Debbie Baer-Gilbert is looking forward to helping the Fort Erie area wake up, wipe away the cobwebs and re-energize after a long, dark winter and an early spring of lockdown with the Nia experience.
Nia, initiually standing for non-impact aerobics, is a sensory-based movement practice that draws from martial arts, dance arts and healing arts. It empowers people of all shapes and sizes by connecting the body, mind, emotions and spirit. Classes are taken barefoot to soul-stirring music in more than 45 countries. Every experience can be adapted to individual needs and abilities. Not one teacher is the same. They bring their own background to the Nia experience. So, for instance, a dancer will bring in more formal dance moves to her routine.
For Debbie, this also means re-connecting with her dream that had just come true.
Debbie Baer-Gilbert had begun a journey several years ago. It was a journey of different levels. She first, focused on taking care of herself physically, resulting in enough weight loss to really change her appearance. Next, she went within, and focused on her inner healing.
It was during this inner healing work that Debbie first learned about Nia. She was involved in an inspirational women’s group course where Deborah Corbett was invited to come to one of the sessions to introduce the concept of Nia to the group members.
“Oh My Goodness!” Debbie gasped during our conversation. “That was it. I don’t know what it was, but I fell in love! This is what I want to do, I thought. It brought emotion in me. I realized, I want to teach.”
As eager as she was, Debbie wasn’t able to dig in right away. “I couldn’t find anybody to teach me. I searched and I asked around. I checked every town.” She didn’t let it put a halt to her journey. “When I couldn’t find Nia, I was drawn to getting a tattoo, which was something I would never have done before. Then I had Lisa paint my portrait.”
When Debbie met Fort Erie’s Lisa Iris in January, 2019, she asked if the talented artist could paint her as a fairy goddess. Lisa happily agreed and created “Debbie Enchanted”. That following April, the artist held an unveiling party at her home studio for Debbie.
Life took over and it was about two years after that fateful evening when she ran into Corbett again, who agreed to take her to the location in Niagara-on-the-Lake where Debbie promptly began to take classes for five months.
During this time, in October, 2019, to her delight, Debbie was offered a chance to take a five-day course in Michigan to learn to teach. She also got her White Belt while there. “It just all fell into place. I don’t drive in the States. I was offered a ride. I didn’t know where I was going to stay. I was invited to stay in the instructor’s home, which was also where the course was held.”
She shared a thought that made her smile. “I was 58 when I started this journey and my grandmother was 58 when she bought and ran a nursing home. It’s ironic.” With a laugh, “They all thought she was crazy but to me, she was an inspiration.”
Debbie remembered teaching her first class, “The first time teaching, I had just gotten my White Belt and I was still going to my classes, still learning. One of my instructors, Dee Dee said, we’re going to do a Nia jam, which means different teachers, but I didn’t have anything prepared. She said to just do it, make something up. I wanted to but I was afraid to. And then, I just did it. I choreographed my own song.”
Baer-Gilbert was raring and ready to go. She booked her first class immediately at the Bell Tower in Fort Erie and continued weekly classes, following safety restrictions until December, when Ontario went into lockdown. When things began to lift again in March, Debbie resumed her weekly Fort Erie classes and added Ridgeway classes at the Crystal Ridge Community Centre for a few weeks until this new lockdown.
More About Nia
Debbie explained there is a combination of routine and encouragement to move on your own. It’s about expression and response to the music. “You don’t have to follow the teacher exactly. We encourage that.”
To further the experience, “We also encourage people take make some noise. It’s more release. Like when punching out, make a HAA! sound. This was hard at first for me. We aren’t used to this type of outward release.
She explained, with being able to modify, it works with the limits of any injuries. “Because it’s non-impact aerobics, you’re still moving, you’re getting your heart rate up, working your muscles and joints, but its not hard on your body because you are in charge of your own moves.”
Debbie looks forward to returning to her classes as soon as the pandemic restrictions lift to allow.
“The first class is free so anyone can try it to see if it is for them without any obligation.”
You can contact Debbie Baer-Gilbert on Facebook. Women and men are welcome.
Photos provided by Debbie Baer-Gilbert