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Screen Gurus
TONE UP

Let’s start with a confession. I’m one of those who’ve always looked snootily down my nose at fitness DVDs. There’s no substitute, I’ve always believed, for working out with a trainer who draws up a tough schedule and keeps you slogging away — even if it means commuting all the way from home to the gym and lugging a giant kitbag halfway around town.

But now I’ve tried out the screen gurus of the fitness world, and I have to admit I’m close to being converted. Maybe in the future, I should just stay at home and gaze at Bipasha Basu, John Abraham or even Swami Ramdev and exercise in the privacy of my own bedroom.

The screen gurus range from Bipasha Basu and Shilpa Shetty to Swami Ramdev and Sensei Sandeep Desai, a T’ai Chi expert.

The best bit is that they are safe. The instructions are foolproof. Just stick to them and most importantly do not give into the temptation of adding your own bits. To beat boredom, you might just consider buying two or three of them so that you can alternate between them when that awful thing called monotony sets in.

Now if it came in a bottle, we all know that everybody would have a great body. But here it does come in a DVD, so let’s hope the ones you buy do not gather dust.

Shilpa’s Yoga

By Shilpa Shetty

There is no other discipline that can compare to yoga. If you are a yoga convert like me, it would be easy for you to fall in line with Shilpa Shetty when she talks of adopting it as a way of life.

The DVD, priced at Rs 299, concentrates on Pattabhi Jois’ branch of yoga that is known as Ashtanga Yoga or the eight-limbed yoga.

It is an investment alright if you are a woman on the move. There’s a quick 15-minute section for days when you are just not in the mood to indulge in a lengthy 35-asana session.

Before trying it out, I just sat and watched the entire length of the DVD. Almost unbidden, my nights of watching Namaste Yoga — a show on Travel & Living that features highly toned women performing various asanas with hypnotic grace — came back to me with a wave of nostalgia. Shetty does each asana with grace and that is in itself an incentive to buy the DVD.

To a thick-accented male voiceover, I followed the sequence of the 35 asanas beginning with back asanas from which I proceeded to asanas on the stomach such as the Makrasana and Ardha Shalabhasana. Then came sitting and standing asanas, some neck and shoulder asanas and finally a session on pranayam.

The tricky bits were the Chakrasana (a gymnastic back-bend so that the body resembles a bow) and the Natrajasana or the dancing pose of Lord Shiva. I missed doing rounds of the Surya Namaskar though — the actress leaves it out in her video.

What takes away from it: Girly giggles from Shetty and the fact that it does end up being a look-at-my-body DVD when she appears in a red Rocky S. outfit flashing ample cleavage in certain asanas. To add to the general razzle dazzle are accessories like a waist chain and an ankle thread. And you thought a toned body would make for a statement in itself.

Other distractions in the background range from houseboats floating by to Kalaripayattu martial artists sweeping in the air (the video was shot in Kerala amidst the pristine emerald greenery of the backwaters). But the proverbial Catch-22 — would you like to admire the background or would you rather be following Shetty and the asanas?

Toughness Quotient:
DVD Length: 72 minutes

Yog Vigyan

By Yog Rishi Swami Ramdev

Shilpa Shetty’s bringing Ashtanga Yoga to your screen

With Swami/Baba Ramdev’s video I had a taste of intensive yoga. The swami — who was paralysed at one time and regained the full use of all his limbs through practicing yoga — concentrates on bringing sage Patanjali’s yoga sutras (the maharishi’s treatise is the foundational text of yoga) to the forefront. It is value-for-money at a mere Rs 99.

While other teachers are known to place more emphasis on yoga asanas, he turns pranayam into a long session in the DVD titled Yog Vigyan — Pranayam and Yog Aasan Part 1 & 2.

In his trademark flaming orange robes and flowing mane, Swami Ramdev himself conducts seven methods of pranayam with Acharya Balkrishan, for company.

In the beginning I wondered about the pale acharya in the picture even as the swami himself demonstrates how to do Bhastrika, Kapaalbhati, Vahya, Agnisar, Anulom Vilom, Bharmri and Udgeet along with Ujjayi, Sheetali, Seetkari methods of pranayam. He even gives instructions for a 30-minute pranayam by breaking up the various methods.

I admit I couldn’t do the kapaalbhati with the impeccable control the swami shows — his stomach undulating in quick waves. But it was in the second part of the DVD that I realised the reason behind the acharya’s presence as the swami sits in a lotus position and raps out instructions while the acharya performs them.

Swami Ramdev endorses the Patanjali Yoga sutras

I liked the second part with its series of 43 asanas — though I am not a fan of pranayam. There are even asanas which I had not tried before such as the Padvrittasan, Dwechakrikaasan and Udanpadasaan. There are asanas for the legs, the waist, ways to trim the belly with postures that are called grinding, and even asanas to increase height for kids. All throughout the Swami explains the function of each asana — if some fight obesity and heart diseases, others rid you of ailments like high blood pressure, arthritis, backache and stomach disorder.

The best part is that it is safe enough to practice because the instructions on posture and breathing are foolproof.

A good buy if you are looking at serious yoga. After all it is by a yogi and is only about yoga. The video comes both in English and Hindi.

Toughness Quotient:
DVD Length: 130 minutes

Fit & Fabulous You

By Bipasha Basu

Love yourself. It is the idea behind the DVD that strikes home. “For if you cannot love yourself, how do you love others,” says the actress who has come up with a circuit training workout that makes for a killer session if you stick to it conscientiously. All you need is an exercise/ yoga mat and a pair of 0.5kg weights.

