Sunday, March 24, 2019
Follow us on
National

KHUL JAA GYM GYM

February 24, 2019 05:10 AM

COURTESY MIRROR FEB 24

KHUL JAA GYM GYM

Cricket, badminton, swimming, dance, arts. Young Bengalureans are now ditching these lessons, and even vacations, because they can’t get enough of this new sport in their lives — gymnastics
| Barkha.Kumari@timesgroup.com
TWEETS @barkhaKMIRROR

Wow.” “Oh no.” “Please.” “Good lord!” Every minute spent at RnR Fit takes an adult through a rollercoaster of emotions. Because, come every evening at this 5,500sqft Whitefield centre, children four to 16 years of age are breaking into cartwheels, somersaults, headstands, rolls; some vault off tables, mount an apparatus called pommel horse with one hand or both and swing their legs while they are at it, balance on a beam, or crash into a sponge pit; others launch into splits mid-air, hang on to a pair of rings 10 feet off the ground, balance their bodies upside down at the parallel bar, or climb up a rope.

These kids aren’t monkeying around or experimenting with cool and daring stunts. They are practising what is actually known as the ‘mother of all sports’ – gymnastics, of which we saw an awe-inspiring example on social media recently, as America’s Katelyn Ohashi tumbled, danced and smiled her way through a perfect 10 score. And since 2015, at least three private indoor gymnastics centres have come up in Bengaluru – another 5,000sqft studio is set to open in Bellandur next month, an international brand is running seven centres, sessions are being held at apartment clubs, schools and parks, and early this month, 140 gymnasts from Bengaluru, Hassan, and Nagpur met in the city for a face-off.


So why is this foreign sport, which originated in Greece and popular in Europe and the US, gaining fans here? Why are some Indian parents sending their kids to learn a sport that is riskier than cricket, badminton or football? Is it a fad or can India look for more Dipa Karmakars and Aruna Reddys in these budding Bengalureans?

Mirror dives into the growing scene.

No vacations, please

Anuradha Namashivaya, a former national-level gymnast who runs Aerial Zone in JP Nagar, wants you to believe that kids are driving this scene, not parents. She says, “If one kid does a cartwheel, the other kids watching him or her want to learn it too. And once they start doing it, they can’t stop showing off (laughs). It’s fun and addictive. I am bad at marketing, so most of the 250 kids who come to me have come through referrals.” Exactly what techie Maithri M says about her nine-year-old daughter Nupura, “Every free minute she gets, she is doing cartwheels and handstands. In school, she mixes gymnastics with dance. At home, she is hanging upside down from the sofa, rolling from one end to another, and asking guests to watch her acts. And she has on-boarded a few of her friends into gymnastics now.”

When kids want something, they get it, and that theory applies best to 12-year old twin sisters Trayee and Tvisha Kalyanam. Their IT consultantfather Sridharan says, shaking his head, “They were learning Bharatnatyam for three years, but one day in 2017, they told their dance teacher they are never coming back. They did not even inform us. Why? Because they had Googled a gymnastics centre and wanted to go there instead.” Even other kids are ditching swimming, arts, badminton and taekwondo. And vacations too.

Homemaker Kajal Kothavale says, “I haven’t visited my mother in Belgaum in two years. Our family hasn’t taken weekend trips in three years. Because, our kids – Shashwat, 10, and Jeshta, 13, just don’t want to miss the gymnastics classes. Even if I am down with a headache, they ask me to take painkillers and drop them at the centre. They are so passionate, how can we discourage them?” These parents aren’t complaining, even if that means tolerating a pair of legs cartwheeling in front of their TV screens at random hours.

Reasons of all kinds came flooding when this reporter took the ‘Why gymnastics?’ question to a bunch of pre-teens and teens at RnR Fit. “I want to go to the 2024 Olympics; I like taking risks; I like flexibility; It is so elegant; I revise my lessons while doing crunches; This academy is our first home, not second – we even do our homework here,” they said, looking not even a bit tired from their day-long routine at school and gymnastics.

Move over cricket

Vivienne Vidyasagar, a former cricketer and owner of RnR Fit, says, “The success of Dipa Karmakar (the first Indian to win a bronze medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games) has certainly brought attention to this sport in India, so parents are letting their kids try it.”

It’s worth pointing out that 80-90 per cent of these students are girls. Ravi Misra, who runs Shaping Kids gymnastics classes across apartments in BTM Layout, Koramangala, JP Nagar, and Arikere, is not sure why. He has close to 120 students on his roll, of which 80 per cent are girls. “Is it because Dipa Karmakar won a medal, so everybody thinks it’s a girl’s thing? So now I am planning to start a gymnastics module only for boys,” shares Misra, who’s also heard that doctors have been recommending gymnastics to kids to develop motor skills. Namashivaya like- ly knows the reason, “Traditionally, artistic gymnastics – the most popular form of gymnastics that we see on TV – has come to be associated with girls. That’s why not a lot of boys come to these classes, and whoever does shies away and drops out after a point.”

