denver business portrait photographer Lynn Clark

Tracy Revell looks like your average exercise class teacher and personal trainer. Dressed in red yoga pants and tank top, she leads a group of women through a choreographed routine at The Center Studio 855 in Denver’s Santa Fe Arts District on a Saturday morning. Music pulses through the room, and her voice soars above it.

“Feel spirit move your body,” she calls. “Sound. Heart. Soul! Remember your intention! Dance with your intention!”

This is a Nia class, and Tracy is a Nia black belt. Think of Nia as a combination of modern dance, tae kwon do, yoga, Tai Chi, Feldenkreis and more. “Nia has the workout of kickboxing, the fun of Zumba, the strength of Pilates-based work and the flexibility of yoga,” Tracy writes on her website, BodyMindAlignedFitness.com.

Nia is vigorous exercise. But unlike pretty much any other class I’ve tried,  Nia is also a moving meditation. It opens up your heart and soul.

Learning to move from the inside out

I first met Tracy in 2008 when I stumbled into a Nia class at an athletic club. As a former ballet dancer and once-performing salsa dancer–and more so– as a seeker and belly button gazer, Nia felt right in my body as soon as I stepped into the darkened room.

Over the next couple of years, I watched Nia help reshape my body. I also watched it reshape my perception of my body. I began to love it as the vehicle that transports the I Am in me instead of something to be punished and loathed. I began to connect with my body for the first time.

When I tell Tracy this, she’s not surprised.

She says she teaches people to pay attention to their movements, to  align and heal their bodies, and to work in and honor their bodies.

“Most people, and especially women, have gotten into this place where we think our bodies work against us,” she tells me. “That’s not true. Everything I do as a teacher and trainer encompasses the foundations of Nia. My clients learn to move from the inside out, and that includes moving their spirits.”

Always seeking

Tracy grew up in Austin, Texas. In college, she moved to San Francisco for a recreation therapy internship. One afternoon she visited a hippie fair where she did some energy work with Gary Douglas, founder of Access Consciousness.

“I’ve been seeking since I was 19 years old,” she says. “But after that, I swear to god I went home and my life changed.”

Soon thereafter, she went to a Nia class with a friend. Nursing a back injury, she was looking for alternative treatments to heal it.

“Fitness people thought Nia was crazy,” she says. “But at the end of class—(the routine) was Miracle—I was crying and knew I had to teach this. Nia married my physical training and fitness world with the metaphysical ecstatic craziness I was doing. My soul did not give me much choice. She chose this for me.”

She attended a workshop with Nia founders Debbie Rosas and Carlos AyaRosas. In short time, she had earned her Nia white belt.

It’s all about intention

At the beginning of the Saturday morning class, Tracy asks her students to pick a card. On each one: an intention—dream, laugh, trust. I watch their expressions as they read their cards. I see surprise, confusion, mirth.

Throughout the class, Tracy reminds the students to dance with that intention in their souls. They sway, spin, kick, punch and yell YES! I get goose bumps watching. The energy in the room  is a swirl of joy.

Tracy teaches with an infectious intensity. She laughs. She grunts. She closes her eyes and dances inside her own body, swirling counter-clockwise through the students.

At the end of the class, we sit in a circle and Tracy opens a book to read a passage that explains each intention card. The looks of confusion are replaces with the smiles and laughter of recognition. Most of the students say they know exactly what the message means in their life now.

“In your soul there is a voice, and in your voice there is a soul,” Tracy says.

Stepping out

Since she got her first-level Nia belt—the white belt—in 1996, Tracy’s dream was to become a Nia trainer. Then, something shifted. She was teaching her favorite Nia routine, Diva, and she felt something shift in her heart. By the next day she knew what that shift was: She would no longer pursue her certification.

“I knew that this decision would change everything,” she says. She closed her eyes and leapt. And in the past several months, she says that everything that felt locked up in her body and life started flowing. Amazing opportunities came to her—new studio space, the opportunity to work with a coach she’s admired for years, new connections with people

“I thought that being a (Nia) trainer was the best I could be,” she says. “But I’ve realized that success for me is being able to just flow, do what I want to do and not worry. Bill (her life coach) tells me that a queen owns herself and her kingdom. A queen has no limitations. That’s my direction now.

“I want to help people be happier in their bodies and their lives. I want them to find a little more acceptance, a sense of pride, courage and accomplishment—like ‘I can do this,’ whatever ‘this’ is. Nia is how I do that—it’s why I infuse it into everything I do. It’s my constant. It saved my life, changed my life, gave me my life.”

Tracy Revell owns Body Mind Aligned Fitness. She has been helping people change their bodies and minds for more than 24 years. She is an ACSM-certified personal trainer and Nia black belt. Visit Tracy at bodymindalignedfitness.com, and like her Facebook page .