WESTBROOK – Nia, a fitness class that combines dance, martial arts and healing techniques, has come to Westbrook, thanks in part to instructor Erin Curren.

Curren offers seven Nia classes six days a week, including five classes at the Fred C. Westcott Community Center on Tuesday through Saturday.

The low-impact classes use a series of movements to awaken all the muscles in the body. The practice focuses on opening through exercise forms like jazz and modern dance, t’ai chi, tae kwon do and healing arts, like yoga and the Alexander Technique, a process to release tension.

Curren began practicing Nia in 2008, after she became interested in non-verbal communication and body movement in general.

“It has an immediate and lasting impact,” Curren said. “Nia is intended as an experience focusing on the yin, the strong, vertical, masculine aspect, and the yang, the horizontal and feminine movements.”

While the class is designed to loosen the body through movement, not to be a high-impact workout, about half-way through the one-hour class of sidekicks, karate chops and free-flowing dance moves like the wave, participants are easily breaking a sweat.

Curren’s class encourages attendees to fill the space around them and to be goofy, emphasizing breathing techniques and noises to get into the spirit of the class.

“The Nia community is very wonderful. We’re very accepting and very nonjudgmental. It’s a wonderful way to awaken the body and add some spice to life,” said Suellen Chaplain-Beckett of Gray, who started practicing Nia nearly 20 years ago in Portland, Oregon, where she was instructed by the founders of Nia, Debbie Rosas Stewart and Carlos Rosas.

“In some dance classes you have to do exactly what the teacher says, but Erin is a great facilitator. You don’t need to do exactly what she says, it’s free form expressive art,” she said.

Marcia Russo of Portland said she would recommend the class to anyone looking for a new movement class, even those who are older.

“It brings movement into every joint, every part of the body. It relieves tension and pain for me,” Russo said.

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