A step change for the New Year

Conquer some unusual skills this year, such as  flamenco dancing, circus skills and even laughter yoga. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Conquer some unusual skills this year, such as flamenco dancing, circus skills and even laughter yoga. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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THE shops are already filling with Easter eggs and suddenly the festive season – and the New Year’s resolutions that went with it – seem to be a million miles away.

Add to this the fact that the weather outside is still frightful and many of us are already trying to forget the promises we made to ourselves that this year would be different.

If the thought of a dust-gathering gym membership leaves you cold, or those language lessons uninspired, there are plenty of more unusual activities available around the Capital to conquer in 2014.

Why not set your sights high? The All or Nothing Aerial Dance Theatre runs classes six days a week at Dance Base, in the Grassmarket, and Out of the Blue Drill Hall, in Dalmeny Street. No experience is necessary to start learning skills such as static trapeze.

Artistic director Jennifer Paterson, of Newington, has been teaching aerial skills to beginners of all ages since 2007.

“Trapeze has really taken off in the last few years thanks to the Millennium celebrations when 90 performers had to be trained in aerial for an event in the Dome,” she says. “With so many more people able to pass on the skills to others looking for a new way to get fit and express themselves, it’s really mushroomed. Aerial is great for building strength, flexibility and coordination.”

Or you could put a spring in your step with the Edinburgh Spirals Trampolining Club, which runs nine lessons a week at the Edinburgh Napier University Sighthill campus. The popular classes are attended by bouncers of all ages, from five to 58.

“Trampolining is great for cardio, and also for building muscle strength without negatively impacting your joints,” says coach Anne Gallagher, from Roslin.

For those who want to make an impact, the Auld Reekie Roller Girls’ “Fresh Meat” intake course begins tomorrow at the Jack Kane Centre in Niddrie. New skaters can expect a warm welcome coupled with an intense workout as you learn the skills necessary to compete in this high-impact sport. And it’s not just for the ladies, with more and more male and co-ed leagues springing up in Scotland.

Those wishing to join can come along for a £5 taster session, but must provide their own kit, including skates, helmet, mouthguard and safety padding. If you don’t have time to get all that before tomorrow, there are further intakes in April, July and November. This year may also see you learn the grappling skills of martial arts such as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at the Cross Combat Gym in Leven Street, Tollcross.

“BJJ concentrates on teaching people how to defend themselves against larger, stronger opponents, specialising in getting your opponent to the floor and keeping them there,” says instructor Luke De Garis. “We run over 100 classes every month and it’s absolutely fine to come along for a taster class before you sign up.”

But there’s more than one way to cause a spectacle on the floor. Alba Flamenco has spent five years teaching residents the secrets of this fusion of Spanish, Indian and Moroccan dance culture.

“Flamenco is for everyone, regardless of age, experience or body shape and can teach you rhythm and coordination while boosting your confidence,” says director Saliha Haouachi. “We offer the first class free and you can come in and try any day of the week.”

For those of you who like your activities a little less active there’s still plenty going on to put a smile on your face in 2014, including laughter yoga at the Eric Liddell Centre.

Instructor Judith Walker, of Blackhall, says: “It’s scientifically proven that laughter is good for your health. Sessions will generally involve groups aiming to laugh for extended periods time. The laughter may start out fake, but it’s a contagious, infectious thing which very quickly becomes real.”

Another feel-good enterprise growing in popularity is Rock Choir. Started in Surrey in 2005, there is no entry audition and no requirements to read music or have any previous singing experience. There are three sessions held in the city each week at Boroughmuir High School and Greenbank Parish Church.

Tanya Davis-Frizzell, of Midlothian, joined the Edinburgh branch in November last year.

“What I love about Rock Choir is the idea of blending contemporary rock, pop and soul music with choir arrangement and harmonies,” she says. “Women and men from all walks of life, ages and backgrounds are coming together to blend their unique voices. It’s pretty stupendous.”