Bollywood Workouts

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Many of us will admit (or at least will be nodding their heads while reading this) that we get quite a good cardiovascular workout while watching our favorite Bollywood star dancing in the rain or in an item number. But unfortunately this does not burn calories or tone the body so that we look like Hrithik Roshan or Bipasha Basu. To get fit we have to get up from the couch and actually exercise. There are many different ways to work out: you could go old school and walk, run, or take an aerobics class. And with the resurgence of yoga, there are many different styles to choose from if that is the path you want. There are also other techniques such as Pilates and the Ballet workouts offered at many gyms and dance studios.

For something different, there is a new way to exercise that is inspired by Bollywood movies. Bollywood workouts utilize the style and energy of Bollywood dance sequences, using steps sometimes directly from the movies. Add in the Hindi film music and this is perfect for getting a great cardiovascular workout. Though you may be sore the next day, fun, not intensity, is at the core of these workouts. This style is becoming popular and is being offered all around the world in gyms, dance studios and on DVD.

Ellen Barett in “Spice it up”, an article for Fitness magazine in 2005, wrote that “The Bollywood-style workout was first sighted in the United States in New York City, where Sarina Jain–the “Indian Jane Fonda”–brought her own ethnic roots into her classes at Crunch gym. “The traditional Indian folk dance is already total body with lots of good energy, so transferring masala bhangra into a gym workout was a natural progression. The elements of a great workout were already present,” Jain says. The name of the class, “Masala Bhangra,” is derived from two Hindi words: masala, which means spicy, and bhangra, an ancient Indian folk dance. Jain, who has made a series of Bollywood fitness videos, claims participants can burn up to 500 calories in one class. She has watched the popularity of her class skyrocket the past four years. “People seem to love the music and the unique moves. The moves are different from the generic cardio moves we’ve done for so long. It’s an appreciated change up,” she says.

Also in that article, Ms. Barret writes, “One Crunch gym in New York has put a new twist on the Bollywood bandwagon. As part of their Broadway Dance Series, the gym has introduced the very cool ‘Bombay Dreams.’ This class brings the sound, energy and cast members of the hit Broadway play of the same name together for a dynamic workout experience. The stars of the theatrical production instruct the choreography. According to Elizabeth Williams, Bombay Dreams producer, ‘the cast jumped at the notion of teaching the class. It’s a great way for people to experience authentic Indian dance.'”

The phenomenal rising popularity of Bollywood movies has made these types of classes more desirable and enthusiastically attended. In an article in the Los Angeles Times, “Swayed by Bollywood Rhythms”, Kavita Daswan wrote about several studios and gyms in California who offer Bollywood workouts. In the article several of the instructors all said that the students love the classes, and that they hit every aspect of a good workout. The class starts with a stretching/warm up section, and then proceeds to a toning section, a cardio section, and finally a cool down section. Naachercise co-founder Aditya Patel says, “The cardio section uses Bollywood routines. It’s fitness-based rather than dance-based, using lyrical movements but keeping fitness to a certain level.”

Achinta McDaniel originally offered her class Bollywood Bhangra Beats as dance class. But after the gyms she taught at saw what a workout it was they wanted her to structure it as an exercise class. After watching the Bollywood Bhangra Beats class Kavita Saswan wrote, “The moves were fluid, artful and sexy, with steps also culled from hip-hop and jazz routines. Hips swayed, toes tapped and necks strutted in and out, peacock-style. Class members managed to smile through even the sweatiest high-impact segment — hopping repeatedly on one leg while twirling the opposite arm high above the head. ‘It’s not as hard as I thought it was going to be, but it was more fun than I expected,’ said Lisa Browne of Los Angeles, who had come in for an earlier ballet class, and stayed on for Bollywood Bhangra Beats.”

For those who want to let their inner diva out without everyone seeing there are several Bollywood workout DVDs available to use at home. In “Exercise the Bollywood Way”, Sandra Kallio of the Wisconsin State Journal reviewed one DVD: “First, close the blinds … unless you’re prepared for the neighbors to see your shimmying midsection, bouncing butt and the sass in your hips as you groove to the bhangra beat in “The Bollywood Dance Workout with Hemalayaa.” ‘The dance steps are sassy, big, bold, outrageous, out of the ordinary and enormously fun,’ says Hemalayaa Behl, a Los Angeles-based yoga and dance instructor, as she introduces her 45-minute workout. ‘It’s impossible not to laugh.’

Kallio went on to explain that she and a coworker tried the workout and that “This is a complete workout, so there’s no avoiding ab work, although we need more than six minutes of “Ground Play” before we’d dress like Hemalayaa (she goes by her first name only) and her two belly-baring dancers.” The DVD includes sections for warming up, cardiovascular work, some toning sections that work the legs as well the buttock muscles and core strength, all to the bhangra beat, and then a cool down. It also includes a performance section. She said that “Our moves looked more Midwestern than Hindi or Hollywood, but we highly recommend trying this or another bhangra workout DVD .We recommend trying one with a friend just for the laughs, to mix up your workouts and to prepare for work as an extra filming a Bollywood wedding scene.”

So now besides getting your heart going watching the movies and dancing to the music (you know you do that too!) you now can get in shape and have another way to enjoy the magic of Bollywood!

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