Winter is here. Temperatures are dropping, days are way too short, and the polar vortex might put on an appearance or two. But fear not: Bollywood can help you fight the winter blues and improve your well-being. Read on to find out 3 ways in which BollyGroove Cardio makes you happier!
Exercise makes you healthy. No big surprises there. But, for years, scientists have been studying what is it about an activity that makes us feel better psychologically and emotionally. The jury is in, and guess what? Bollywood dancing checks all the boxes!
As with any cardio activity, a Bollywood workout offers lots of health benefits: it helps you burn off excess calories, it improves your heart strength, and it increases your metabolism. Interestingly, studies have shown that moderate to intense cardiovascular activity also changes your hormonal profile by releasing “feel good” hormones that help ease the symptoms of depression and fatigue. Have you ever felt both energized and relaxed after a BollyGroove workout and ready to take on the world? That’s part of the cardio magic we are talking about.
But beyond the physiological aspects of a cardio activity, a Bollywood workout also has a more subtle and beneficial impact on your wellbeing and on your happiness levels.
The Power of Play
The writer G. K. Chesterton asserted that “the true object of all human life is play”. As adults, we tend to think of play as trivial. Play is something children do; we adults, on the other hand, have responsibilities, and we tend to show that by being serious, proper, even constrained. However, research has linked play to important emotional, social, and cognitive benefits, from higher life satisfaction to better problem-solving skills.
Stuart Brown, MD and author of the best-selling book Play, has been researching the power of play for decades. He began his research with an interesting task in which he explored the question of what created people who were prone to pathological violence. He interviewed hundreds of subjects and found that these individuals had no experiences or memories of play as young kids. Play was absent from their lives. This stunning discovery led to the insight that play is really one of the key pathways to wellbeing, both for children and for adults.
Dr. Brown has found that engaging in playful activities shapes our brain, reduces our stress levels and invigorates our soul. “Play energizes us and enlivens us”, he says. “It eases our burdens, it renews our natural sense of optimism and opens us up to new possibilities”.
India has a deep tradition of valuing play. In Hinduism the concept of “Leela”, or divine play, is a way of describing all reality, including the cosmos, as the outcome of creative play by the divine absolute. Bollywood dance partakes in this ancient tradition of play by offering an activity that is fun, attractive, energizing and encourages you to be less aware of yourself. These are all qualities of play. Each Bollywood song you dance to, offers you a new challenge to outdo yourself in a playful manner, while challenging your memory (can you remember the next dance sequence?).
“It is a happy talent to know how to play”, said Ralph Waldo Emerson. BollyGroove Cardio and BollyGroove Kids classes help you develop that talent.
The Flow of Happiness
Have you ever been so engaged in an activity that you lost all sense of time? Were you so absorbed by it that all background distractions fell away and you felt calm, focused, even meditative?
Athletes call that mental state being in the zone. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls it flow. Author of the book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Csikszentmihalyi reports that flow is an optimal mental state where individuals experience joy, purpose and liberation as they give all their attention to one single task. Because we are completely engaged, our mind doesn’t wonder; you’re not worrying about your To Do list, or the big presentation you need to give tomorrow in the office. Flow helps reduce stress and mental distraction, which according to scientist Matt Killingsworth are two leading causes of unhappiness (see his great article Does Mind-Wondering Make you Unhappy?).
In his research, Csikszentmihalyi has found that we are most likely to achieve flow (and the positive benefits that come with it) when we engage in a task that is highly challenging but for which we also have the right level of skill. BollyGroove Cardio classes offer that perfect fit, challenging your coordination, sense of rhythm, memory and psycho-motor skills while our instructors make sure that you can keep up with the steps and stay focused on the choreography. As the songs progress, your mind concentrates until you enter “into the zone” and achieve a truly rewarding state of flow. You, the movement and the music become one, and suddenly all your worries, anxiety and stress drop away. Pretty neat, eh?
The Strength of Community
The benefits of social connection are numerous. Researchers have found that people with active social lives tend to live longer, have less stress-related health problems, lower risk of mental illness and faster recovery rates from trauma and illness. Indeed, studies suggest that we are happier when we are with other people than when we are alone, and this is true for both introverts and extroverts. The reason for this is evolutionary: according to Eo Wilson, author of The Social Conquest of Earth, we evolved to be a hyper social species in order to increase our chances of survival. If you were living in the Paleolithic era, would you rather be part of a group that hunted and gathered food together, took care of the sick, and fought off aggression; or would you rather be a lone ranger fighting saber-tooth tigers with a puny spear all on your own?
This evolutionary reason might explain why our brain rewards us with generous amounts of oxytocin when we participate in group activities. Oxytocin has been called the “cuddle hormone”, the “holiday hormone” and “the moral molecule” because it makes us feel happy and connected. Surprisingly, lab tests found that oxytocin also makes us more trusting, more generous and gregarious and more concerned for the welfare of others.
The lesson is simple: social connection is critical to happiness.
During a BollyGroove Cardio lesson or a BollyGroove Kids class all of these factors come into play. You are exercising together with a group of people engaged in one of the most social activities humans have invented: dance. The fact of doing something together, in unison also has great benefits. A study published in Frontiers in Neuroscience found that people who sing in choirs experience a very curious phenomenon: their heart rates and breathing become synchronized, which leads to feelings of well-being and connection. Something even more powerful happens during a BollyGroove workout as you move in sync with fifteen or twenty other people. The strong beat of the music acts as an invisible glue, making all the bodies in the studio move as one. You suddenly become part of a larger totality. Feelings of loneliness and isolation melt away. Your brain, prompted by the physical exertion and the communal aspects of the dance, starts producing oxytocin. And as the songs go by you feel a sense of solidarity and shared purpose with everyone around you (“That was a great one guys!” “Let’s go for another song! We can do it!”). Doesn’t it sound great?
Well, there’s more. A BollGroove class is of course the perfect excuse to meet new people and make new friends, thus contributing to an upward spiral of happiness.
As you’ve seen, the benefits of an activity like BollyGroove Cardio go well beyond the obvious. It is no exaggeration to say that, indeed, Bollywood can make you a happier, better person. So what are you waiting to reap the benefits?
Give it a try with our Unlimited Winter Pass!
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