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The shape-shifters

education Updated: Sep 22, 2011 11:22 IST
Pankti Mehta
Pankti Mehta
Hindustan Times
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Gaurav Pawar, student of Bhavan’s college Andheri, never ended up going to the gym. “Working out in the gym is synthetic, monotonous and individual,” he complains. Then he discovered capoeira, unlike anything he had ever seen before. “I watched the performers flip on their heads, their hands, all the while looking like they were thrilled to be there,” he recalls. “That’s when I approached them and asked them to teach me.”

Pawar is one of many college students that have taken to newly introduced fitness techniques in Mumbai that have travelled from different parts of the world. Disguised as self-defence techniques, dance forms and sports, these systems present exciting group cardio workouts that have various health benefits.

“These alternative fitness techniques are picking up among college students for two major reasons,” says Shweta Iyengar, nutritionist and healthcare expert. “One is that a gym workout is mindless and monotonous and young people tend to get bored with the lack of variety. Alternative forms offer many variants and levels, which makes the workout more exciting. Secondly, the body stops responding to a type of exercise once it gets used to it, which happens with several gym-goers. For a college student, the alternative forms are highly evolved, and teach them much more than fitness. They work to strengthen the mind, endurance capacity, stamina and concentration as well, while helping to battle depression and frustration.”

Krav Maga
Originally a self-defense and combat system created by the Jews to combat the Nazis, Krav Maga developed in Israel. Hebrew for ‘contact combat’, the martial art is less rigid than karate in terms of the form. “Krav Maga builds on your reflexes, not on a set of rules,” says Sadashiv Mogaveera, Krav Maga instructor. “It’s recently evolved from a combat system to a modern fitness regime, with an emphasis on the cardiovascular system.”

Krav Maga uses hand-to-hand contact with kicking-punching combinations, and teaches you basic disarming techniques. “In our classes, we take on modern day issues and teach students how to disarm knives, sticks as well as guns,” says Padmaj. “In this day, you never know when you may have to encounter a terrorist.”

Gain: Weight-loss, sharpened reflexes, cardio workout, self-defense. Especially recommended for people with obesity, blood sugar and blood pressure problems.
Contact: Sensei Sadashiv – 9892121542

Capoeira
Capoeira, a Brazilian martial art-means-dance self-defence technique, has recently caught on in Mumbai. “Unlike other self-defence forms, it does not involve harsh punishment or being beaten in face,” says Reza Massah, capoeira instructor. “It’s as much about the fighting as the music – you have to learn a traditional instrument as well.”

The instruments create tribal sounds, and include the berimbau, a Brazilian single-string percussion bow, a congo-like drum and a tambourine. While two people perform capoeira, the rest of the group plays ethnic, ritualistic music and claps with the rhythm. Capoeira is gymnastic in its movements, with intricate twists and bends, flipping from head to hands to feet in fluid, acrobatic movements.

Gain: Stamina, concentration power, rigid discipline, and self-defense techniques, meet new people since it’s a group sport.
Contact: Reza Massah – 9869055371

Belly dance
You’ve seen them shimmying on television, maybe even tried a few moves yourself. But this Middle Eastern dance form has more health benefits than you realise. Belly dancing works on your core abdomen muscles. “It exercises even the tiniest muscles, those that hip hop, jazz or the gym don’t touch,” explains Ritambhara Sahni, director, The Belly Dancing Institute of Mumbai. “It’s the safest form of dance to start with, since it’s very low-impact and doesn’t require much exercise.”

Belly dancing, if done intensively, can burn up to 700 calories per hour. While traditionally this is only performed by women, another form of belly dance can also be taken up by men, to suit the male body. This form of dance doesn’t tire you as much as others.

Gain: Weight loss, coordination, improves circulation and muscle tightness, posture and poise, includes meditation.
Contact: Ritambhara Sahni – 9819477748

Aqua aerobics
Water is more resistant than air, which means you can work out 30 times more with the cushioning of liquid around you. A therapeutic form of the intense land aerobics, aqua aerobics also lets you burn 700 calories an hour, using different forms of stretches and cardio-games in a swimming pool.

“In the holidays, my classes are packed with teenagers,” says Deepali Jain, aqua specialist. “We do regular aerobics as well as tai-chi and pilates in the water, using both the shallow and the deep ends.”

This form of exercise is especially recommended for people with back, knee or poly-cystic ovary related problems.

Gain: Weight-loss, circulation control, hormone regulation, physical stamina.
Contact: Deepali Jain – 9820094323