Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Hemalayaa's Pooch Palace

VIDEO: "Hemalayaa: Beautiful Belly" (Acacia 2008)
STYLE: Dance-based cardio/toning
INTENSITY: Light to moderate
STRUCTURE: 5-minute warm-up + three 12-minute dance/toning segments
GIST: Great for a light cardio day; quality abs work via dance, Pilates and stretching

Good ol' Hemalayaa. She knows what girls like. What girls like: a colorful, beautifully appointed, lit-from-the-heavens temple-palace designated specifically for self-love -- which ostensibly involves prancing, shimmying, crunching, planking, sweating and stretching but clearly could also include journaling, daydreaming, singing to yourself in the style of Tori Amos and masturbating (all one in the same, really). Hemalayaa offers viewers the fantasy of supreme body confidence, a strong core and non-tacky throw pillows in a room of one's own. And when you're working on your midsection -- that evergreen villain, the subject of so many winces in the mirror and whinges to girlfriends -- you may as well indulge in some make-believe. 

"Beautiful Belly" is one of my favorite Hemalayaa titles. Even at full run time, it's short (42 minutes); but while it's relaxing and light in the cardio department, it seriously targets the abs. Here's a little tour:

The warm-up is hilarious and fun. The music, aforementioned set and Hemalayaa herself ply orientalist clichés of exoticism and sensuality, but I find them harmless because Hemalayaa's personality and conviction come through so strongly. The warm-up involves lots of wide arm circles (see image above), gentle lunges with overhead arm circles and fast high-stepping (below). It's effective, gets you in the mood to work out. 

Then we get into the main segments, titled Workout 1 (and 2 and 3). Don't fall for the pandering labels. These are not workouts on their own. If you want an actual workout, you need to do all three. Two minimum, if you're a fitness beginner. 

Each segment is designed to be a circuit, with a cardio portion and a toning portion. The cardio includes funky knee raises (above) and variations, and the toning in Workout 1 features this totally fabulous move (below), wherein you get into a wide plank and then pump your pelvis up and down. Hawt.

Now we're in the second segment, which has you do this hair-flipping, booty-popping thing:

And then you werk some Pilates stuff. This is what'll have you smarting the next day.

I love this series of core work and chest/shoulder openers. They're all done seated halfway on a pillow, giving your pelvic floor some extra support so that you can focus on straightening your spine and doing the movements efficiently. 

Here's this bhangra kick. If you work on keeping your torso stable, it's harder than it looks. 

Oh man. This plank series is tough but rewarding. 

When I was really into this video, several years ago, I went on a business trip and was put up in a tiny room. I was set on doing this video at the end of a long day of sitting in meetings, bored-eating and watching myself bloat. So strong was the pull of Hemalayaa, I used an unoccupied corner of the motel lobby, garnering some strange looks from the couple staff members and patrons who spotted me. But I didn't care! I was in Hemalayaa's palace, where a pooch is precious. 

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