Bipasha Basu’s come out with a killer circuit-training workout

You have to give kudos to Basu for a well-planned out and well-researched DVD in conjunction with fitness trainer Deanne Pandey who also features in it.

Basu states clearly what works for beginners and what does for advanced levels and keeps 25 minutes for each category. The point is for beginners to stick to the regimen for 30 days and then shift to the next level. For a super-toned body like her, aim for six days a week after which you can rest for a day and kick into action again.

Twenty-five minutes of executing moves likes squats, lunges, hip rolls, shuffles, jumping jack, ab crunches, pelvic thrusts, doggy kicks, football runs and I was prostrate. With the number of squats and lunges I had to do, I could feel my quads burning. But that’s when one realises that such non-stop training can actually get you the kind of tone that the actress has.

The DVD (pegged at Rs 299) did not grate on my nerves because it didn’t throw in any giggles. I liked the diet tips the actress and her fitness trainer friend dole out while nibbling on chhole bhature and chocolate cake during the shoot. They highlight a most important point: eat what you want on occasions but eat in moderation.

Also included in the video are celebrity endorsements — from cricketer M. S. Dhoni to actors Ranbir Kapoor, Amitabh Bachchan, Ajay Devgan, Akshay Kumar, Shah Rukh Khan and John Abraham and actress Priyanka Chopra. They completely deconstruct the DVD.

While Shah Rukh Khan highlights the fact that it is a unisex workout, Akshay Kumar picks on a point on fitness his father had made to him. “If you cannot spare an hour to your body out of 24 hours in a day, shoot yourself. That is what my dad had to say,” notes Kumar. “And this DVD is just 25 minutes. If you cannot give yourself even that, knock yourself out.”

Toughness Quotient:
DVD Length: 137 minutes

Bollywood Bodies

By Mark Anthony

This is a DVD that goes all out for the men out there — and the only one I did not try out.

John Abraham walks you through Mark Anthony’s fitness regime

It features actor John Abraham even though the mastermind behind it is Mark Anthony, one of UK’s celebrity personal trainers (his clients include model Jordan, English soul singer Mica Paris and fashion designers Amanda Wakeley and Bella Freud).

The DVD is priced at Rs 499 but it is a once-a-week workout that takes care of the entire body. If it starts with Anthony warming you up, it is followed up by Abraham stepping in with side squats, knee dips and barbell deadlifts.

There are some 20 moves that Anthony supplements with cardio burn activities such as swimming, skipping, kickboxing and running.

One warning — arm yourself with some equipment before starting out with the DVD. These include a gym ball, a medicine ball and dumbbells. It’s not mentioned anywhere that you need these items — you learn as you watch the video.

There are moments when you see the actor in spite of his muscled silhouette trying to keep up with the trainer’s instructions, which is encouraging in itself. The core muscles are the focus of the workout in the DVD. So if you feel tired of one kind of workout, Anthony quickly moves to another, leaving little scope for boredom.

The warm-up and cool-down is given plenty of importance and the entire workout takes about an hour to finish which is just enough time we are hoping you will take out for yourself.

What is gimmicky about it is the claim: “In four weeks it changes the way you feel about exercising, in eight weeks it changes your body and in 12 weeks it changes your life.” But then it comes endorsed by Dr Tom Crisp, a top UK and Olympic sports physician.

Toughness Quotient:
DVD Length: 50 minutes

The Small Book of T’ai Chi

By Sensei Sandeep Desai

After all the intense cardio and yoga, I think T’ai Chi was the perfect antidote. It was almost akin to dancing. You see, T’ai Chi/T’ai Chi Chuan might be an ancient, internal martial art, but it is all about graceful movements.

Sensei Sandeep Desai brings out the basic tenets of T’ai Chi through his DVD

The little bit of T’ai Chai I have done is in the Les Mills’ Body Balance Classes where the programme blends T’ai Chi, yoga and Pilates together into a 45-minute class. The effect is that you feel one with yourself. Something that only deepened as I tried the DVD of Sandeep Desai, the only sensei (the term Japanese martial artists use for their mentor/teacher) in the country who has made a one-of-a-kind video to share the ‘best kept secrets of China’.

Desai is a 5th-degree Black Belt in Okinawan Shorin-Ryu Karate and has trained in T’ai Chi under Dr Bob Bacher in Freising, Germany, and the Chen Family village in China where T’ai Chi was born.

The idea of teaching T’ai Chi originated with The Small Book of T’ai Chi, a slim book authored by Desai, in which he tucked in a little DVD on this meditative form of martial art.

The Seven Simple Exercises DVD, which is for beginners, starts with a meditation posture to get in sync with the self. It guides you into natural breathing according to the tenets of T’ai Chi. The feet at key moments are planted firmly on the ground and the movements are slow.

One of the important components Desai focuses on is Silk Reeling. It is highly de-stressing as you pretend to reel silk just as you would from a silk worm’s cocoon, keeping the reeling smooth and consistent.

What it does for you: toned muscles, improved posture, and better balance. All you have to do is get your hands on the book, priced at Rs 495 (the DVD comes with it). There is a separate DVD for a more advanced course. It’s called T’ai Chi Chuan — 9 Chi Building and 6 Silk Reeling Exercises at Rs 550.

Toughness Quotient:
DVD Length: 40 minutes

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