Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Hemalayaa: selling you sass, self-esteem and sex

VIDEO: "Hemalayaa: Bollywood Booty" (Gaiam, 2008)
STYLE: Dance-based cardio and toning
INTENSITY: Mild to intermediate; low-impact
STRUCTURE: Three 5- to 12-minute mini-workouts, plus brief warmup and cool-down 
GIST: Best done with a girlfriend(s) and/or a sense of humor. It's fun, silly, sexy and full of harmless new agey self-affirmation. Resistance is futile. 

Hemalayaa. Hemalayaa is the cool older girl you were friends with for a hot minute over the summer who taught you how to flirt and French kiss, combined with your corny sleep-away camp counselor.

The Amazon-described "fitness czarina and yogini" works these two vibes -- sultry and silly -- to great effect in her series of Bollywood videos, and "Bollywood Booty" covers the widest part of that spectrum. It follows the same format as the others: a short warmup, the beginning of which has us touch the ground "to receive Mother Earth's blessing"; four mini-workout segments ranging from 5 to 12 minutes; and a short cool-down.

If you didn't check your ego upon receiving Mother Earth's blessing, you'll have to once Hemalayaa starts bringing out the "Butt Monster." She dedicates the entire first segment (the shortest, at 5.5 minutes) to these so-called moves -- a series of pliés, toe taps, leg lifts and leg curls, which she calls "butt kicks." The Butt Monster moves are monstrous only in the Muppets sense: they're mildly challenging, and perfect for a beginner, but they won't have you screaming for mercy. Which is fine! This is a video that both fitness beginners and sweat junkies can enjoy. Do it with a girlfriend, or your mom.

The second workout segment (8 minutes) gets into cardio, which remains light throughout the video but is fun enough to stave off boredom. Hip shakes, lunges, "Indian vogue arms," hops and pliés get the heart rate going, but it's the third segment (12 minutes) where more advanced participants may finally start to sweat. Hemalayaa draws from belly dance strongly for this bit, which starts off with a figure-eight hip swivel that she calls the Swan. If you've never worked on hip isolations or rolls, this will be a little frustrating, but it's a good place to start. If you have a dance background, especially belly dance, this will be like workout comfort food, nourishing and warm in the tummy. Hemalayaa adds variations on the Swan with arms, and then introduces piece de resistance of the video, the Elk -- so named because it mimics the mating ritual of that animal. Yes. Having seen a Siberian elk mating ritual in the "Planet Earth" series, I'm pretty much an expert in this area, and I must say the move is passably accurate. Try it on your boyfriend or even random people; their genitals just might become engorged. This is what Hemalayaa wants!

The final cardio segment (11 minutes) puts it all together and is followed by a brief cool-down. Unless you're a complete fitness beginner, in which case 30 minutes of this video is probably enough to get you sweaty and satisfied, you need to do the entire video to make it worth your while. I sort of came of age, fitness-wise, to these videos: at first, the entire thing felt like a total body workout plus a laugh therapy session. After a while, I moved on.

However, I still keep Hemalayaa around not just out of nostalgia but because she's great for a) working out with a friend, b) working out while PMSing, when you really really just don't want to and would rather make brownies, or c) working out while recovering from injury, heartbreak or excessive partying. It's light cardio that forces you to laugh at yourself while sincerely believing in your own sass and sex appeal. Good stuff!


  1. nice, mols. I am forever struggling with how to exercise without getting bored. no matter how I keep trying to do the elliptical, I always end up hating it. I've only felt in good shape when I've been in a dance groove. help a sista out!

  2. right on molly, fabulous blog!! i wish my life had more work out dance routine in it, maybe i'll be inspired now. i would totally do the butt monster with you!! xo