Nia class gives Carrboro new exercise option

by Sean Umstead
Carrboro Commons Writer

Ninja flying through space may sound intimidating to most, but Kate Finlayson may have the answer in an alternative exercise built for anyone.

Finlayson, a Pittsboro resident, teaches Nia at the Carrboro Century Center. Nia is a fusion exercise that combines teachings of nine different disciplines including Yoga, modern dance and Tae Chi.

umstead_nia.JPG Instructor Kate Finlayson of Pittsboro leads the class in a “fighting cry.”
Staff photo by Sean Umstead

“The idea was to do something that didn’t impact the joints,” Finlayson said. “[Nia] works with them.”

When the music starts an older woman raised her hands slightly and the younger women threw them high above their heads. Each participant follows Finlayson’s lead but lets their bodies move and work comfortably to each individual.

Nia, neuromuscular integrative action, holds a core philosophy to offer a fitness skeleton of low impact cardiovascular exercise that allows participants to find create their own Nia to fit their own needs.

It is easy to see why she has over 40 members between her two classes. The music plunges from high energy to laid-back relaxation. Didgeridoos gently let the mind drift to wherever anyone wants to go. Finlayson molded the art into her own form, Nature Nia, which, she says, is an outward fusion of passions in her life, dancing, nature, and acting.

“Nia lets you explore yourself within the movement,” Finlayson said.

Every Nia session flows from song to song. Each song is from a different place and brings a different type of movement. Nia travels from Africa to Australia to Brazil seamlessly and allows everyone to find his or her own favorite.

“If you don’t feel comfortable with the movement or you don’t like the music, its about to change,” Finlayson said.

“It’s a good healthy casserole of moods,” said Margot Ringenburg, a Chapel Hill resident and a regular participant.

“I was a teacher for 35 years and I moved here in my first year of retirement,” Ringenburg said. “I wanted a cardio workout, and this just fit.”

Nia seems to fit with a lot of people. Finlayson’s morning class is mostly older women looking for a low impact workout while her evening session is full of young women with flexibility to spare.

Nia caters to specific needs by having routines on three different levels that the instructor can gauge based on the demographics of the class.
“It’s really good exercise and is a great conditioner,” said Sylvia Hubbard, a 72 year old from Chapel Hill.

Nia has done wonders for Finlayson as well. She has lost more than 20 pounds and says she feels like a new, more complete person. She keeps an old picture to remind herself of how much good came from Nia.

Nia is a good fit in Carrboro because people are open to connecting the ideas of the mind, body and spirit.

“[Carrboro] has a good understanding of Eastern philosophy” Finlayson said. “It is not anti-religion, it connects to an individual’s divine.”

Finlayson credits some of the openness to the Eastern ideas to the prominence of yoga. It has given people a chance to explore the connection of mental and physical health without being deemed strange.

Nia is a baby compared to the ancient art of yoga. Carlos and Debbie Rosas created Nia in 1983 to find more balance in fitness.
“We work within [Nia’s] form, but we move how our bodies want to,” Finlayson said.

Finlayson teaches two Nia classes a week, both at the Carrboro Century Center at 100 Greensboro St. Her morning classes are taught Mondays at 9, and her evening classes are taught Wednesdays at 7.

For more information, and to register for these classes, call the Century Center at (919) 918-7364 or visit the Web site at or Finlayon’s web site at

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One Response

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    Thank you for the information. I’ve never heard of Nia, but I’m going to do a little research on it now. Is it similar to Tai-Bo? I have done my share of that not too terribly long ago.

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