three and a half years. Not as many people who I talk to have heard of Nia as have heard of Zumba so I am constantly being asked the difference between Nia and Zumba. Since I am often asked I am often thinking about them and comparing them. First, they are actually the same in that music is played and participants dance to it. Second, in both the instructor leads the participants through the various dance moves. Third, participants of both claim they are both fun. One difference is Nia is an experience in five sensations, Zumba seems to concentrate on one.
The experience is such a big part of Nia we actually call them the five sensations of Nia. I have posted about them before (FAMSS). They are the sensation of flexibility, of agility, of mobility, of strength, and of stability. In a Nia class your body will move in a way that allows you to sense the energy moving out and away. You will bend and stretch to play with flexibility, either retaining what you have or improving upon it. There are moves in the routines that require the start and the stop. The movement that is agility could be done with our feet, our arms, our hands, our bodies, our heads or a combination of body parts but we sense the start and the stop. With every routine there is a lot of mobility, some routines have more than others, but all of them that I have experienced have a lot. With mobility it is just the same as agility in that it could be a body part that is moving or our whole body. Whatever the case there is a lot of movement from each joint that helps create a healthy joint by allowing the fluid to move to it and within it. Then we also play with strength. We might squeeze our muscles sensing the energy moving in as if the bones are being hugged by the muscles. We might do squats or sit-ups, punches and/or kicks, but there is time where we play with strength. I say Nia is very big on balance because we do many moves that requires us to be stable. Many of our moves are balancing on one leg, could be a kick, could be a stance, but it requires stability. Moving from one move to the next often requires us to call upon our stability. In a Nia routine we experience all of these sensations. I’ve reached the conclusion that Zumba is primarily agility.
In Zumba the moves are always fast. So it is a constant state of start and stop. The only sensation I sense while doing Zumba is agility. Fast start, fast stop . . . . even when there is a stretch where your muscles are yearning for a second to move to their fullest length, it is a fast stretch that does not allow for the muscle to be fully stretched. Doing a full hour of agility is not a bad thing at all. It can be fun and it can produce a lot of sweat. And many of us are programmed to think that sweat equals a good workout. I think that if you are adding Zumba to a stretching program that has some balance practice in it that is great.
I am also a believer that there are a lot of things that compliment Nia too. I actually think that if you like Nia and Zumba and you are able to do both that is a nice combination. You get two different types of cardio. One that is a workout in the sensation of agility and one that can move you through more use of the entire body to get that heart pumping.
I really believe that whatever gets you moving is GREAT. I think that you have to like what you do in order to make it a constant in your life. So Zumba, Nia, Jazzercise, U-Jam, yoga, kickboxing, bootcamp, weight training, whatever works for you is great. Do what you will do! That is the key!
It is that I am always asked about the difference between Zumba and Nia that I am always thinking about it and this was my latest thought after I did a Zumba class. I think I posted before about how I am left wanting to extend and finish my moves in Zumba and it dawned on me that it is the sensation of agility that is predominant in Zumba. Some Zumba classes I have attended do take a song to stretch at the end, but not all of them. So I guess it depends on the instructor. Nia instructors are encouraged to infuse their classes and the routines with their personalities, so I am sure that every Nia class has a few differences too.
Both Nia and Zumba are great cardio workouts. It just depends on what you want to do during your workout and what you want to get out of it. Do what you will do!
So, what is it that you do?