Nia is a sensory-based movement practice designed to help participants listen to their bodies and explore their potential to live a healthier life. Nia is based on exercise science and utilizes dance, martial arts, and healing arts. It can be modified for individual needs at any age.

This is where Caroline Kohles, Senior Program Director, Health + Wellness, at JCC Manhattan, comes in. Together with Engage, she developed a pilot program called Nia Wise Moves. The program utilizes the 52 moves of Nia, specifically adapting them for seniors with limited mobility. Caroline is bringing Nia Wise Moves to nursing homes and senior centers across the city. A cofounder of Nia New York™ and a First Generation Nia trainer, Caroline has recently developed an extensive instructor-training curriculum that includes ongoing education, communication, practice, and mentorship for those who want to learn how to teach Nia to the senior population.

Nia helps seniors engage their senses by learning to breathe deeper, to open and close their joints, and express emotion. This increases circulation, flexibility, balance, and strength. The goal is to stimulate and create new neural pathways in the brain. Also, it’s just a lot of fun!

Most important is the dignity and respect that the Nia Wise Moves program shows to seniors by encouraging and empowering them to learn about their bodies while trying these new, simple, easy-to-follow movements.

This is where Engage volunteers can help. Volunteers are needed to assist in bringing those in wheelchairs from their rooms to the Nia class, helping them during class by being there to support them as they move a little out of their comfort zonesphysically, emotionally, and socially. Volunteers may also be inspired to move out of their own comfort zones and engage deeper by completing the Nia Wise Moves course in order to teach Nia to seniors.

Mary Pat Ryan took the Nia Wise Moves course. She learned Nia for herself and her loved ones, and wants to help others condition their bodies and move in a more mindful way. So far, she has observed a class at the Jewish Home, where she felt the power of community, music, and movement. She has gained new confidence from the training and is looking forward to being mentored to coteach Nia to seniors.

For more information about Nia Wise Moves, please contact Caroline Kohles at
For more information about Engage Jewish Service Corps, please contact Rabbi Brian Fink at