Ever find yourself weakening during a lunge? Shaking on a relevé in barre class? Recovering after having a baby? Or are you simply on the quest for a stronger, more flexible and toned body? The Garuda Method is one of the newest fitness styles landing in Hong Kong to help you bring your strength back up. Founded in London in 2000, it takes its name after the Hindu and Buddhist mythological bird that can change shape according to its function, and is a style of training that was developed to improve your strength and flexibility while helping to create long, lean and athletic muscles.
We are in a time where functional training, ‘Animal Flow’ and intelligent movement trends have inspired fitness lovers to get their bodies in optimal functioning states rather than to build large muscles. Similarly, the Garuda Method blends a demanding strength routine with cardiovascular workout, stretching your mental and physical capabilities with dance choreography-like movements.
Opened earlier this year, Self Fitness Studio offers Hong Kong’s first Garuda Method group and private sessions, taught by former Flex Studio instructor Bonita Kong. “Imagine Pilates, Yoga Dance, and Tai Chi having a baby, and this would be it — but honestly, it’s really quite unique!” Kong tells Lifestyle Asia during our trial session. “We believe in freedom and better quality of movement where one can do what without pain or restrictions, while aiming to increase awareness in movements to feel stronger than ever.”
Through using different combinations of the Garuda apparatus — a sliding panel linked up to a range of springs and pulling cables all at different weights — you can train your strength, endurance and balance. Kong specialises in helping people improve their sports performance, their freedom of movement, as well as helping women in their pre- and post-natal stages gain strength — the choice of having light springs allows for rehab exercises that gradually build up.
Located in a convenient, bright space on Wellington Street in Central, the studio prominently features three Garuda equipment frames, which Pilates regulars may be familiar with if they have previously trained on the Pilates reformer. Apparatus classes can be held with three people at a time, while exercises also take place on floor mats using props such as foam rollers, as well as on the barre.
During our class trial, we started at the mat with rolling stretches similar to ‘cat’ and ‘cow’ yoga poses, Pilates-style roll ups, inchworms, ‘clamshell’ ab and glute exercises, and more that really worked the core and aimed to stretch out tight tendons — particularly the abs, hamstrings and hips. Some exercises involved an elastic band tied around the barre for support. Being more used to muscle-burning barre sessions and the kind of ‘pain = gain’ mentality typical of HIIT and weights gyms, I kept on wondering when the intensity would amp up. The matwork seemed like more of a warm up, but Kong was easing us into it slowly.
The second part of the class had us on the Garuda apparatus. We knelt on the sliding panel to do lunging motions and leg lifts while our arms swam outwards. We laid on our backs to do cable pulls that propelled us back and forth. We even swayed from side to side like seaweed — a movement that really targeted and revealed my weak and stiff obliques. Here, I truly began to break a sweat, but with slow, targeted movements partnered with controlled breathing, it was manageable — and I got the kind of burn I associated with a good workout.
If you’re in dire need to oil up rusty joints and get moving again, the Garuda Method just might be the thing to kickstart your rehabilitation. Movements are made to be slow and deliberate so that you feel each second of work, so it really makes you concentrate on form. While lighter than the usual workout I was used to, I could see this as a useful rehabilitative session or an important training to reset bad posture and form. The Garuda Method is also a fantastic way to complement an intense weights or strength-based routine, with the softer approach targeting large muscle groups and small muscles alike. In building a more well-rounded fitness regime, the Garuda Method can help achieve lean, powerful bodies with a full range of motion and incredible strength and stability.
People new to the Garuda Method typically start through mat group classes or private sessions before taking on apparatus sessions. Barre sessions are suited for people of all levels.
Sessions start at HK$480 per person for small trio apparatus classes; HK$1,000 for private sessions, and HK$360 per person for mat, barre and pre-natal group classes. See here for the latest class schedule.
Self Fitness Studio, 10/F, Yu Wing Building, 64-66 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 9175 1627