Recently a group of Bangalore-based dancers got together to move around like animals, make sounds and visualise colours, sit on big rubber balls and walk in circles. No, these dancers were not rehearsing for a new avant-garde production, they were attending a workshop on preventing dance injuries by Dr Kannan Pughazhendi from Chennai! (Above: Dr Kannan teaching at Kalakshetra. Photo: The Hindu)
Dr Kannan is a multi-faceted health professional: he’s a medical doctor, physiotherapist, sports medicine specialist, lecturer at the YMCA College of Physical Education, and director of the SPARRC Institute in Chennai. When he’s not busy performing all these roles, he’s helping India’s athletes and classical dancers keep in top shape. From athletes of the Indian cricket and badminton teams to dancers from Kalakshetra and Nrityagram, Dr Kannan’s generous care and attention to detail has helped many to perform to their maximum potential. Dr Kannan has an allopathic background but draws inspiration from many alternative therapies and body care and conditioning techniques which he integrates into his fitness programme with the aim to prevent and heal injuries.
The workshop participants were a diverse and eclectic group: Odissi, Bharata Natyam, Kuchipudi, Chhau, classical ballet and contemporary dancers as well as a fitness trainer, a physiotherapist and a dance therapist joined in. Established dancers, up-and-coming performers and committed dance students rubbed shoulders and stretched their hamstrings while Dr Kannan led us through the exercises with lots of good humour and enthusiasm.
The workshop followed a unique recipe for strength, flexibility and fitness, starting with stretches inspired by Iyengar yoga to limber up the body from head to toe in preparation for dance. This was followed by Chinese Chi Kung breathing to aid recovery and rejuvenation. We then made different healing sounds while visualising specific colours to heal the body’s vital organs. Next we were using the Swiss ball in different ways to develop our core strength which is particularly important for dancers. Then it was time to move like animals when Dr Kannan took us through the basic Kalaripayattu exercises which help to build strength and increase flexibility. And last but not least, we were introduced to Bagua, a Chinese martial art technique which involves walking in a circle to build strength in the lower limbs and the spine. Not one region of the body was overlooked during this meticulous programme Dr Kannan had prepared for us. He also gave us tips on healthy eating and took the time to patiently answer the participants’ many questions and queries.
On the morning following the workshop, I woke up with some new aches and pains but I knew that these short-term muscle aches would not compare to the many long-term benefits of the body care and injury prevention techniques I learned during this valuable workshop!