Born to be fit

  • Satarupa Paul, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Nov 22, 2014 15:54 IST

There are two kinds of people in this world: one who live to be fit, and the other who try to be fit to live. While the former welcome the drudgery of gymming, the latter dread it, just as they dread any form of physical exercise – walking, jogging, aerobics, swimming, yoga, even Zumba – which becomes routine after a point.

I’m one of the second kind of people. And so it was with much scepticism that I dragged myself to the Banjara School of Dance in Delhi’s hip Hauz Khas Village the other night. I was slated to attend a session of the latest fitness regime in town – something on the lines of dance fitness, but with a twist apparently – and the only thing that attracted me, besides fun-looking photos on their Facebook page, was their slogan.

“Fitness is a Dance Party”
Crush Fitness India came into being in June this year when 27-year-old Uday Raj Anand, an Oxford-returned developmental economist, attended a dance fitness class by 26-year-old Bharat Sadana, a dancer and fitness enthusiast from Amritsar.

“I never used to exercise before, I hated any form of workout,” says Anand. “But when I started doing this, I was immediately hooked. I felt Bharat should take it to more people.” He hopped on board with Sadana and two other co-founders (Neha Sadana and Rajat Bedi) and the new regime, the Crush Club Cardio, was born.

Dance Delhi dance: People of all ages, at all stages of fitness and dancing abilities at a Crush Club Cardio session.

How is this any different from other dance fitness classes? "The usual such class is based on only one particular dance style, Zumba for instance, with a particular set of rhythms and moves. It is mostly based on the concept of a routine," explains Sadana.

"We mix six different styles of music and dance forms – salsa, Bollywood (umbrella term for Hindi pop, bhangra, Marathi and even peppy, flamboyant South Indian music), jazz, hip hop, merengue and bachata – into one hour of an intense workout. Plus, it’s all freestyle, so there’s no pressure to get the steps right." Sadana says he never prepares for any of the classes: "I just listen to the music, follow the sounds, feel the rhythms and the steps automatically flow."

Anand elaborates on the science behind the regime. "Basically, your body is designed to do its work using the least amount of energy possible, just like an efficient car engine. When you do the same exercises every day, your body learns to do them efficiently. So effective cardio exercises, particularly for weight loss, are those that keep your body in a state of surprise."

The multiple dance forms in Crush Club Cardio engage different parts of your body and keep it in a state of constant surprise, thus maximising your body’s response to the workout. Even lazy folks can’t say no to a good dance!

When fitness is a game
If you have two left feet, or live in Mumbai, there’s a chance you might still get fit, toned and all hot-bod, without ever hitting the gym. A new fitness regime has hit the shores of this busy city as well. And it is martial arts plus dance plus music all rolled into a game.

Capoeira is an Afro-Brazilian martial art, which was developed by African slaves working in sugarcane farms in Brazil sometime in the 16th century.

Mumbai martial: The last 15 minutes of Capoeira are dedicated to playing a game inside a ‘Roda’.

“At that time, if the slaves were caught practising any form of combat or martial arts, they were punished and beaten. Hence, they disguised the movements into a form of dance, accompanied by music, claps and games,” says instructor Sunil Singh, 22, the first to commercially start Capoeira classes in Mumbai.

He was introduced to it when a few Israeli Capoeira enthusiasts conducted a workshop in the orphanage where Singh grew up. He went on to learn it over two years from expats and Indians who have been practicing it.

Capoeira not only teaches you martial art techniques but is also a way to overall fitness. “I have dancers coming in who have great flexibility but little strength, I have footballers who have strength but want to increase their flexibility. Then there are office-goers who just want 90 minutes of a great workout mixed with fun,” says Singh.

The classes begin with basic workouts that engage your core, arms and legs; you’re then taught Capoeira techniques like cartwheels, handstands, backflips and kicks. The last 15 minutes are dedicated to a game where two players enter a circle which is called a Roda (pronounced Hoda in Portuguese) and execute these techniques against each other. Students are also encouraged to learn Capoeira songs, which were composed by the African slaves as messages of the hard times they faced, to be passed on to future generations.

Mumbai-based journalist Pavni Mittal has been attending Singh’s classes since August.“I used to gym, do yoga, aerobics, but nothing really bore any result. This is the first time I have tried any kind of martial art. I may not have lost weight yet but my body is so toned now.”

She believes that Capoeira is more than just a way to fitness. It’s a philosophy, a movement.

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From HT Brunch, November 23
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