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Garba, bhangra or tippani can help you lose weight. This expert will tell you how

Move over, aerobics and Zumba. A uniquely Indian fitness program is here to teach you regional folk dances while making sure you’re in shape.

fitness Updated: Dec 26, 2017 11:40 IST
Manali Shah
Manali Shah
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
Aarti Pandey,Folk Fitness,Indian folk dance
Aarti Pandey (centre) holding a Folk Fitness session.

Many of us drag our feet when it comes to the gym, but are more than happy to burn the dance floor on nights out. What if we could dance our way to fitness? Pune-based Aarti Pandey is out to make sure we do exactly that.

Pandey is the co-founder of Folk Fitness, a fitness program that blends regional dance forms with an intense workout. And not just popular ones like garba or bhangra, Pandey makes sure traditional dances like tipanni (from Gujarat), and dulpodam and dekhni (from Goa) are also incorporated.

She had been a dance enthusiast throughout her childhood and teenage years, but realised the power of dance only when she went through a difficult pregnancy. Dancing helped her bounce back from depression. Folk Fitness was born out of a desire to create a fitness routine that was authentic to India, unlike Pilates or Zumba. Launched in August 2015, they now have nearly 700 certified trainers taking Folk Fitness sessions in 18 cities across India.

We talk to Pandey about the concept:

Apart from popular dance forms like bhangra, garba and lavani, tell us a little about the lesser known dance forms that Folk Fitness incorporates.

Every folk dance has a story to tell. The steps are majorly influenced by their geographical areas. Each folk style has a functional workout but some styles have more impact on certain muscle groups. We have a dedicated research and development team which works on creating new workout routines for every month with 10-11 new folk dances. Some of the folk styles are incorporated into our routine are:

Ghoomar is a traditional folk dance from Rajasthan and it is mainly performed by veiled women who wear ghagharas. The movements involve an upper body workout focusing on the oblique, triceps, biceps, wrist, and back.

• Performed during the period between Diwali to Purnima, the baredi dance belongs to Madhya Pradesh and it is quite an intriguing folk form. The group consists of 5-10 male dancers and is choreographed by a head male performer. The functional movements in baredi extensively impact biceps, arms, calves and shoulders thus helping in the strengthening of muscles in the upper body.

• In West Bengal, devotees perform dhunuchi dance during Durga Puja. Dhunuchi dance helps us to strengthen our fists, shoulders and biceps. The extensive movement of the arms is very good for the upper body workout.

Bhavai, from the core of Gujarat, is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘bhava’ which means emotion. Bhavai means expression of your emotions or feelings. It is based on the stories and episodes of communities and common life of people of North Gujarat. Bhavai helps you express your emotions and makes you stress free. It is very energetic and humorous, and works as a great stress buster.

Is the focus at Folk Fitness more on burning calories, or learning and remembering new choreography?

As Folk Fitness is a result-oriented routine, we follow a very scientific approach towards selecting folk forms. Burning calories is one of the benefits of Folk Fitness. The entire workout routine is created in a way that it is a holistic and works on mind, body and soul. We take care of your muscle strength, flexibility, agility, endurance and cardio as well. Our focus, primarily, is on making the one hour of your fitness time your ‘me-time’ of the day. We’ve noticed that people enjoy the music, and those who do the sessions on a regular basis eventually remember the choreography too.

What’s a typical Folk Fitness session like?

Every session starts with meditation to completely phase out of the worldly problems of the participants. Then, we do the warm up, which is critical to begin the whole body workout. The session is then dedicated for upper body, lower body and cardiovascular exercises. In Folk Fitness, we have deliberately kept cardio in the end because when we start any workout, the primary source of energy is carbohydrates of our body. Once we have worked out for 25-30 minutes the source of energy comes from the fat in our body and that is when maximum fat loss happens.

While one is busy learning and following particular moves from their instructors, each session is also intellectually engaging as you learn about different states of India. Every trainer is taught about the different folk dances, the story, and health benefits behind them -- which is then used as an engaging tool in their classes.

The session ends with a cooling down which mentally, physically and spiritually stimulates a person to face the entire day or be a stress busting session to end their day.

How did you go about researching the lesser known regional dance forms?

Ashwin Pandey, co-founder of Folk Fitness, has over 13 years of experience in folk dances. During this period, he has had the opportunity to travel to many villages and tribes, spend time with the locals and understand folk culture. He has written down the meanings behind folk songs and dances.

How many dance forms are you well versed with?

Growing up, I learnt Bharatanatyam and then learnt Latin dance styles. I specialised in salsa, bachata, and merengue. I have learnt ballroom dances including jive, cha-cha-chá and foxtrot. I have also specialised in rumba and samba.

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First Published: Dec 26, 2017 09:09 IST