People all over the world have fallen in love with the way practising Nia makes them feel – joyful, empowered, lighter, inspired – like themselves again. While the moves are simple, the practice is deep, and the transformation profound.  But first… you need to get started! 

 New to Nia?  Here are 7 things you might like to know.

  1. Nia welcomes everybody, whatever your age, body shape, fitness level, or ability. Leave your worries at the door, step in with a “beginner’s mind” and tune into your own way of moving. Simply relax and be yourself. You belong here, just as you are.
  2. Take a deep breath – “smell the moment” – and come home to your body NOW.  Throughout the class you’ll be invited to pay attention to sensations in your body. This mindful aspect of Nia helps anchor you in the moment, moving with purpose, and without judgement.
  3. Go gently and give yourself time. It’s natural to feel a bit nervous or un-co when you start something new. You’ll receive guidance that is supportive and inspiring, without any push. Play with a slower speed or moving in a smaller range of motion if that helps you find more pleasure and ease. Energise the moves when you feel ready.
  4. It’s all about the base! Start with the rhythm of the feet and leg movements. Listen to the music and find your groove.When you feel ready add the core, arms and hands. Nia gets the whole body moving from the ground up.
  5. Dress up, dress down, dress for fun. Wear anything that makes you feel free, comfortable, and excited to move. No shoes are needed as Nia is designed to be done barefoot. If you have any foot concerns or medical advice, you can always choose to wear a soft-soled shoe.
  6. Every Nia class begins with a FOCUS (what we put our attention on) and an INTENTION (a desired outcome).  For example, the focus might be on the breath with the intention to feel more centred and calm.The focus helps you get out of your busy mind and into your body and makes every class feel purposeful, pleasurable and unique.
  7. Towards the end of class, we move to the earth for FLOORPLAY to stimulate self-healing and conditioning. Again, options are presented so you can make choices that feel right for you. You are also welcome to use a yoga mat or chair or do the movement against a wall, or simply rest.

The best way to find out if Nia is for you is to try a class or 2… or 3…
New to Nia? Click here to access my NEW STUDENT SPECIAL 
Connect with Sophie if you have any concerns or questions.  Start today!


Sophie Marsh © 2022 • Web Design Seedhead

Ageing in Reverse- Part 2. Movement for Brain Health

Ageing in Reverse- Part 2. Movement for Brain Health

Ageing in Reverse- Part 2. Movement for Brain Health

Nia - Now I Am - positive affirmations with Sophie Marsh
Nia with Sophie Marsh dance for health

“Much more of the brain is devoted to movement than to language. Language is only a little thing sitting on top of this huge ocean of movement.” ~ Dr Oliver Sacks 

A healthy brain means having the cognitive, emotional and behavioural functioning that you need to navigate life, feel healthy, have meaningful relationships, and realise your full potential. Numerous studies have linked brain health with an improved lifespan, and to feeling happier and healthier.

Last month I wrote about how I’m ageing in reverse and why movement variety is vital for our physical wellbeing. Read it here.

For brain health and mental wellness, exercise is also key, even more so if it incorporates cardiovascular conditioning, mindfulness, music, dance sequences, energy variety, and social engagement! Sound familiar?

What’s good for the heart is good for the brain
Movement that delivers cardio conditioning increases blood flow to the brain, stimulates the growth of brain cells and connections between them, and is associated with larger brain volume.

A 2016 study published in Neurology suggested physical activity can slow brain ageing by as much as 10 years. Another study showed that older adults (over 65) who did high amounts of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity had a 36% lower risk of cognitive impairment, as well as better memory and executive function, than those who did less.

Mood-boosting brain chemicals
Aerobic exercise stimulates the production of serotonin and endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators, while reducing levels of the stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol. Mindful movement increases dopamine and norepinephrine levels in the brain which benefits your attention and focus.

Research has long established that regular exercise promotes mental health, and can be more effective than counselling or medication for depression and anxiety.

