My first encounter with Bollywood dancing was several years ago when I watched Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham. From that moment on, I felt like breaking into random song and dance whenever the urge arose. (No joke. Many times I’ll respond to people in song.) Now, thanks to Priya Pandya and Kajal Desai, we can actually Bollywood dance our way to a svelte Shilpa Shetty body with Doonya’s new studio in Flatiron. As Doonya comprises the excitement of Zumba with the intensity of boot camp through cute but high-cardio  dance moves it’s a total body workout.

Recently, we chatted with Kajal Desai, half of the Doonya co-founding team, to understand Doonya benefits, concept, and clientele.

How did the concept for Doonya come about?
There is an inherent joy, openness, energy and happy spirit to Bollywood movement and dance. Growing up learning and performing these dances and having that be our source for unwinding and recharging, we wanted to spread the love with the world. Many people don’t have the natural tendency to WANT to exercise, but everyone wants to feel good. We formulated specific muscle-engaging techniques around Bollywood dance, blending it perfectly with fitness to reach true effectiveness so that people began to work out and take care of themselves because they truly enjoy it and love the way it makes them feel.

Was it difficult translating the Bollywood spirit to the Western culture where many workout for necessity not out enjoyment?
While exercising is a necessity and something we all need to do to stay healthy, unfortunately having to do something is not enough of a reason for many people. Just like with your career or with hobbies, connecting to exercise will most likely keep you going. This is exactly why the transition to creating an accessible program that stems from something so joyful was appealing to us.  While the Western culture still does see exercise as a necessity as a whole, the importance of mind-body connection is definitely at the forefront of the transition in the wellness industry and we fit right into that. The best part about it is that Doonya is just as compelling for those that are only focused on the physical results — it truly is a natural blend of physical, mental and emotional well-being.

What are the health benefits that differ from other studios (crossfit, zumba, spin, bouncing)?
Because Doonya’s technique is built around utilization of the body’s major muscle groups, it is much more controlled than other dance programs. There is a release associated controlling the body while simultaneously letting the mind go of any inhibition or hesitation. The program is very core and leg intensive but truly brings a workout that uses every muscle in the body within an hour long class. The mental health benefits are just as strong as the physical; our students find themselves embracing every aspect of their inner selves throughout class – the silly, the sexy, the strong – which can be a very powerful thing.

Who is your clientele? Is it for everyone?
Women who are looking for a sense of community and an emotional connection to their workout are definitely the ones most drawn to Doonya. It’s for those who have a hard time prioritizing themselves because of all they do for their families and others. The joy of Doonya keeps them coming back. That being said, we’ve had people from every background and exercise/activity level, male and female, young and old come to Doonya at some point and find different benefits. For men they love that it increases their flexibility and engages and opens up the hip flexors in ways most of their workouts don’t. For runners they’ve seen increased cardio stamina. Women who have never done a pushup, can now do 10. Doonya really can be for everyone.

You mentioned it was for women looking for a sense of community. Are classes intermixed or single-sexed?
We do have some men that come to class though many of them attend with significant others or friends that are women. There are of course exceptions and men are always welcome but our community is primarily made of women just as with most dance fitness workouts.