To escape the boring daily fitness regime and yet stay hail and hearty, many fitness enthusiasts could be seen opting for dance sessions infused with fitness moves. But while such institutes, choreographing fitness sessions with a blend from Bhangra to Salsa and Zumba, were common, fitness experts Aarti Pandey and Manoj Upreti wanted to shelve out something more to their clients. Their idea gave way to the formation of Folk Fitness after they met Ashwin Pandey, a folk dancer for almost 17 years. Ashwin has made several stage appearances across the country, and when not on stage, he along with his research and development group escape to remote villages or hills trying to capture the natural sounds and learn new dance moves from the tribesmen.
Today, the trio at Folk Fitness channelises unknown folk and tribal dances, right from Bhangra to Koli to Bihu and Chhau, into fitness routine. “It has been almost three years since this idea got incepted into our hearts,” says Aarti, who previously co-owned a chain of gyms with Manoj.Launched in August, Folk Fitness runs sessions in 16 cities across India. It also got recognised by the Limca Book of Records for its unique concept. “For the first two years before the launch, we did hardcore research to ensure this fitness programme would provide results,” narrates Aarti. They hired a US-based company, Velocity Fitness, to study results on 25 members for about six weeks. The research also involved understanding and learning the various forms of folk art in India. “Our musical workouts are live-recorded from various villages, from where we also pick up the choreography.
This makes the fitness work unique and copyrighted,” says Aarti.Folk Fitness is close to Ashwin’s heart as he feels that under the guise of fitness, many are getting swayed towards western culture and are foregoing the richness in our own culture. “All you need is the drums to beat and whether you can dance or not, the Indian inside you automatically moves to its rhythm,” he says.
The intensive sessions are designed anywhere between 35 minutes to an hour under three age categories—Folk Fitness Nanhe, Folk Fitness Yuva, and Folk Fitness Pranam. Every month, there is a new choreography rolled out that consists of at least 10 different folk dance forms. Aarti adds, “The idea is
to make everyone aware of what we have learnt about our folk dances, why Bhangra is for lower body exercise and why Koli is for upper body exercise and how the combination of all these forms can create
a powerful work-out!”
Ashwin explains, “I always tell everyone that this is a holistic regime for the mind, body and soul. You start with meditation, go on high bass with intensive moves and cool down to connect with yourself.” Results? 1,200-calorie loss in one session.