Connection is key
Our brains love socialising, and we benefit both cognitively and physically from moving with others. Enhancing social connectedness can stimulate neuroplasticity, enlarge hippocampal brain volume (improving memory and overall brain health) and can reduce the risk of cognitive decline, including Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Variety is vital
Fluid intelligence – the ability to solve novel, complex problems – declines steeply during the human ageing process, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Published in The Journal of Neuroscience, a recent study by Cambridge University concluded that “variety of regular physical activities is the most important factor for maintenance of fluid intelligence in older adults.” Interestingly, variety proved more important than frequency or duration of activity.

A 2020 study, looked at 732 people aged 34 to 84 over 10 years. The results identified that across all age groups, having active and engaged lifestyles with diverse and regular activities are essential for our cognitive health.

Your brain on Nia
Every Nia class combines cardiovascular fitness, strength, flexibility and balance. Nia integrates a wide variety of music genres, movement patterns and sequencing, visualisation and imagination, whole-body listening, creative self-expression, focus and awareness.

Nia brings together movement, mindfulness, connection and joy… the perfect combo for vibrant brain health and mental wellbeing.

Curious to learn more? Check out my blog 7 ways Nia brings variety for body and brain health or sign up for a Nia White Belt training.
warmly, Sophie

Dementia Australia Guide: Physical Activity for Brain Health and Fighting Dementia

Book: Life in Five Senses: How Exploring the Senses Got Me Out of My Head and Into the World by Gretchen Rubin

TED: Why the Brain is Built for Movement by Anders Hansen

Recipes: Top 10 healthy, mood-boosting recipes

Video: The Heart-Brain: Integral Anatomy with Gil Hedley

Leave me a Google review Thank you to those who have left a review about my classes and trainings. If you enjoy Nia, your review can help others find out about it too.

“A brain without a body could not think … the muscles themselves are part and parcel of our higher functions.” ~ Moshe Feldenkrais

Sophie Marsh © 2022 • Web Design Seedhead

7 ways Nia’s movement variety benefits your body and brain

7 ways Nia’s movement variety benefits your body and brain

7 ways Nia’s movement variety benefits your body and brain

Nia - Now I Am - positive affirmations with Sophie Marsh
Nia with Sophie Marsh dance for health

“Variety is the very spice of life, That gives it all its flavor.” ~ William Cowper 

Variety is the spice of life and the key to longevity! Movement variety is needed for optimal physical functioning and healing. It helps develops attention, creative expression and your sense of self. Here are 7 ways Nia stimulates movement variety for your body and brain health.

1. Listening and moving to different kinds of music makes Nia a total body brain workout. Nia consciously chooses different tempos, genres, and instrumental sounds. Songs with strong rhythm can activate more grounded dynamic movement; songs with meaningful lyrics touch our heart and spirit; songs from different cultures bring out our playfulness and creativity. In Art of Sensation, you learn tools for whole body listening that can help you improve memory, boost creativity, reduce stress and regulate your mood.

2. Nia infuses movement with energy inspired by 9 different movement arts. 3 Martial Arts – Tai Chi, Tae Kwon Do, Aikido – inspire inner calm, agility, and spiral-flow. 3 Dance Arts – Jazz, Modern and Duncan – invite fun, emotional expression and free-spirited movement. 3 Healing Arts – Feldenkrais Method, Alexander Technique, and Yoga – enhance sensory awareness, levity and alignment.

3. Nia activates both intrinsic and large muscle groups for optimal function and balance. “Do it in your body’s way” means Nia is adaptable for every body, regardless of fitness level. As you learn to tune into your own body and explore smaller movements closer to the core as well as bigger ranges of motion, you stop copying the teacher and learn to personalise every class to be nurturing and healing as well as enlivening and conditioning.

4. Nia movement integrates a variety of sensations – flexibility, strength, mobility, stability, agility and stillness for optimal joint, muscle and bone health.

5. Nia uses visualisation and imagery to engage the brain and whole body naturally. Imagine you’re drumming the earth. Imagine a cape wrapping around you. Imagine hugging a tree. Imagine throwing your worries away!

6. Nia encourages emotional expression and sounding to enhance your core strength and release stuck stress and trauma from the body.

