“Doonya, as a class, is a dance fitness program with roots in Indian art,” says Rohan Sheth who teaches Doonya classes at New York Health and Racquet Club in New York City. He says it’s much more than just a group exercise class, though. “It's a platform for creating a healthy, happy life through a workout geared towards all levels of fitness enthusiasts, or non-enthusiasts, and all levels of dancers or non-dancers.”
“What you incur with us for 60 minutes sets you up for a positive, healthy life. The endorphins help you seize the day and live to your fullest potential. Doonya is a program that promotes health; to be fit in your own body.”
Co-founder and co-creator of the Doonya program Priya Pandya adds, "Doonya emphasizes the connection of muscles to movement and the importance of controlling the body while releasing the mind from external distractions. This awareness of oneself empowers DOers—what we call our Doonya community—to know they have control over the changes they want to make in their lifestyles."
Sheth told me that products labeled as “health foods” tend to get a bad rep in India. Instead, a greater emphasis is placed on spices, some of which boast many health benefits. “When it comes to food, it's all about the spices,” he said. “My latest discovery is a healthy version of turkey keema.” His recipe is as follows: Ground turkey, some onions sautéed in a little bit of coconut oil, add in some already prepared keema powder, a touch of tomato paste and the meat.
NASM certified personal trainer and registered yoga instructor Julia Chan is originally from Malaysia. When I talked to her about fitness tips from her culture she said two things immediately popped into her mind. “In the Chinese culture we really believe in a mixed drink made with carrot, potato and apple that helps to fight and prevent cancer,” she said. She recommended drinking it three times per day. And her second tip...
“A super deep squat pose that the women in Malaysia always sit in to do house chores,” she said. In yoga, the pose is called Malasana, pictured to the left.
“Having lived in Japan and Thailand I can tell you that the first thing that comes to mind when I consider the differences between Americans and Foreigners—in this case Asians—is food,” says Lani Anderson, a holistic healthcare practitioner and licensed acupuncturist who specializes in corporate wellness. “In Japan and Thailand, processed food is not so common. However, beyond that, fermented foods are widely consumed and have great fitness benefits.” She encourages health conscious consumers to consider including foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, tempi, natto and probiotic drinks such as yakult and kambucha in their diets.
“The other thing Asians regularly do is morning exercise,” Anderson said. “Many companies have mandatory exercise in the morning. It is also common to see seniors doing Tai qi (pronounced chi) or other low impact exercises in the parks around town. Being physically active is part of the culture.”
Valerie Orsoni, a health and wellness expert and founder of LeBootCamp is originally from Corsica and says that the French have a totally different approach to fitness. “Going to the gym is absolutely not the norm in France where people prefer to integrate exercise in their life rather than compartmentalize it in a ‘box’ as I like to call the gym,” she said. “In Corsica, because of the amazing California-like weather, outdoors is the word! We walk and hike in the woods and on the beach, and we do our strengthening moves while fishing, lifting things around and doing our grocery shopping on foot while holding our bags with our arms bent at a 90-degree angle.” She also mentioned that people in France tend to eat smaller portions than what most Americans might consider to be normal. “It is always a shock when I return from France and order my first meal in the United States! We never start the meal by dipping bread in olive oil like it is more and more often served here, which can easily add 400 calories to a meal,” she said.
Orsoni said that one lesson she learned from areas like Italy, Spain and Portugal is to always eat your meals at a table. “[Don’t eat] while running errands, and most importantly, never while driving; this leads to mindless eating,” she said. “That can lead to excess weight gain because the consumer loses touch with what they ingest.”
I asked Orsoni if she would share the number one tip from her book “Le Personal Coach – A French Trainer’s Simple Secrets for Getting Fit & Slim without the Gym” and she said that it’s the invisible chair pose (pictured left). “I do it for two minutes every day wherever I am in the world, be it in an elevator, in my bathroom or in the lobby of a hotel!”
Nicoya, Costa Rica is what Dan Buettner describes as a “blue zone”— or one of the areas of the world where people live the longest. According to our contributor Katie Jackson, Nicoya is home to more centenarians than anywhere on earth and she shared a few health-minded tips from the area’s locals upon her return from a trip there last year. Rafael Angel Brenes, a local of the area attributed his long-time bill of good health to a diet consisting mostly of fresh vegetables, fish, and chicken. “He eats very little added salt and sugar and he always gets at least ten hours of sleep a night,” Jackson wrote. She also made a point of mentioning the Nicoya people’s simple way of life. “[They] don’t sweat the small stuff. Instead, they sweat by taking advantage of the tropical climate and being active outside year-round.”
Kayla Itsines is an International Certified Personal Trainer and nutritionist from Australia. As founder of the Bikini Body Training Company she creates personalized workout programs that help women target their toughest problem areas. Her favorite exercise: squat jumps. She recommends adding them to your workout routine by performing two sets of 15 repetitions. She also mentioned that she loves exercising outside to add a relaxing element to her workouts. Her favorite spot for working up a sweat is by the water at Byron Bay.
Related: How to Do a Squat Correctly