Hear that beat? See the crazy-bright costumes? This is Bhangra, the Indian dance craze that blends traditional music with a modern twist. Now it’s possible to bust some Bhangra moves at the gym, in an energy-packed workout.
Jump On It — The Need-to-Know
The name “Bhangra” refers to a style of music and dance. Based on a centuries-old tradition from the Punjab region of India and Pakistan, Bhangra mixes folk dance ritual with movements from more modern types of dance. For hundreds of years, Bhangra was largely reserved for traditional occasions, but during the last 40, it has grown and been infused with other types of music like hip hop and reggae.
Around the year 2000, the recreational dance form caught on as a workout. Bhangra-based exercise classes involve plenty of jumping, squatting, and all-around aerobic fun. And while Masala Bhangra incorporates Bollywood dance moves into traditional Bhangra, Bar Bhangra adds weighted bars (hence the name) for an element of light strength training. Plus, who doesn’t want to impress friends and frenemies with intense dance skills?
Spice It Up — Your Action Plan
Bhangra fitness classes are cropping up all over, and Masala Bhangra and Bar Bhangra are two well-known versions created by fitness instructor Sarina Jain. Both styles are great cardio workouts that can, literally, help shake up an exercise routine. And there are plenty of health benefits involved: Aerobic dance has been shown to lower body mass index and resting heart rate, two risk factors for heart disease. The workout classes keep arms pumping skyward, and those squats and jumps are a plyometric movement, meaning they involve stretching the muscle before contracting. Plyometric squats and jumps can make muscles stronger and more elastic, and even help prevent joint injuries. All the movements involved in Bhangra help boost heart rate and the body’s oxygen consumption Oxygen consumption, heart rate, and blood lactate responses to an acute bout of plyometric depth jumps in college-aged men and women. Brown, G.A., Ray, M.W., Abbey, B.M., et al. Human Performance Laboratory, HPERLS Department, University of Nebraska at Kearney, Kearney, Nebraska. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2010 Sep;24(9):2475-82..
Aspiring dancers can practice Bhangra in gyms across the USA (and even in Tokyo and Australia!). But those with two left feet need not worry. While Masala Bhangra classes are available in a variety of styles (like Bollywood and hip hop), nearly all are beginner-friendly. And Bhangra is one dance class where the gents can feel comfortable. In fact, traditional Bhangra was originally performed only by men— talk about a good ol’ boys’ club. New learners can also practice moves on their own with at-home fitness videos.
Ready to jump in? Start slowly. Excessive muscle use is the most common cause of dance-related injuries Investigation of Risk Factors and Characteristics of Dance Injuries. Soares Campoy, F.A., Raquel de Oliveira Coelho, L., Bastos, F.N., et al. Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia, Programa de Pós graduação em Fisioterapia, Laboratório de Fisioterapia Desportiva - LAFIDE, UNESP - Univ Estadual Paulista, Presidente Prudente, Sao Paulo, Brazil. Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine. 2011 Oct 18. [Epub ahead of print]. And avoid an all-dance, all-the-time fitness regimen. Studies suggest dancers require more diverse training to avoid injuries and improve strength. Preliminary studies focus on ballet, but the same may hold true for other forms of dance The dancer as a performing athlete: physiological considerations. Koutedakis, Y., Jamurtas, A. School of Sport, Performing Arts and Leisure, Wolverhampton University, Walsall, UK. Sports Medicine, 2004;34(10):651-61.. Not to mention, a well-balanced fitness routine requires more than just cardio. So go ahead, get in on this fitness craze to see some results.
Photo Courtesy of Masala Bhangra Workout