Saying YES or NO can feel empowering and help you find your voice. Singing, toning and humming creates vibrations that activate your vagus nerve and parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous system. When you hum or sing a song you associate with calm, happiness or courage, it can activate those feelings for you again!

7. Nia engages all of the senses and brings you into mindful awareness to feel safer, calmer and more in tune with yourself through the body. It teaches you to notice without judgement, and feel to heal.

Moving is your body’s way of artfully expressing the present moment. Focusing your attention on moving centres your mind in your body. Practising movement variety develops body-centred awareness while enhancing motor skills.
~ Nia, Art of Sensation


First, tune in to your body and notice any places that feel heavy or tight.  Take this 3 minute dance break with me and then afterwards, notice what feels better and give gratitude for that. Thank you body!

Sophie Marsh © 2022 • Web Design Seedhead




A 2022 study published in the International Journal of Social Work revealed physical mental and wellbeing benefits felt immediately after doing Nia.

This U.S study assessed 56 healthy adults after taking a 1-hour Nia class:

  • 98% agreed or strongly agreed that they felt better in their physical body.
  • 100% experienced their mood improve.
  • 100% felt they had released stress.
  • 96% agreed they had creatively expressed their unique self.
  • 89% affirmed they connected with at least one other person during class.
  • 69.3% of participants reported using Nia class skills in their daily life between classes.


Sophie Marsh © 2022 • Web Design Seedhead




Nia has been a lifeline for me many times over the past 22 years, and the pandemic has taken that to another level. Nia positively engages your body, mind, emotions and spirit, and can offer a much needed respite from external stress and your own mind-chatter. I am deeply grateful to offer online Nia classes and connect people through movement with the invitation to stay on for a chat afterwards. Can’t make it live… catch the replay available until the next day!

 New to Nia online?
These 10 tips will help you get the most out of your class.

  1. Set up your tech. 

    • If you can, turn off other devices that are using the WiFi or even better, use an ethernet cable to plug directly into your router to ensure a more stable and stronger connection.
    • Close all your other browsers/apps
    • Improve sound quality by using bluetooth headphones or speakers, or plug in computer speakers, like Logitech or connect to your tv screen
    • make sure your microphone is on MUTE (bottom left corner), especially if you come on late. I will unmute everybody at the end of class for our chat.
    • STOP VIDEO (bottom left corner) means you won’t be seen, but will still see me during class. This can help if you are getting lag or freezing.
    • If there’s a lag between the visual and audio, look away from the screen as often as you can, listen to the music and follow your own body’s way
  2. Safety and comfort come first. Find or claim a clear floor space where you can see whatever device you are using for the Zoom classes, and are able to move your whole body without running into furniture, walls or other people! Make sure the room is well ventilated and a comfortable temperature. Maybe you have a verandah or outside space, like Deb in the Adelaide Hills who dances on a garden deck under the camilla tree.

  3. What’s on the floor matters. Nia is designed to be done barefoot on a floor with some yield. While I have taught weekly classes for over 13 years on linoleum/concrete (Sherwood Neighbourhood Centre) and carpet/concrete (Pure Health clubs), it requires a higher level of attention to minimise impact on the bones and joints if the flooring doesn’t “give”.

    If you don’t have wooden floors, here are some ideas…
    – Put a rug (or 2) over the floor to give you some padding,
    – Create a dance area with yoga mats gaffer taped together (so there’s no risk of tripping over edges) or even better with foam play-mats – $10 from KMart (4 mats 60x60x 1cm thick) or $19.50 per mat from Southern Cross Mats (100x100x 2 cm thick)
    – Wear a soft sole shoe. Thick soled running shoes are not ideal for Nia as they stiffen the foot and change your natural movement. Shoes that have more “give” in the sole and allow your foot to articulate are better, but whatever you’ve got is better than sore joints from impact!

