Photo: Courtesy of Doonya
First there was Zumba, now there’s a Bollywood-inspired version of the dance fitness trend: Doonya (the Hindi word for "world"). Indian music and dance are the basis of the dance-inspired cardio workout created by founders Priya Pandya and Kajal Desai.
The duo founded the exercise method as a way to connect with their heritage as both founders’ parents were born in India. The group fitness class blends aerobics and conditioning via arm and hip movements incorporating the exuberance and energy of Indian folk, pop and classical dance. ELLE.com caught up with creator of Doonya’s curriculum and dance style, Desai, on how traditional Indian dance as exercise can help you shed pounds, and what to know before embarking on your first Doonya dance session.
ELLE: The dance aspect of Doonya may be a bit intimidating for some. What do we need to know before taking our first class?
Kajal Desai: Relax. Smile. Have fun. Don’t think too much. You don’t have to be a good dancer to dance. Let go, and let your body enjoy the movements and music. For those who are really looking for fitness benefits, think about the muscles being used and push yourself to put in 100 percent [effort] during cardio (lift those knees!). For those who just want to move and have fun—you can do so!
ELLE: Are there any pre-Doonya stretching moves that you recommend?
KD: Stretch out your hip flexors, and get them warmed up. This isn’t an area that we use every day and they tend to get stiff. Before Doonya, it’s more important to make sure that your muscles are warm and loose. Warming up the body is key, as opposed to stretching before the class. Do a great stretch of all the major muscles groups after class, too.
ELLE: How can integrating dance into your fitness routine can help you lose weight?
KD: Dance is naturally a great cardio workout. Burning calories is an important component of weight loss, and with Doonya you can burn 600-800 in one hour. The Doonya technique also integrates movements with muscles in a way that helps people get stronger and develop a dancer’s physique. Building muscle adds to higher metabolism and weight loss, as well. Finally, Doonya is fun, so it’s natural motivation to get moving—the first factor needed to reach any weight loss goal.
ELLE: Walk us through some of the various dances and techniques.
KD: Doonya is based on four styles of Indian dance, each with its own benefits and associated major muscles groups. The Bolly-pop style features hints of hip-hop and other dances with signature Bollywood hips. The Pop Bhangra style includes large, full-body movements primarily engaging shoulders, hamstrings, and quadriceps. Village style is all about high-energy movements that incorporate flowy, circular moves with added grace through the bending at sides and hips. Lastly, Classical Conditioning is based on India’s oldest classical and traditional dance forms. These low-cardio moves allow for strengthening of the core, hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves.
ELLE: What are some Doonya-inspired dance moves we can do at home?
KD: Our new three-disc DVD set features a full hour class plus express workouts for busy days with limited time. You can also check out YouTube.com/Doonya to learn short routines if you get tired of sitting at your desk and need to take a Bollywood break.
ELLE: What sort of cool-down technique do you use for the class?
KD: The cool-down is a dance and yoga based [one], so that you’re still letting the music move you as you lower your heart rate. We focus on quadricep, hamstring, and calf stretches after class through yoga sun salutations. This is also a great time to further stretch the upper body through side stretches to help lengthen it. Since muscles have worked hard and are looser, we hold stretches a little longer in these areas to lengthen muscles.
ELLE: How many days a week is necessary to do it to see results?
KD: We recommend three to four times a week to see weight loss and development of muscles, as well as an increase in overall cardio health.
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