Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.
Welcome to Workout Wednesday: every hump-day, we'll be rounding up some of the city's hottest fitness trends and studios.
About midway through the third song in my first-ever Doonya class on a recent evening, I had a sudden flashback to an old aerobics videotape my mom kept in our basement that, as a little girl, I used frequently to imitate her. Leg up, step, clap, turn. Repeat at the chorus. It gave me that warm feeling of experiencing something familiar, but at the same time, Doonya's like nothing I've ever done before.
For those who aren't familiar, Doonya is a Bollywood-inspired dance workout that originated in Washington, D.C. nearly a decade ago with co-founders Priya Pandya and Kajal Desal—but the workout part didn't come until later down the line. "The roots of our program are really about bringing Indian culture to the mainstream, so it was really focused on the essence of the dance," Pandya explained to Racked. "It became a fitness program over time, once we started getting a larger community and saw the benefits they were getting."
"We understood fitness from a very pure science form," she continued—Desal had earned certification in American Council of Exercise, while Pandya was certified in yoga—"and combined it with the art side of what we were used to [with dance]. We wanted to make it the perfect intersection of both—not too much fitness, not too much dance. Giving people both is really our goal."
Pandya moved to New York to pursue an MBA a couple years later, but continued to teach Doonya in rented studio spaces. Now the movement finally has a home to call its own—the fourth floor of 1158 Broadway, near the NoMad hotel and just down the street from a forthcoming SoulCycle.
Image via Facebook/Doonya World
"We were looking for studio spaces all over Manhattan, which, for someone who hasn't done it before, was quite intimidating," Pandya said of the location choice. "We know that this area [near the Flatiron District] is considered the fitness center of New York, so it was important to be around that."
The studio offers four to five classes a day with names like Flow, Cardio and Conditioning, and Abs, Arms, Legs—much like you'd find at traditional gyms. But how do you turn a beautiful dance sequence into a powerful core workout? "It's all pre-choreographed, so each routine is strung together like a dance—you do the same moves when the music is played at a certain time," Pandya said.
"Our Abs, Arms, Legs class incorporates some weights with the arm routines, where you're doing the weights to the beat. and then for the abs routines, we have some that are involve burpees or planks, or you're literally doing the [dance] moves but on your back so that you're engaging your abs the entire time." Other classes, like the Turbo, borrows techniques from high-intensity interval training, "giving high, 2-3 minute bursts of really intense cardio" with more physically challenging, but less technically complicated, dance moves.
For my first time at the rodeo, it was recommended that I sign up for the straight-up Doonya class—"standard program done by most DOers," the studio schedule reads. There were ten of us in the class that night, and it was finally cool enough to leave the windows open instead of relying on the AC. Pandya greeted each newcomer with a smile and a handshake, while returning students received a friendly wave. Not being the most graceful of creatures, I worried that I wouldn't know how to follow along with moves from an unfamiliar genre, and Oh my god how do I do all those hand movements?.
Image via Facebook/Doonya World
Turns out, my fears were unfounded. The repetitive nature of each dance sequence, with moves that felt wholly un-Bollywood at times, makes the class a cinch for first-timers (if you're looking to really get into the nitty-gritty of the moves, try one of the month-long Techniques workshops that meets on Wednesday evenings).
And though I'm prone to working out to songs I'm familiar with, mouthing along the lyrics as my heartbeat quickens, it was refreshing to dive into the Indian music soundtrack (with a remix of M.I.A.'s "Live Fast, Die Young" thrown in for good measure—Pandya encouraged lots of whooping during that one).
And while I did work up a sweat by the end of the class, the overall workout fell in the heavy-light to light-medium intensity range. Translation: You'll burn the calories off from those Baked by Melissa minis from your boss's office birthday party earlier in the day, but not that Chipotle burrito lunch.
Image via Instagram/@doonyaworld
"With dance-based workouts, what you put into it is what you're going to get out, so it really varies for each person," Pandya said. "Our instructors, they're putting in 150%, so they're getting a phenomenal workout. I don't do any other workout but my program because it's so intense." I did my best to bounce for that extra burn, I swear!
On the horizon, Doonya is looking to work with partners like Vita Coco, Siggi's yogurt, and Reebok. "It's such an interesting area—fitness and food and health are just all really emerging. I think dance is that one sphere of fitness, which, in New York there's so much demand."
Want to try Doonya for yourself? Sign up for a free class using the code DOONYARACKED by October 31st.
· Doonya [Official website]
· NYC's Newest Dance Cardio Studio Is Bollywood-Inspired [Racked NY]
· All Workout Wednesday Posts [Racked NY]