The Nia Class at UT Southwestern

UT Southwestern Medical Center

With the numerous fitness classes we have today ranging from martial arts to dance and yoga, it’s rare and fascinating to come across an option that incorporates all three.

This is how the student center staff felt when one of the faculty members – who specializes in neurology and memory disorders at UT Southwestern Medical Center – approached them about a class his daughter had recently begun instructing called Nia. They had never heard of it, but were fascinated enough to learn more.

“Nia combines three martial arts: tae kwon do, aikido and tai chi; three dance arts: modern dance, jazz dance and duncan dance; and three healing arts: yoga, the work of Moshe Feldenkrais and the Alexander Technique,” said UT Southwestern’s certified Nia instructor, Lara Lawson. All nine movements are used to create Nia routines resulting in a holistic workout experience for not only the body, but the mind, emotions and spirit.

“It addressed the holistic approach to wellness, extending beyond just physical activity, and being a medical campus, we felt it was a perfect fit for a new class within our group fitness program,” said Mike Chadee, the intramural sports and facilities coordinator at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

While offering new and unique fitness classes is exciting, it’s important to prepare for any type of participation response. “The class hasn’t taken off as much as we would have liked,” shared Chadee. He has found most of the class participation has stemmed from faculty and staff members rather than students.

“With the movements being less intense and the music being somewhat subdued, it lacks the intensity of some of the high-intensity cardio or boot-camp style classes that often draw the attention of our students,” said Chadee.

Even when a new program isn’t taking off as hoped, the student center staff will typically continue it, as long as it has regular attendees, even if it’s only a few. “If we start to see a class regularly have zero attendees, that’s when we will try something new,” said Chadee. “Sometimes a simple shift to a different timeslot will help it reach a different audience.”

In addition to changing the time of the underperforming program, staff will also help by promoting through Facebook, on their website and with flyers at the front desk. “We also do email blasts to student and member listservs to try to promote new programs,” added Chadee.

Although the class hasn’t witnessed immediate growth, Chadee believes it is important to keep an open mind when it comes to new programs. “You never know what the next big hit will be with your students and members, and sometimes the only way to know is to try them out,” he said.

Brittany Howard
Brittany is an assistant editor at Peake Media. Reach her at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *