Dance Your Way to Fit­ness

Citadel - - FITNESS -

FOLK FIT­NESS is the new age In­dian fit­ness regime that com­bines fit­ness with folk dance styles and folk mu­sic. AARTI PANDEY, one of the three founders, speaks on what makes Folk Fit­ness not just unique, but just the thing for fit­ness and In­dian folk forms and mu­sic.

Be­ing fit, th­ese days, is so bor­ing. Many are just not in­ter­ested in the usual rou­tine or are afraid of the trainer or feel very un­fit for the sug­gested work­out. What­ever the is­sue, fit­ness takes a beat­ing here. But there are in­di­vid­u­als who are mak­ing sure that you en­joy the process of be­ing fit in an In­dian way. In­tro­duc­ing Folk Fit­ness, a newage In­dian fit­ness regime merg­ing fit­ness with folk dance styles and In­dian folk mu­sic. Started by three pas­sion­ate Pune-based in­di­vid­u­als - Aarti Pandey, Ash­win Pandey and Manoj Upreti, their vi­sion is to make In­dia proud of its ex­ist­ing fit­ness for­mats. They are based in the city, though they are now go­ing na­tional. We catch up with Aarti, one of the co-founders, on a busy Wed­nes­day at a cof­fee shop to get the de­tails…

Aarti calls Folk Fit­ness In­dia’s very first con­cept that orig­i­nated due to the fact that the fit­ness in­dus­try in In­dia is more West in­clined. “That’s how Folk Fit­ness was born. What is Folk Fit­ness? It’s an amal­ga­ma­tion of folk dances from dif­fer­ent states of In­dia and we have merged that with the sci­ence of fit­ness man­age­ment. It is a one-hour rou­tine that is holis­tic in the sense that we start with med­i­ta­tion. Then we do warm-up. Then there is an up­per body work­out, lower body work­out, car­dio work­out and then there are cool down and stretches. So you don’t have to ded­i­cate your one-day for up­per body and sec­ond day for lower body, be­cause you tend to miss cer­tain days. You do it three times a week. And you take care of your en­tire work­out.”

And the name in­trigues you. They had thought of Folk Fit, but Folk Fit­ness came nat­u­rally to them. “We wanted to keep it easy for the au­di­ence to get it.”

Apart from be­ing In­dia’s first desi fit­ness con­cept, there is a lot more of­fered at Folk Fit­ness. “We have au­then­tic folk mu­sic. We have in-house singers, mu­si­cians and com­posers who ac­tu­ally keep fit­ness and in­ten­sity in mind, and sing and put the rhythm in. Ev­ery work­out is chore­ographed keep­ing fit­ness in mind. It’s not dance. So you would know how many squats and lunges have to be placed. And the beauty is, ev­ery folk dance has a beau­ti­ful story around it and is all func­tional in move­ment. We have taken ev­ery func­tion of the peo­ple and th­ese tribes and we have merged it with the mod­ern sci­ence of fit­ness. That’s how it is unique.” An­other in­ter­est­ing fea­ture is that you burn al­most 1000-1200 calo­ries in one ses­sion. “Ev­ery ses­sion is vet­ted by the phys­io­ther­apy head of the de­part­ment to en­sure that it is in­jury proof. We are the only fit­ness group that is in the Limca Book of Records be­ing the first unique con­cept. And we are the only con­cept that has been ac­cred­ited with NASM and AFFA, which are the in­ter­na­tional fit­ness bod­ies. So we have taken care from the sci­ence bit. We have taken care from the In­dian bit. And we have taken care from the holis­tic fun bit. And we have Folk Fit­ness Nanhe for the kids. We have Folk Fit­ness Yuva for the adults. And we have Folk Fit­ness Pranam for the se­nior cit­i­zens.” Aarti feels Folk Fit­ness’s beauty lies in the fact that it is not al­ways Bhangra or Garbha. “There are 122 folk dances and 1,000 un­reg­is­tered dances. So our mo­tive is to make peo­ple fit, but to also make them know about our cul­tures. So ev­ery ses­sion has 10-12 dif­fer­ent folk styles. And ev­ery time you come for a class, you get ac­quainted with more dif­fer­ent folk styles. The mu­sic you will hear will ei­ther be from South, East or West. But you will be en­sured you are en­joy­ing all the pop­u­lar songs and also en­joy­ing the melo­di­ous mu­sic that you never come across. So that is how we try and en­joy get­ting your fit­ness, but you also get to lis­ten to th­ese jew­els of In­dia, which are some­how dy­ing or peo­ple are not get­ting to hear about it.”