  4. Life As Art. Nia’s lifestyle practice for altering your perception and seeing the everyday as extraordinary, brings inspiration to your body and life. Most of us won’t have an ideal or dedicated dance space. So what can you do to make your at home dance space more visually and energetically pleasing to you? Is there a meaningful object you could add, like Tracy from Adelaide who changed her dining room into her Nia space, and decorated it with treasured pieces from Bali; or Anthea in Brisbane who hung a crystal in the window and dances with the rainbows in her room as the sun shines through.

  5. Do you need to declutter? If your space feels busy or chaotic, can you remove some clutter or arrange things so that your nervous system feels calmer. Jeanette from Brisbane shared after her first online class, “I used to prepare for Nia by getting in the mindset while I drove to class where the space was already created for us to move. Now I’m motivated to do some clearing and cleaning to prepare my own space so I can move without distractions.”
  6. Use all your senses. Surround yourself with things you’ll love to see, smell, hear and touch. I’m blessed to live where there’s always birdsong and there have been a couple of times when butterflies or mating dragonflies have flown through the space while I’m teaching! In my space, I have plants in the corner, and a treasured painting gifted to me by the 2014 Ocean Shores White Belt grads. Before each class, I light candles and add different essential oils depending on what I need. I’m loving my Doterra Frankincense (to strengthen and invigorate the respiratory system); Balance blend (to feel grounded and centred); Citrus Bloom (to feel happy and invigorated); Lavender Peace (ahhhhh…)

Science-based reasons to “Smell the Moment”… and mood enhancing aromatherapy.

  • A small 2015 study done on women in Japan found that inhaled bergamot oil mixed with water vapour reduced feelings of anxiety and fatigue.
  • A small 2013 study concluded that peppermint essential oil is effective for preventing fatigue and improving exercise performance.
  • A 2016 study concluded that the inhalation of sweet orange (Citrus sinensis) and spearmint (Mentha spicata) essential oils could improve athletic performance.
  • A 2012 study first showed the stimulatory effects of rosemary oil and how it impacts mood states as well as brain wave activity and the autonomic nervous system. A 2018 study on school children confirmed that rosemary could help focus and memory, potentially boosting memorisation in school.

An older study in 2008 concluded that lemon oil reliably enhances positive mood.

Let me know if you’d like to order any Doterra oils. I’m happy to pass on wholesale prices.

7. Sound Advice. A big part of Nia’s magic is the music. Having quality audio at your end can make such a difference to your experience, so if you can, connect your Zoom device to a Bluetooth or computer speaker set, or use a set of Bluetooth headphones. There are settings you might need to change in Zoom Preferences under “Audio” to optimise the connection and volume.

If you share your home with others, you might need to be mindful of who else is at home, though you never know… you might inspire your loved ones to join you! Theresa shared Nia with her partner Peter for the first time when they Zoomed on his iPhone, shared the screen and then cast it to their Smart TV. He loved it!

8. Creating the Space is a mindfulness practice we learn in our Nia trainings to eliminate internal distractions. We sit and invite stillness into our body, mind, emotions and spirit, waiting for the sensation of being centred in embodied presence to arise. A minute can make a big difference.

You might create your own ritual for removing distractions and preparing your space to dance, like lighting a candle, or set an intention as you enter the space, choosing a card for your daily practice, or smudging some sage to clear the energy. Maybe you’ll get dressed up to dance… or maybe you’ll stay in your PJs! Make choices that light up your life-force and help you slip into a sensation of sensuous sacred self-care.

9. Arrive early to do a sound check.  Set yourself up for success by linking in 5 minutes before class begins to set your volume and troubleshoot any problems. You’ll step in feeling relaxed and ready rather than rushed and frustrated.

10. Dance like no one’s watching. Magic happens when you listen to the music and move in harmony with your own body’s guidance, feeling connected to a greater source of aliveness. Many students are sharing that they are experiencing a deepening of their awareness and becoming more in tune with their own body sensation and Joy. Dancing online at home, they are able to let go of getting it right and relish the liberation of literally dancing like no one’s watching.

The best way to get the most out of Nia online is to do it!! Your FIRST WEEK is FREE.
Connect with Sophie if you have any concerns or questions.

Sophie Marsh © 2022 • Web Design Seedhead