Women dancing in group class with their arms over their heads and smiling

I went so far out of my comfort zone and came back with a new love

A few years ago, I was scouring the local leisure guide with the hope of feeling inspired to try a new activity. It offered the usual aerobic and Pilates classes, swimming, tennis, and of course, localized team sports.

None of these appealed to me.

Having never been a truly “athletic” type of person, I needed more motivation than most. I needed something that would be so interesting, so challenging, and so fun that I didn’t notice the pain that I thought would likely go along with it. I found that in dance. And not just any dance.

Bollywood dance.

Bollywood dance is an expressive form of movement, comprised of a mixture of Indian folk, belly-dancing, Latin hip-hop, and modern Western influences, with a large focus on cardio. Its rise in popularity is thanks to the Bollywood film genre, in which actors and actresses break out into large, synchronized groups and tell the storyline through dance. It’s always upbeat and extremely engaging—audiences are mesmerized by the quick successive movements and colourful costumes worn by the dancers.

I signed up for a six-week commitment at a local dance studio

I was nervous and didn’t know what to expect, but also strangely excited to try something so far out of my comfort zone. I was one of about a dozen people, both women and men, eagerly waiting to move our bodies in ways we never knew we could.

The instructor was an energetic fellow of East Indian descent, with first-hand knowledge of the cultural dance. He welcomed us and assured us that no matter what varying degrees of fitness we all thought we had, his classes were sure to knock our socks off.

And they certainly did.

Every one of us struggled with the moves from the very beginning. The first couple of classes were dedicated to learning the basic movements while set to a very exuberant and lively East Indian beat. By class three, we were incorporating all the moves we’d learned into a flowing routine. Being only an hour long, the classes flew by. Just when we thought we were getting the hang of things, class would be over and a feeling of disappointment would settle in. I thought to myself, “But I’m just getting started!”

This feeling was new to me

I’d spent countless different fitness classes constantly watching the clock because I was miserably trying to get through whatever physical punishments I felt I needed to impose upon myself. This time was different. The sweat would pour down my face and my clothes were soaked by the end of each gruelling class. My hips were wagging, my feet were stepping, my knees were lifting.

We were scuttling across that dance floor like we knew what we were doing and we didn’t even notice the time. We all laughed with one another as we learned the coordination of moves at our own paces. Each of us was new to this adventure, and we rejoiced when we made it through a routine without having to stop and start over.

I barely noticed the “hard” in what we were doing because there was so much joy in meeting the challenge of getting the moves right. The camaraderie amongst my classmates and I was simply icing on the cake. When a group of strangers get together and spend an hour learning to laugh at themselves while immersing themselves in a new physical challenge, magic is born. 

There is a beautiful lesson to be learned when you sign up for the unknown:

Fitness can be found anywhere

Many of us have been conditioned to associate exercise and fitness with “hard” and “miserable.” But if you’re open and willing to go beyond your comfort zone and seek out new opportunities to get yourself moving, you can find fitness in so many unexpected places.

And the results can be amazing.

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