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Do the cobra dance

Imitate animals with dance yoga, learn Sufi whirls or teach your child soft skills - all at a new suburban holistic creative art and healing centre

Colour-blocked walls and kitschy masks crafted from plastic cans greet us as we step into the 3,000 sq ft C.L.A.P (Creative Learning Arts and Performance) in Malad. Launched last week by Mumbai-based theatre director and expressive art therapist Mishti Varma and entrepreneur Faisal Poonawala, the activity centre for children, women and parents provides therapy and self-expression through various forms of art, be it yoga, dance, theatre, storytelling, painting or even board games.

Yoga expert Shrutika Rao (right) observes the reporter's (second from right) cobra-imitation-moves during a dance yoga session. Pics/Datta Kumbhar
Yoga expert Shrutika Rao (right) observes the reporter's (second from right) cobra-imitation-moves during a dance yoga session. Pics/Datta Kumbhar 

"We are conditioned to articulate using the left side of our brain, and so, we end up suppressing our emotions. Creative art therapy helps develop self-awareness, and you feel happier," says Varma, who also conducts soft skill classes for children as young as five.

"Being a corporate trainer, I'm aware about the huge demand for interpersonal skills. So, it needs to be inculcated at an early age. For instance, we teach kids how to offer a confident handshake with reference to a caterpillar," she explains with a demo, clasping our hand and imitating an undulating wave of the caterpillar. It works. Along with daily classes by instructors trained under Varma, the space will also hold monthly workshops on Sufi Whirling (Zia Nath), mime, poetry jams, and Spanish classes.

The imitation game
Another unique offering here is dance yoga, conducted by a certified yoga expert, Shrutika Rao. We signed up for it. At the class, we take position facing a mirrored wall in a brightly lit room. "You'll learn how to channel your inner power by imitating certain animals," says Rao, and we chuckle as a long-forgotten memory of trying to mimic an elephant, surfaces.

Co-founder Mishti Varma in a self-expressive Sufi whirl at C.L.A.P
Co-founder Mishti Varma in a self-expressive Sufi whirl at C.L.A.P 

This version is different, and more enriching. We had to close our eyes, tune in to soft music playing on Rao's smartphone, and sway to the beats. It's effortless. "The idea is to get comfortable with your body, find your rhythm and become less conscious about your environment," explains the petite instructor.

We begin with a cobra imitation. "It helps you connect with the power in your spine and upper body," shares Rao. With our hands clutched tightly behind our back, we take a diagonal step with our left foot, turning our hips and shoulder in the same direction and follow it with the right one. Inhibited initially, soon, we are able to enjoy the graceful, flirtatious slithering moves.

Post that, we lie flat on the ground to get into Bhujangasana (Cobra pose) and finish off with a cobra coil. Next, we try an eagle imitation, swaying our hands in swoosh-like moves as we try to balance on one foot with a single-point focus — like a predatory bird. As we step out of the rejuvenating and fun 40-minute session, we wonder, how we managed it with two left feet?

Time 7 am to 9 pm (Mon-Sat)
At Unit No 201, A Wing, Solitaire II, opposite Infiniti mall, Malad (W).
Call 9768524845
Log on to www.clap.center 
Cost Rs 2,500 wards (10-12 sessions)

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