Health and Mobility: Fit for Life with Nia

By Deborah Redfern, Nia instructor and Feng Shui Practitioner

Deborah Redfern
Nia teacher Deborah Redfern
Photo by: Rachelle Polsom

A year ago last spring, I found out I was a diabetic. It was discovered during a routine checkup, but I wasn’t entirely surprised because my weight had been climbing steadily for a few years, even though I thought my eating habits were good. Since I wanted to avoid taking medication for diabetes (or anything else) I knew I needed to make a dramatic lifestyle change. I made two. No surprise, diet and exercise greatly help control diabetes (and a lot of other ailments too).

My first step was to become a vegetarian. I already cooked healthy meals, rarely ate fried foods or desserts, and didn’t drink alcohol or soda. Since I seldom ate meat, I wasn’t that far from being an ovo-lacto vegetarian, but dropping the dairy made a huge difference.

My body weight dropped steadily by a pound or two a week. Mind you, I was not “dieting.” As my weight dropped, I noticed my energy levels went up and the mid-afternoon drowsy slumps disappeared.

The second big life change I made was to fully commit myself to movement. I was active in my twenties and thirties in dance and yoga, but in my forties things fell apart. I moved to Victoria when I was 45 and it took a long time to find my bearings. Eventually, I found Nia and attended a weekly class for about six months before the diabetes diagnosis.

Nia is a no/low impact fitness technique that combines dance, martial arts and yoga postures. Uplifting music accompanies each class and the moves are adapted for people of different fitness capabilities. Debbie and Carlos Rosas developed Nia in the United States about 27 years ago, and classes are currently offered in about 35 countries.

Through Nia, I met a teacher who in her early seventies clearly had a younger “body age” than me (I’m in my early fifties). Her agility and grace was beautiful and inspiring, and I decided that would be me – starting now.

Modern science allows us to disguise much of the outer signs of aging, but a body conditioned by conscious movement, one that is strong, agile and flexible can defy age more than any cosmetic, dye or procedure on the market. So, I committed myself to Nia and signed up for the next training course held in Victoria. My goal: to teach.

When I went back for my next checkup, my blood sugars were normal. My doctor didn’t use the words “reversed diabetes,” but she said I was managing the condition through my lifestyle.

Now, I am a certified and licensed Nia Technique Instructor. I teach a 50+ class at the Monterey Recreation Centre in Oak Bay, as well as classes at the Burnside Gorge Recreation Centre and the Fairfield Gonzales Community Recreation Centre.

At times, it is difficult for me to grasp that leading Nia classes is really my job because it is so much fun. On a philosophical level, I am motivated by my belief that moving, whether through Nia, yoga, or something else, is (unless our work is physical labour) our real “job.”

Our bodies were designed to move. I advocate a new vision where play comes first. Like having your dessert before your main course; like saving money by paying yourself first, we become fit for life by putting fitness first. If each of us did this, we could enjoy the world and improve the world at the same time, since there would be less disease and disability, and more productivity. We could turn our attention from the business of disease care to global health care.

Tips for staying fit:

  1. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you get moving. Walk, swim, bike, hike, golf or dance: it’s all good.
  2. Choose something you enjoy. If you aren’t having a good time, you’ll fall off the wagon. It has happened to me many times, all my good intentions swept aside.
  3. Moving has to be thought of as a priority, not something you do when you can fit it in. Commit to it.
  4. One way to commit is to make it your own. If you only walk when you have someone to walk with, or you play a partner sport, you’re giving your power to someone else. Make your primary way to keep fit something just for you. You will then have more energy for partner activities.

Health and Mobility

A study conducted on what made people happy as they get older revealed that money or lifestyle wasn’t the most important – it was health and mobility. It is possible the two are related – that those who have a certain level of wealth and a certain lifestyle have more time to spend on keeping fit. But it needn’t follow. It is more about an attitude.

I want to stay healthy for rest of my life. Doesn’t everyone? Through conscious eating and conscious moving, it is a goal within reach.

To learn more about Nia, visit