Where: LA Dance Fit Studio, Los Angeles. Doonya is also taught nationwide, and you can try to find a class near you on their website doonya.com.
For How Long: Doonya classes are normally 60 minutes, but I attended a simpler introductory class that lasted for 45 minutes.
How'd It Feel: I'm torn. On the one hand, founder Kajal Desai was warm, welcoming, kept a huge smile on her face and led a class that was fun and relatively easy to follow along to. On the other hand, I have terrible sense of rhythm (SORRY to my high school marching band), have zero dance moves and am self-conscious beyond belief.
Because it's a dance class, the studio was well-lit and covered in mirrors - unlike, say, a darkened Spinning class - and everyone could see everything. What made things worse was the fact that all of my proper exercise leggings were in the laundry that night, and I was wearing running shorts, so I basically put on a thunder thighs show for everyone during class.
Yes, this is the kind of negative self-talk I deal with on the regular, so it helped that Kajal kept smiling and reminding us to smile, too. By the end of class I had gone from thinking of myself as a bowl of Jell-o pudding to just identifying with that well-meaning churchgoer who can't keep time but claps along to the worship song anyway because YOLO. In other words, the class helped me get over myself a little bit. Small victories!
What It Helps With: Like all forms of cardio, Doonya gets your heart rate up and helps build up a sweat. Bollywood dancing also incorporates a lot of arm and shoulder movements, as well as core and hip flexing. My hips and hamstrings are really tight from running, and it was definitely disorienting (in a good way!) to shimmy and stretch them out.
What Fitness Level Is Required: After the 45-minute class, my heart rate monitor showed that I had burned 250 calories - about the same amount that I burn while walking an easy trail for 60 minutes. I have no doubt that the calories burned would increase if I danced at more difficult levels for 60 minutes, which is the standard Doonya class. But calories almost don't seem the point at Doonya, and here's why.
Thanks to the CrossFit boom, there's been a lot of talk this year about "functional fitness" - compound exercises that prepare and strengthen you for real-life situations. For instance, weighted lunges will help you lug suitcases up the stairs. Deadlifts strengthen your back so you can bend over and lift heavy toddlers off the floor.
And Doonya will help you be the life of the party at the next South Asian wedding/graduation/birthday party you attend.
I grew up in the Bay Area and live in Los Angeles, and South Asian events can come up often for non-South Asians in California. Your friend's grandmother will absolutely dominate the dance floor with her amazing skills, and you want to at least be able to keep up - or at least work off that gulab jamun.
Even my friend Steph, who is a hip-hop dance instructor, found out that she had a thing or two to learn after attending the Doonya class with me. She said the moves were challenging, but the class was easy to follow.
What It Costs: Doonya is just one of many classes that take place at the multi-level LA Dance Fit studio. Other dance classes include Zumba, Hip Hop, Rumba and Salsa. The first class is free, individual classes are $15 and packages start at five classes for $70.
Would We Go Back: Yes! I have to keep practicing for an upcoming Indian wedding in my family, and I want to be able to keep up with all the aunties. I have no doubt Doonya will give me some basic moves, as well some serious arm, shoulder and core toning sessions as well.