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Natural Awakenings Northwest Florida

Nia: The Joy of Movement

Sep 05, 2018 05:26PM ● By Sam Smith

Yoga instructor Kat Mansfield says she’s found the key to living a healthy life: It’s a worldwide wellness practice called Nia, which embodies form and freedom through 52 basic moves that blend dance, martial arts and the healing arts. 

“Moving with a sense of joy is the secret to a healthy body and finding movement practices that are sustainable for a lifetime,” says Mansfield, who now holds a black belt in Nia. 

Kat Mansfield

She discovered the practice while overseas with her military husband in 2008, after having devoted a lifetime to dance, theater and martial arts. “Nia seemed like the perfect culmination of all of my life endeavors,” she says. 

She’d never experienced such an expressive fitness class, one that allowed her to move mindfully while simultaneously being seduced by the music. “I was ecstatic to have found Nia,” she says. “I felt better physically, mentally and emotionally. I felt stronger and more flexible, and I was in less pain. I was also more creative and happier.” 

Developed in 1983 by Debbie and Carlos Rosas, Nia invites people of all ages, shapes and sizes to move together barefoot, with the philosophy “Through movement we find health.” 

Nia’s practitioners are diverse, and their reasons are personal, Mansfield says. Her students tell her that it brings them various benefits: joy, expression, healing, challenge, power, pleasure, inspiration, fitness. 

“People come back for the sense of community and how it makes them feel happy, healthy and whole,” she says.

Moving Together

Mansfield moved to Pensacola in 2017, after her husband was transferred here. Not long afterward, she connected with Katy McKenzie, who opened Communio Health and Fitness at 904 East Scott Street last January. 

McKenzie, like Mansfield, was attracted to the concept of dance as a healing art.

McKenzie says her decision to open Communio came at the end of a personal journey. After battling some emotional and physical issues, she took control of her health by becoming a certified yoga instructor specializing in yoga nidra, a form of deep meditation. During her recovery, she thought of all the people in her life who had kept her afloat during her life’s challenges. She envisioned giving back to the community by opening a dance studio where she could help people reach their highest potential.  

Communio offers a variety of classes, including dance trance, Argentine tango, West Coast swing, gentle and beginners yoga—and, of course, Nia. 

Mansfield teaches three or four classes a week at Communio and helps facilitate other workshops there too. She says she loves teaching Nia and reaps its benefits every day, especially body awareness. 

“It allows me to slow down and be present and open to the full experience of life and joy,” she says. “In Nia, we call this ‘dancing through life’—where every moment can be sensed as a dance.”

For more information about Nia and Communio, including a full schedule of classes, visit

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