Aerobic Belly Dancing to Zumba
Illustrations: Elena Ray
(page 6 of 6)
Created hundreds of years ago in a Chinese monastery, tai chi is moving people in a new way today.
You’ve probably seen them on TV. People in China dressed in white, performing slow-flowing statuesque movements every day in the park. This is the ancient art of tai chi developed by monks as a moving form of meditation. Since then the art has been used as a form of martial arts and a means of preventive health that has become popular in the West.
In Hailey, at the Blaine County Fitness Center, local instructor Shellrae Garnes begins the class calmly with soft flute music and breathing exercises called qigong. It’s all about “learning how to slow yourself down. Learning how to strengthen your body from the inside,” says Garnes, who is a certified instructor of the National Tai Chi Chuan Association.
Participants follow a series of fluid, graceful movements positioning the torso, spine, arms and legs into moving sculptural poses that increase focus and balance. The postures are as poetic as their names—“white stork spreads wings” or “partition of the wild horse’s mane.” The monks created the style to replicate the natural movements of animals and birds.
Attention is required to each tiny movement, even to the positioning of wrist and fingers. This concentrated focus cleanses the mind of the stresses of the day.
The placement of the feet is an important element—always keeping the balance between the two feet no matter what direction you are moving. Studies show these low-impact tai chi movements promote balance and flexibility in everyday life, reducing the risk of falls.
The benefits are psychological, too. This flowing, non-confrontational form of martial art helps you to have a more balanced way of dealing with the problems of everyday life, according to Garnes. Tai chi is the study of yielding and blending with outside forces instead of fighting them. It’s a path to neutralizing attacks through leverage in the joints based on a coordination in relaxation, rather than in muscular tension.
“When you’re all riled up or when you’re afraid, you can’t see clearly,” says Garnes. Tai chi helps you gain “a stillness that allows you to see things from a clearer vantage point.”
When the pulsating Latin music begins, the everyday housewife transforms into a hip-shakin’ mama for an hour. It’s like a disco in Rio minus the smoke and cocktails. Or, the secret dancing you do at home in your underwear with the radio turned up loud.
With arms swaying and hips gyrating, Zumba class members slide, dip and spin following instructor Lory Rainey.
“I’m having the time of my life!” enthuses Rainey, a 35-year local who was inspired by classes in Arizona like those at Alice Cooper’s Destiny Dance Studio. Now she’s morphed from being a waitress at The Kneadery into a full-time certified Zumba instructor.
Zumba (Colombian slang for “fast”) is an aerobics fitness dance class that fuses the music and steps of flamenco, merengue, mambo, cumbia, and salsa, to name just a few. And it’s a lot more fun than the treadmill.
“It’s an unbelievable fitness class,” Rainey declares. “First of all, it’s the music. You just can’t help wanting to move your hips and get into the rhythm.”
The class includes intermittent or interval training with alternating fast and slow periods. “You get an aerobic workout as well as a strength-training workout—squats, lunges, arms—biceps and triceps work, and a lot of core work.”
The Latin dancing has “really opened up my creative side, my passionate side,” continues Rainey. And there are other benefits. In the last few months Rainey lost 11 pounds and is amazed that for the first time in her life she has “a six-pack of abs” and is “actually wearing a jock bra and workout pants in class—not covering myself up anymore.”
Although Rainey just introduced Zumba to the Valley, it’s one of the hottest new fitness crazes boasting over 10,000 instructors worldwide.
Necessity was the mother of invention when Colombian Zumba creator Beto Perez forgot to bring music to his workout class one day, ran back to his car, grabbed his favorite Latin music CDs, and a fitness movement was born.
Check zumba.com to see when the next six-week series of classes begins or contact Rainey at email@example.com
Crystal Thurston has attended her favorite aerobics class for many years because of the music, the teacher and, best of all, the camaraderie of friends that are always there to have fun with. She loved trying out all these new ways to move her body and hopes that it encourages everyone to experience more fun and fitness in their lives.