Have you been fascinated by an acrobat’s flexible body in a circus, or wondered at a dancer’s movements? Gymnastics is an amazing sport that anyone can learn. Here are some interesting facts for you.

Sightings

The most common places where one hopes to watch the sport is the Olympics or the circus. But what people do not realise is that gymnastics is very much a part of many types of dance (including hip-hop and salsa) and martial arts (like Kung Fu and karate). Cheerleaders practise gymnastics too.

In sports, acrobatics and gymnasts balance on each other creating human pyramids and other formations.

At full stretch

It develops strength, flexibility, balance, stamina and body control. Gymnastics helps you perform better at sports, martial arts or dance. “Students come because it will help them with dance or martial arts. But, they get hooked to it, and realise that gymnastics is a delight to learn,” says Manjunath N, a gymnastics trainer and dance master in Bangalore, Karnataka.

Balancing act

Gymnasts learn to do handstands (standing on their hands), rolls, back arches (bending backwards to touch the floor), cartwheels, somersaults, flips, leaps ,and more.

Get floored

Artistic gymnastics includes exercises on the floor and with equipment like parallel bars, rings and vaults.

Floor gymnastics does not need much equipment except crash mats for safety.

In rhythmic gymnastics, ribbons, hoops, balls and other equipment are used. The movements are performed on the floor.

Trampoline gymnastics is performed on a tough, stretched-out sheet that one can walk or bounce on — a trampoline. It is used to help them jump high into the air to perform rotating movements, somersaults, and more.

Early start

Traditionally, childhood is ideal as the body is flexible. Nonetheless, one can learn at any age. “With regular training and stretching exercises, even adults become flexible, though it may take more time. Children learn faster than adults,” says Shiva Kumar, a Gymnastics Coach, based in Bangalore.

Classes

Gymnastics classes are often conducted in institutes that teach dance, martial arts or sports. A number of schools also offer classes. Make sure the class has safety features like a safety mat and mattress for practice.

Take care

Though many people perform movements like cartwheels and rolls, professional gymnastics is specialised and needs expert coaching. Wrong moves and falls can lead to injury, sprains and even death. You will need a professional coach to train you. You must practise with safety mats and crash mats, under expert supervision.