Aarti gets down to the ba­sics and gives more de­tails on how a typ­i­cal work­out is at Folk Fit­ness. “The pat­tern of our class is up­per body for eight min­utes. Lower body is eight min­utes. Car­dio is eight min­utes. So in the up­per body, we take four dif­fer­ent folk styles, which stresses on your up­per body work­out. For ex­am­ple, a Koli dance would im­pact your up­per body mus­cles. A Bihu from As­sam would take care of your core. A Garbha would take care of your bi­ceps. Ev­ery folk im­pacts each mus­cle. But there are some that will im­pact more. A Bhangra will im­pact your lower body more than the up­per body.” For the one-hour ses­sion, reg­is­ter as an en­thu­si­ast first. You later in­crease the ses­sion to three times a week at any of the gyms, so­ci­eties or places you think it is fit. “What we do is we cer­tify peo­ple who want to make their ca­reer in fit­ness. It is a two-day cer­ti­fi­ca­tion course that any­one can take. Then we pro­vide them online mod­ules to prac­tise. We give them two days of phys­i­cal train­ing. Then we pro­vide online tu­to­ri­als. And then we pro­vide them op­por­tu­ni­ties through cor­po­rates, schools or gyms to start their ca­reers. So that is the en­tire eco-sys­tem that we cre­ate for any in­di­vid­ual who wants to start.”

“We are telling you to come and burn those calo­ries. But burn while you learn a dance form. So you won’t even re­alise that you have done 20-25 squats. In a gym, if a trainer tells you to do 20 squats, you are men­tally count­ing them. Here the mu­sic is played. You are do­ing those steps or work­out. You re­ally don’t think about the work­out. You are en­joy­ing; you are smil­ing. You are with a group. And the beauty is ev­ery­one knows his or her own ca­pac­i­ties. If you can only bend till 45 de­grees, you just bend till 45 de­gree. After a cou­ple of ses­sions, you re­alise you are bend­ing more and your flex­i­bil­ity is in­creas­ing. Your stamina is in­creas­ing. So this mod­ule is as per your own body strength and own body stamina ver­sus pulling 20 kgs or 25 kgs be­cause your trainer is telling you so.” In this regime, you can find dance forms like Bhangra, Bihu, Garbha, Kal­be­lia, Dan­gal, Koli dance, Te­latali and Ghoomar amongst oth­ers.

Re­gard­ing uniquely pre­serv­ing our tra­di­tions, Aarti re­veals, “It is very un­for­tu­nate that this art is dy­ing. When I was in col­lege, folk dances were re­ally taken up as one of the ac­tiv­i­ties. And that is how folk has been so im­bibed in me and my part­ner Ash­win, be­cause we lived through those mo­ments. Th­ese days if you go to an an­nual func­tion in school or col­lege, you don’t hear folk dances. The next gen­er­a­tion is re­ally not into it. But what we re­alised is that when we are play­ing th­ese songs, they love it. So it’s not that they don’t want it. It’s just that no­body has got them into this. Our hum­ble ef­fort is to make folk mu­sic reach out to them. Peo­ple thought folk mu­sic is slow and bor­ing. But it is not. If you ask the lit­tle kids, they are so ex­cited about the folk fit­ness ses­sions. And now they are singing th­ese songs. And they go back and tell their par­ents to play a Bihu or Te­latali. And that’s our mis­sion. We just want ev­ery­one to know about our cul­ture and know about folk dances and just get fit.”

Folk Fit­ness be­gan with Aarti, who has done her MBA in Sales & Mar­ket­ing, but has a pas­sion for dance. “But at that time, dance was never taken as a main­stream. So I did what ev­ery­one else was do­ing. I did my MBA and took up a job in a cor­po­rate. But I kept learn­ing dance styles. I spe­cialised in Latin styles. My base has been clas­si­cal. I have learnt Bharat­natyam. So this is how the jour­ney was.” A dif­fi­cult preg­nancy led to de­pres­sion and Aarti quit­ting her job. But dance was her saviour. “I thought this is what I want to do. And I started a dance acad­emy. In that jour­ney, I met my sec­ond part­ner Manoj, who was my stu­dent. So he is from 13 years of IT back­ground. I said, ‘What are you do­ing in IT? It’s so bor­ing. Let’s do some­thing together.’ So we started a gym together. And in that jour­ney, we re­alised that ev­ery­thing that is hap­pen­ing in the world of fit­ness is com­ing from abroad. And we were just sit­ting together, and my brother Ash­win, who is our third part­ner, has the most ex­pe­ri­ence. He has 13 years of folk dance ex­pe­ri­ence. He has trav­elled to vil­lages and writ­ten down songs. He has learnt from In­du­mati Lele, who is THE folk dance ex­pert, and he spent a lot of time with her. And he has trav­elled abroad for work. So he knew that the peo­ple love it, but it is not reach­ing out to them. He gave us the idea – why don’t we merge fit­ness and folk?” It took them two years to do re­search and put things into place, right from ac­cred­i­ta­tion to the ad­vi­sory board. “We had a US-based com­pany called Ve­loc­ity Fit­ness, who did a case study where we had 25 mem­bers of dif­fer­ent gen­der and age. Some had done fit­ness. Some have never done fit­ness. We made them do this for six weeks and cap­tured their in­for­ma­tion and mon­i­tored their progress. And the re­sults were phe­nom­e­nal. So we got

the white pa­per done and that’s how we got the ac­cred­i­ta­tion done. And that is how the jour­ney be­gan. And in 2016 Au­gust 15, when we started our first cer­ti­fi­ca­tion course, we started from Pune and our first group had 22 peo­ple, who ac­tu­ally joined our jour­ney. And to­day we have 900 train­ers.” You can ap­proach a por­tal to fig­ure out which cer­ti­fied train­ers put their classes up for those in­ter­ested. “So we have classes any­where and every­where. But sup­pose you are an en­thu­si­ast and want to start it in your gym or so­ci­ety, you could just tell us. We send a trainer across and give a com­pli­men­tary ses­sion to ev­ery­one to start with, be­cause we want you to like it and then start it.”

