Health: Twirl your way to fitness with Indian folk dance

Updated: Oct 14, 2015, 11:38 IST | Dhara Vora |

Traditional Indian folk dance forms, Garba and Bhangra are not just exhilarating to perform, they also make for a fun-filled workout. Say haalo! to fitness

Garba and Dandiya: Swirl, sweat and soar
If you thought Garba was all song and dance, think again. The measured steps, energetic twirls and claps can benefit your body a lot more than imagined. "With Garba, you are sweating and doing cardio all the time," says Karaan Jodhani, founder, Folk Innovations, a community that promotes folk dances of India.


How does it help?
The inherent design of Garba demands that you use your whole body, making it an ideal workout. "The dance steps are inspired by nature. You do the taali (clap) over your head, sit down, stand up, take a twirl and this is choreographed to the pace of beats. This is just one of many steps. For instance,  Leheriyu imitates the waves; it can be calm, fast or stormy. It is a version of squats, it helps you tone your biceps and triceps because of the claps, while your leg muscles get a workout because of the sit-ups. Dhudhiyu is inspired by the moon — you jump a lot in circular movements in this step. The number of jumps is a measure of your stamina," he adds.

Dandiya and Garba workshop
Participants of a Dandiya and Garba workshop by Karaan Jodhani in Vile Parle

The music and rhythmic movement relax your mind, release happy hormones like serotonin. If it is a fast paced, non-stop session, one can burn 600 to 700 calories in an hour. In a low-beat option, expect to burn 450 and 500 calories.

Also read: Twerk your way to a fit body

Karaan Jodhani
Karaan Jodhani

Masala Bhangra: Balle-balle away
The Masala Bhangra fitness routine is a 15-year-old form of workout designed by Sarina Jain. It mixes Bollywood dancing (Masala) with Bhangra and aims to bring out both, the feminine and masculine side of your personality. Like Zumba, Masala Bhangra has songs specially created for it and beats to match the 32 count style of choreography.

How does it help you?
"The workout starts with a five to seven minute warm up. This is followed by a cool down session and then 35 minutes of choreography, patterned on the 32 count format," says Riddhi Gupta, Masala Bhangra ambassador. You exercise everything, from your eyeballs to your fingers. "The Jugni step involves joining your thumb and index finger, and throughout, you have to bob your head; this takes care of your neck, shoulders and face," shares Gupta.

Riddhi Gupta demonstrates a Masala Bhangra move at House of Wow in Bandra
Riddhi Gupta demonstrates a Masala Bhangra move at House of Wow in Bandra

Also read: Take the aerial route to fitness

There are over 150 different Masala Bhangra steps that channel your energy to different sections of your body. The choreography is broken down to create a complete workout. The most important part, is that you don’t take a sit-down break. "Though this is a cardio-heavy workout, it can be practised by everyone. The steps are customisable. So if a step needs you to use your legs and hands, if you have a knee problem, you just walk while continuing the hand movements," says Gupta. Masala Bhangra is good for your calves and you are sure to burn as many as 500 to 700 calories in an hour-long session.

Chhau and Kalaripayattu: High on fitness
The Chhau form of dance, which is popular in the Odisha and West Bengal is a martial form. Kalaripayattu, the martial arts form from Kerala, helps you increase your flexibility, stamina and mental strength.

Choreographer Sabi Nayak
Choreographer Sabi Nayak

How does it help?
Choreographer Sabi Nayak tells us that several dancers and actors train in Kalaripayattu and the Mayurbhanj style of Chhau to increase their flexibility and core strength. "Many Indian metros have understood the benefits of Kalaripayattu, and there has been a rise in the classes that offer the training.

Shields and swords are integral to the Kalaripayattu routine
Shields and swords are integral to the Kalaripayattu routine

Also read: Make a splash with Aqua aerobics class

It helps sharpen your mind, improve breathing and heals and strengthens your muscles if you lead a sedentary lifestyle," says Nayak. Both forms involve various types of splits, somersaults, squats, and elevation exercises that help strengthen your thighs, back and response skills. "Dance forms such as Ballet and Hip-Hop involve splits, stretches and somersaults. You can gain the benefit of all of these through Kalaripayattu and Chhau too. In addition, it teaches you discipline," he says.

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