From India to Brazil, a world of ways to get in shape

To perform in business (or for that matter, in ANY job) you need to get or stay in shape, both physically and mentally, Instead of the same old stuff, I thought I’d infuse some international culture into the fitness education/product grab bag:

Sarina Jain says she introduced Indian dance to the U.S. fitness industry and proudly recounts how she is, or has been, called the “Indian Jane Fonda.” Her new video, “Masala Bhangra Workout, Vol. 4” ($19.95) is, like Fonda’s early workout tapes, mostly a straightforward exercise.

The strengthening and stretching workout, however, is sandwiched between a warm-up and cool-down that highlights Indian folk dance movements.

Bhangra is the most popular of the community dances from the villages of Punjab, India, and is linked to the importance of the wheat harvest. With that in mind, Jain’s video workout is accompanied by a traditional drumbeat.

Jain, who also hosts the South Asian entertainment show V-Desi, blends energy with tried-and-true movements designed to work the whole body. She is a dynamic, energetic leader who has a habit of letting out an occasional “whoo!” to signify when she is feeling the burn.

She says you can burn more than 500 calories following her workout, but don’t expect to be hopping and sashaying around the room until you get to the cool-down and she leads you through gentle dance movements.

Jain’s energy, personality and self-promotion have helped her build a following and New York-based “Masala Dance & Fitness.”

“Brazilian Dance Workout” ($19.95; www.hipbrazil.com) uses traditional and street-inspired moves to get your heart rate rising.

Brazilian performer and instructor Vanessa Isaac leads the workout. She is co-director and co-founder of the music and dance company Hip Brazil. She first shows the movements in her flowing style and then breaks them down into a series of simple movements.

The 60-minute workout is performed outdoors and is accompanied by a live Brazilian percussion group that plays the rhythms of Samba Reggae, Afro and Fevro. The DVD also includes a five-minute bonus track of a percussion mix.

The movements can be hard to follow despite her effort to break them down, so a dance background would likely help anyone following her moves. Like Jain, Isaac is an enthusiastic teacher, and I give this video particularly high marks because it celebrates movement and, more specifically, the joy of movement.

In “Belly Dancing for Fitness” ($14.95; Ulysses Press), Tamalyn Dallal takes the reader step-by-step through a unique workout that she says burns calories, conditions your core and builds confidence.

The book touches on everything from the attire (scarves, veils and cymbals) to the music (the difference between Egyptian and Lebanese pop) to the history of the art (an ancient childbirth ritual). Dallal also dives into the fundamentals of posture, relaxation, and the need for a sense of grounding before launching into the moves and workouts.

The photographs capture each step in the dance, and Dallal’s co-author, Richard Harris, makes it clear and easy to follow. She has performed in more than 30 countries and has been named Ms. America of Belly Dance and Ms. World of Belly Dance.

“Yoga for the Hands” ($16.95, Andrews McMeel) uses mudras (traditional worldwide hand gestures) to try to help foster health and energy while relieving tension.

Sabrina Mesko, a former ballerina, Broadway dancer and model, uses cards to lay out the exercises and principles. For instance, on one side of a card, Mesko demonstrates the pose for concentration. On the back, she describes the technique and includes relevant colors and chakras.

The cards can be used independently or arranged into a program. Accompanying the large cards is a tiny pamphlet in which Mesko describes the principles of the mudra system. “Whatever your challenge or situation is, mudra cards can help you resolve your obstacles and improve your life,” she says.

Mesko gained an international audience with a previous book, “Healing Mudras,” and a video, “Mudra Gestures of Power.”

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