A sizable chunk of kids coming to the HSR Layout branch of The Little Gym have parents with international exposure. Its owner Lorna Pothan, formerly a corporate professional, says, “Since HSR is next to the IT corridor, we see a lot of parents who’ve stayed in the US and have had the exposure to gymnastics look for such classes. I remember in the first few months, I had mostly kids of expats from Japan, France and Korea, but now majority are Indians.” For Vidyasagar too, the idea to start her academy came from addressing the unbridled energy of her young daughter Erin. “In the US, where we used to live earlier, there was a gymnastics centre in every other building. But when my husband and I returned to Bengaluru, we did not find many, so we started our own,” she says.

Age is a number

While most gymnastics schools are closed to adults, because, with age, our bodies get rigid, some allow them in. Bharatnatyam dancer Srinidhi Raju and her team of 21-26-year-olds have signed up with Gangadhar Acharya’s Guardians of Paradise School, which is run out of a park in Indiranagar. “These days, dance on reality shows has become more about gymnastics, so we are learning back flips, headstands, and cartwheels to add the wow factor to our acts,” reasons Raju. A seasoned gymnastics coach, Acharya has a few footballer and cricketer-students too, who want to boost their flexibility. And at 41, Cynthia John is breaking stereotypes. “I started learning gymnastics at 36, and today I am competing, and even teaching kids in and around my apartment,” says the executive editor of a magazine.

Career gymnasts, why not?

Back to the young guns. Little did these parents know their girls and boys will take to gymnastics like “ducks to water”. It is play and fitness rolled into one, is a safer way to unleash their inner monkey, what with soft paddings, sponge beds, and coaches all around them, and costs ₹2,000-₹3,500 per month. But with time, their motivations have evolved. If their kids see a career in gymnastics – some are competing at club, city and nationallevels, they will support them.

As Maithri says, “My daughter doesn’t even want to go on vacations. So I told her ‘If you really want to do gymnastics, let us know by your 10th birthday’, because we’ll have to readjust her study and gymnastics time and our schedule. We have already started changing our food habits to suit her training. We are vegetarians, but we add eggs to her diet now.”

Home baker Reshma D’Souza is also committed to her daughter Anya’s prospects. “Her former trainer had told us that we can think of going big in gymnastics with her. And so if we have to make sacrifices for her career, whether it is monetary, or moving to a different city or country, we are ready. If we need to take her out of the school, the National Institute of Open Schooling system is in place. It’s a different thing that we get to see her feet more than her face these days, and there are more gymnastics videos on our feeds.”

A few months ago, Kothavale even moved into a building right opposite the gymnastics centre her kids go to. “I took them 44km back and forth to the classes for two years, but it was getting too much. They didn’t want to be late to the class even by a minute, so we had to move.”

Still, when it comes to gymnasts in India, usually Maharashtra and West Bengal get top slots, Karnataka not as much. Does it scare the parents? John, whose nine-year-old daughter Christina is head over heels into gymnastics, says, “If my daughter wants to pursue it, I will help as much as I can but I don’t want to push too much because the state of gymnastics in the country isn’t great. But let’s not forget there’s more to gymnastics than competition – it increases inner strength, and it teaches hard work, perseverance and discipline, which is good for kids.”

Agrees adolescent counsellor and trauma therapist Anindita Kundu, and adds that “gymnastics promotes happy hormones, and keeps depression off”. But she has an important message for kids: “Don’t try these gymnastics acts that you see on TV without training, at home or elsewhere. Remember it takes years to get to that level of perfection. Always learn under supervision. Because when wrongly done, it can cause injuries

 
Have something to say? Post your comment
 
More National News
ये चौकीदार सिर्फ अमीरों की ड्यूटी करते हैं, गरीबों की परवाह नहीं: प्रियंका गांधी बीजेपी नेता बी.सी. खंडूरी के बेटे मनीष को कांग्रेस ने गढ़वाल से टिकट दिया BJP नेता अनुराग ठाकुर को हमीरपुर से फिर टिकट दिया गया महाराष्ट्र के पूर्व CM अशोक चव्हाण एक बार फिर से नांदेड़ से चुनाव लड़ेंगे अरुणाचलः पूर्व CM नबाम तुकी सागले विधानसभा सीट से लड़ेंगे चुनाव कमल हासन की शाम 6 बजे कोयंबटूर में जनसभा, चुनाव लड़ने पर लेंगे फैसला Cancer-struck senior citizen swindled of ₹10cr by daughters Jet’s steep cancellation fee stings flyers बगैर डेबिट कार्ड एटीएम से कैश निकालेंगे एसबीआई ग्राहक एंटी फ्रॉड : फ्रॉड रोकने को एसबीआई की पहल, योनो एप पर पिन जेनरेट करें, तीस मिनट तक वैध रहेगा मोदीजी खुद के प्रमोशन से अभिभूत हैं, उन्हें नफरत की राजनीति के लिए याद करूंगा: राहुल भास्कर इंटरव्यू - लोकसभा चुनाव 2019 से ठीक पहले कांग्रेस अध्यक्ष राहुल गांधी का विशेष साक्षात्कार