Fall 2010: Then she found Nia


 To see Anne Wolf lunging and leaping across the wooden floor at ACAC’s Downtown Nia studio, flashing her warm, Rosanna Arquette-like smile and leading other dancers in a carefree, easygoing style, you’d hardly believe this top UVA health researcher once called herself “Type A.” 

Nia instructor Anne Wolf, 48, puts on the moves at the Downtown ACAC. For more information, visit www.niacharlottesville.com

Thirteen years ago, she had an insight. The mother of two was still in the early stages of her career and on a very strict track—but not one towards fulfillment.

“I had all these labels: I had to do, I had to do…There was no room for creativity,” she says. That’s when she found Nia, a fusion exercise com-prising nine different move-ment forms in the healing, dance and martial arts. It offered her the artistic outlet she was missing and a chance to reconnect with her body. At the recommendation of a friend, she attended a class. “I remember the moment,” she says. “It was like…breath. And I said, I have to do this. There was no choice.” 

These days, the Nia instruc-tor leads her own class three times a week and maintains that it isn’t simply an exercise (though it is a great cardiovascular workout). It’s a complete shift in the way she sees the world, not to mention the way she sees her own work in obesity research. 

Lately Wolf has been partnering with ACAC, Southern Health and Albemarle County, using her 20 years in obesity research to develop a medically supervised weight loss program for Albemarle employees. The results, she says, are far greater than any study she’s ever worked on, due in part, she believes, to her practice of Nia. “Nia has taught me about connecting with people and using their energy and listening,” she says. “I feel like what I’m doing now is really about health… People get to feel better after working with me. They feel back home in their bodies.”

“So much in our society, we disconnect from our bodies and we don’t want to feel them. And, so, what [Nia] does, it gives us an hour a day to connect to the sensations of the body, to have a relationship to the body.

“We used to be far more active and eat far less food and far less processed foods. If we were to follow the ‘way’ of what’s shown to us, without questioning it, we would gain weight. All of us will.

“I was in Boston and I could see. You could visually see [obesity] happening but no one was paying attention or doing anything about it. It became my passion to wake people up.”