Since COVID hit, twice-a-day yoga has kept me mostly sane—well enough to “Hidilyn” myself into lugging 5-gallon water jugs; squatting and lifting pails when plumbing leaks go on for weeks, or when rainwater floods the house because repairs can’t happen as easily these days; caring for my husband; and keeping up with two pandemic pupils.
Stay-at-home measures have allowed us to redirect our frustrations into more worthwhile endeavors such as cooking and exercising. Some have taken it a step further.
Josette Bello works with a design, architecture and construction firm. During lockdown, she got accredited to be one of only two certified coaches of Ginastica Natural (GN) in Southeast Asia.
“There have been times when I’ve had to squat and crawl in construction sites. So my day job had been preparing me for GN all along!” she said.
Ginastica Natural (Natural Gymnastics) is a total body weight training method for strength, endurance, mobility, core stability, balance, flexibility and coordination. It was developed 25 years ago by Alvaro Romano to complement his jiu-jitsu and surfing lifestyle. It’s mesmerizing to see YouTube videos of him, now 65 years old, still doing GN with his son Raphael, training dancers, soldiers and regular folk.
“GN is very popular in Brazil, as Alvaro originated from there, but it is present in many other countries. In my certification, I had classmates from Italy, Uruguay, Switzerland and Hawaii,” Bello said.
She learned about GN from her jiu-jitsu coach, Mark Cupino, who brought GN to the Philippines.
GN is for anyone with an open mind who believes that body weight exercises can enhance one’s way of life by being able to move better, enjoying not only specific sports but daily activities.
Fun, not intimidating
I missed jiu-jitsu training and needed a change of pace, so I tried Cupino’s class. It entailed a series of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) routines and a “workout of the day” (WOD). It was very challenging for a gateway class!
The next time, I rounded up my siblings for some family fitness fun and tried Bello’s first-timers’ class. It didn’t have HIIT but had two WODs. It was much more accessible to a general audience.
“Anyone can try GN and be good at it, regardless of age, gender and physical fitness level. Some of my students say the movements feel like dancing, so that’s why they enjoy it. Others say it’s fun, friendly and not intimidating, unaware that they are working out muscle groups they never knew existed,” Bello said.
Many successful fighters train in GN, but Cupino explained how GN uses natural human movements: “Rolling, crawling, these were our first movements as humans, the same movements we teach in GN, but in a systematic way. Fun things we used to do as a child—hopping like a frog, sneaking like a tiger—are movements we practice among many others. When we can do movements we used to do when we were young, we can bring back the same zest from our youth.”
Intention of movement
GN has many movements useful for nonfighters.
“Some are similar to yoga and primal movements that humans are naturally accustomed to,” said Bello. “You get improved mobility and strength, which we need every day. Alvaro’s philosophy is that one should be able to do the same activities in life even as they age. At his age, he can still do the same things from when he was 30. Isn’t this something we all want?” How different is GN from other iterations of yoga?
“Understanding and intention of movement is very important. We don’t just copy movements but understand the purpose behind the movements for progression,” said Cupino.
“GN is continually being developed by Alvaro. Each student’s goals are taken into account, and then a bespoke program using his system is applied to ensure students attain a natural progression in meeting their goals,” said Bello.
Cupino teaches GN to bring out the best in his students. “When they move better, they can appreciate life more. We have a small but solid community that will grow organically with happy students who feel better.”
Bello wants to form a community that isn’t intimidating, with no need for bulky or expensive equipment. “There are workouts you can do at home, especially these days when we have no other option. I want my students to have fun while realizing the untapped strengths they didn’t know they had. Aside from building strength, vitality and endurance, students also develop a healthy mindset. With the pandemic, it is important to keep a healthy body and state of mind.”
Follow Coach Mark Cupino at Ginastica Natural Philippines on Facebook; @mylifeistoorealon Instagram. Follow Coach Josette Bello @gn_jane_ph on Instagram.
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