True Fitness hosts some pretty bizarre workouts, such as performing asanas at 41 degrees Celsius in the Bikram yoga class or intensifying squats and lunges by doing them on a vibrating Power Plate. The gym’s latest class is Agility Circuit Training, an hour-long routine devised by the company’s master trainers in Singapore. The intense routine is a cooler version of a school PE drill, except that instead of a playing field you’re sweating it out between machines in an air-conditioned gym.
Don’t let the fluorescent-coloured hoops or the fun activity names like “Sock it to your Boss” and “The Ong Bak move” fool you. ACT is geared for athletes, and that means pain. The sessions are one-on-one and tailored to your fitness levels. Prepare to do four rounds of six activity stations. Chop your feet in and out of the rungs of a ladder placed flat on the ground, jump between hoops without touching their rims, pick up cones and place them back, clear nine-inch hurdles, lift your body weight on a TRX suspension training system, and finally, vent your frustration with some kickboxing. Each activity is timed and separated by a 10-second interval, and packs in core and agility training, neuromuscular coordination, and cardio. While the first three rounds of the circuit make you hop, jump, run or stretch in a different way, the fourth round is a la carte: the trainer calls out a particular variation of any activity at random (just ensure you remember to duck a blow). If you’re craving more, you can up the tempo or strap on ankle weights.
ACT is fabulous fun for the feisty and it shouldn’t be long before you “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee” as one Muhammad Ali-inspired activity name promises.
True Fitness, Third Floor, Crystal Point Mall, New Andheri Link Road, Andheri (W) (+91 6784 6784). Mon-Sat, 7.30am-11pm; Sun 11am-10pm. From R1,500 per session, plus taxes. Available with membership, annual membership R30,000.
Life-size statues of Jesus and Mary are witness to a roomful of adults swooping like eagles, moaning wordlessly, or making shapes with their bodies as they practise “fake t’ai chi”. This isn’t a ritual for the Second Coming but a session of InterPlay conducted by the founder of InterPlay India, Jesuit priest Prashant Olalekar, at the Retreat House in Bandra.
InterPlay was devised by artists Cynthia Winton-Henry and Phil Porter in 1989. An InterPlay session is geared to help people shake off entrenched ways of thinking and responding by paying more attention to the body’s natural responses. Participants loosen up by engaging in short bursts of storytelling, dance, singing and even just being still. “Cynthia and Phil describe themselves as ‘recovering serious people,’” said Trish Watts, co-founder of InterPlay Australia, who recently held a Mumbai workshop on releasing inhibitions about one’s voice. Watts said that InterPlay had helped her give up a need to be perfect and accept herself for what she was. “Somehow I’d got the message that it’s not OK to be a woman, to be in your full power, to be sexual or to express emotion,” said Watts. “I had no way of expressing the darkness... A song, a poem, a dance or a piece of art is fantastic for holding the material that’s out of control, that’s uncomfortable and stressful.” InterPlay India will culminate its series of international workshops for Global Peace Exchange 2010 in January. But if you are looking for a place to let down your hair, let off some steam and generally set yourself free, drop by on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Retreat House.
Jivanvikas Sadan, Retreat House, Kane Road, Bandra (W). Tue & Thur, 6.30-8.30pm, entry free. For details, call +91 92232 73045 or +91 98200 55647, email firstname.lastname@example.org or log on to interplayindia.wordpress.com
Sound Space is a clutch of workshops conducted by the Khurana family who use sound to enhance meditation, art, yoga asanas and even tarot card readings. The family has a dozen anecdotes to convince you of the value of good vibrations. Classical musician Harendra Khurana attributes an Irish tourist’s recovery from a bad case of indigestion to a 45-minute session in which Khurana sang beej mantras and played the tanpura for each of her chakras. His wife Rajni Khurana said that an angry family member is often asked to determine which variation of an “Om” chant is most appeasing. Kamakshi Khurana, their daughter and a 23-year-old music teacher at the Mehli Mehta Music Founda-tion, recalled a child with attention deficit hyperactivity syndrome who fell asleep during an aggressive tantrum after she chanted “Om” a dozen times in his ear. Daily riyaaz apparently protected younger daughter Vishala Khurana from succumbing to undiagnosed asthma.
The Khuranas’ theory of sound draws primarily from the writings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother of Auroville, which also inspired the Resonance technique for balancing chakras developed by Harendra and Rajni Khurana and released on a CD in 2008. For the Khuranas, each instrument and pitch has a purpose. “You can listen to the sitar to get out of depression or to nature sounds if you need to be more creative,” said Kamakshi Khurana.