One wants to be­lieve that some­thing like Folk Fit­ness will change fit­ness or the out­look or ap­proach to­wards In­dian dance. “I feel group classes and some­thing which is In­dian is the need of the hour, be­cause there are lot of peo­ple who still don’t re­late to English mu­sic or don’t like it. But they want to do some­thing in fit­ness and this is the an­swer,” Aarti states. “You lis­ten to a song which is from a state and is melo­di­ous gets you to move your feet and gets you fitter. You will al­ways see there are lot of women who are in pallu and are shy. But the moment there is a dhol in the wed­ding, you will see them danc­ing the most. This is what we want to bring out. We want to bring out those shy peo­ple out. Give them some­thing they re­late to. Why shouldn’t they be fit? Why shouldn’t they do some­thing to be fit? This is the an­swer to that. The younger gen­er­a­tion is also re­lat­ing to that.” It has to be noted that Folk Fit­ness has 900 fit­ness pro­fes­sion­als and al­most 840 of them are women, es­pe­cially from Tier 2 & 3 cities. “A lot of women are do­ing this train­ing for self-fit­ness. Be­cause you pay in a gym, go twice and then you stop. But here we teach you to do this at home. So a lot of peo­ple who have this re­stric­tion of not go­ing out of the house can prac­tise at home and en­joy with their loved ones.” Folk Fit­ness is in 19 cities, from Mum­bai, Delhi, Ban­ga­lore, and Pune to In­dore, Au­rangabad, Chen­nai, Raipur, Ahmed­na­gar, Ra­jkot, Su­rat and Bar­oda. “Our master trainer Ash­win trav­els, goes to th­ese cities, spends time with them, and teaches ev­ery­thing to them. Then they are on the por­tal.”

Since 2016, Folk Fit­ness has got the right re­sponse. Aarti re­veals, “When we started, we were very ner­vous. We re­ally were scared, be­cause there were lot of peo­ple who laughed at us. But the en­thu­si­asts were nice and open to it. They re­ally loved the con­cept. Some of the most amaz­ing feed­back was that after the train­ing, th­ese train­ers would come and hug our master trainer. They would start cry­ing, say­ing, ‘We never knew about In­dia so much and you re­ally got us to know it.’” “A lot of peo­ple and men think we don’t want to go for this class (just dance classes). It’s only dance and not fit­ness. But when they come for a Folk Fit­ness class, ev­ery­one needs equal stamina. For you to do the one hour ses­sion, you re­ally need your fit­ness to be there. That’s the beauty about Folk Fit­ness. You are on rhythm. You are do­ing it on mu­sic. But you are ac­tu­ally do­ing fit­ness that is re­quired.

That’s the trend we are chang­ing. This is at­tract­ing a lot of peo­ple who have never come out for fit­ness. They think fit­ness is, you know, do­ing house­hold work. Fit­ness is about tak­ing a walk around the so­ci­ety. We are, with this, mak­ing sure that those peo­ple can come out of the house; es­pe­cially women. And I strongly feel that if the women of the house are fit, the en­tire house is fit. If you want to make the en­tire coun­try fit, you have to make sure that the woman is fit.”

Asked to de­scribe Folk Fit­ness in brief, Aarti re­sponds, “Folk Fit­ness is some­thing I breathe and live in. I re­ally want Folk Fit­ness to reach as many peo­ple and trans­form their lives. If I have to tell peo­ple what Folk Fit­ness is, it is some­thing that is trans­form­ing peo­ple’s lives – fi­nan­cially, so­cially, and phys­i­cally. So I would want peo­ple to try it at least once. There are a lot of peo­ple who are into de­pres­sion or are shy. But when you come to a place like this, you open up be­cause mu­sic is the best ther­apy. And then you meet so many peo­ple. We just want as many peo­ple to know about this. Trust me, if they try it once, they will get hooked on to it. We have not had peo­ple leave it once they started it.” The next on the agenda for Folk Fit­ness is go­ing global. “There are a lot of In­di­ans abroad who want some­thing like this. If you ask me what next, next is tak­ing it abroad…make sure a lot of peo­ple there ex­pe­ri­ence this and get some­thing where they can ben­e­fit. What bet­ter way to con­nect with In­dia than Folk?” True that! And the story and suc­cess of Folk Fit­ness con­tin­ues with the pos­i­tive note and ben­e­fits.


Dhollu Ku­nitha






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