The workshops are experiential: instead of lecturing on the effect of music on concentration, Kamakshi Khurana asked participants to solve maths and verbal problems while listening to fast-paced tabla music. “This class was very satisfying,” recalled her mother. “We had a really difficult group of kids who were non-believers, and then they were zapped with the results.”
For details, call on +91 98195 17583, email thesoundspace @musician.org , or visit www.resonancemeditation.org
If you’ve tried whirling like a dervish at home, chances are you ended up feeling dizzy and slightly nauseated. Zia Nath’s weekend whirling classes in Bandra ensure that you are safe when you spin on the Sufi’s quest for the Divine.
Nath’s workshop includes meditation, whirling to Central Asian rhythms, and Sufi-inspired movements developed by the Armenian George Gurdjieff in the nineteenth century. Gurdjieff came across Sufi temples in the Caucasus Mountains in Central Asia in the early 1900s. On his return to Europe, he composed more than 200 sacred dances or movements inspired by the Sufi tradition, and aimed at inspiring deeper awareness and settling the body’s energy. In one move, the right hand repeatedly moves from the centre outwards, the left hand follows the same cycle a beat behind, and the legs simultaneously takes positions outwards or to the side. It’s enough to test a saint. We were asked to refrain from expressing thought or feeling. This movement also has a routine for the head, which we didn’t attempt. We also learned a Sufi zikr, or devotional act, called om ya dervish, in which we marched in rows and spun to sonorous male voices chanting “La-ellaha-illa-Allah” (“There is no other but the beloved”), playing off Nath’s iPod.
The movements were preparation for whirling, which is typically performed within the sema, or worship ceremony, of the Sufi dervishes of the Mevlevi order of thirteenth-century mystic Mevlana Jalal-ud-din Rumi. The whirling stance is rather like impersonating a teapot: the eyes are focussed on the right hand held upwards, the left hand points downwards, and the dervish spins from right to left, mindful of one’s inner stillness, the music and peripheral vision. There are variations in whirling practice but fundamentally, whirling requires enough trust in yourself not to tip over or spin into a wall. When the music ended, Nath would say, “Stop whenever you are ready and lie down”. Surprisingly, though sweaty, the exertion was effortless and calming. Nath said that the movements release body energy; stressed out people may experience the clearing of tension as a loss of energy but rejuvenation kicks in later.
Call +91 98214 70396, e-mail email@example.com or log on to www.quantacare.org for details. Fees R2,100. To view a performance by Nath’s troupe, log on to www.youtube.com/sufisplendour
T’ai chi therapy
Legend has it that the sleek, calculated moves of t’ai chi were inspired by a tussle between a crane and a snake. While a master practitioner can wield t’ai chi as a deadly martial art, and even octogenarians can swing into the gentle movements, you can choose to stay horizontal and balance your life energy, or chi, by signing up for a t’ai chi massage at Aeropagus day spa.
T’ai chi massage doesn’t use the penetrating strokes of deep tissue massage but pleasantly manipulates your pressure points to redirect the flow of chi. My therapist, Bliss, slathered on oodles of warm almond oil as she used her elbows, arms, hands, fists and fingers in wide, flattening moves, scooping motions, or feather-light touches across my body. I wasn’t impressed by the basic spa decor or the unhealthy plate of potato crisps offered afterwards, but the soothing massage certainly emptied the bag of stress I’d carried in. I emerged feeling clear-headed and balanced.
Aeropagus, Near Pratiksha Bungalow, Next to HSBC Bank, JVPD, Juhu (+91 22 2624 3000). Also at Matunga (+91 22 2436 6666). Daily 11am-10pm. 1 hour 30 minutes, R3,500 plus taxes.
Whacky workouts we wish would come to Mumbai...
Blendavenda: This portable bicycle-powered blender whips up a smoothie with some serious pedal-pushing.
Retro walking: This isn’t how they used to walk in the 1980s. Retro-walking is simply walking backwards. It is encouraged for people with knee problems, as there is reduced impact on the knee joint.
Sea Jogger: Invented by Russian Gregory Lekhtman, the Sea Jogger is a mini-floating device strapped on the feet that allows you to walk on water.
Tyre Flipping: Flipping heavy tractor tyres over an open area is a favourite with body builders abroad.
By Saumya Ancheri on December 23 2010 6.30pm
Photos by Amit Chakravarty, Tejal Pandey