9-year-old Kenneth Thomas is a juggler and he believes the skill he’s picked up helps him in more ways than one. Yes, with academics too!
“I love juggling as it is a rare skill that many people can't do. Juggling has improved my agility, balance, coordination and spatial awareness. There is a great improvement in concentration and thinking skills. I am more focused now and can do research better. I enjoy practising juggling with my brother,” he says.
In fact, he will soon be delivering a guest lecture in his school about juggling and balancing.
Exercising regularly and staying fit is on everyone’s list of resolutions. However, keeping up a fitness routine can be boring and tiring. But now, a new form of exercise that combines fitness goals with fun is becoming popular – juggling!
Juggling has multiple health benefits, both physical and mental. Regular practitioners say that they find improvement in their hand-eye coördination, reflexes, peripheral vision and a host of other motor skills. It is also believed to improve concentration, ability to set goals, analyse and solve problems, and build confidence.
Thomas is a student at Bengaluru-based Chaos, an entertainment group which has jugglers, hula- hoopers, poi artists and actors. They do stage shows for 2-3-minute filler acts or a full 60-90-minute performance. The team consists of six members - Mahit Warhadpande, Gunjan Saraf, Shrinivas Bhat, Shivam, Arjun, and Felix.
They meet regularly to practice and have performed at several events, TV and stage shows. Chaos has conducted several workshops including a seminar at the Sheila Kothavala Institute for the Deaf -SKID Bengaluru, International Play Conference and the Indian Juggling Convention (InJuCo).
Gunjan Saraf has been juggling since 2003. Juggling and hooping have been his go-to sports to keep fit. “When I started learning juggling, I lost 10-12 kgs in a year. More recently I lost 7.5 kgs in 40 days with hooping,” he explains.
Gunjan says that juggling has impacted his way of looking at things, too.
“Before I learnt juggling, I used to look at new activities and say to myself - Oh, that is not my cup of tea and would never try to learn anything new. However, after I learnt juggling, I don't tell myself I can't do this or that, instead I ask myself how long will it take to learn it? With this new mindset, I have learned many performing arts like hooping, poi, contact juggling, slack walking etc. I feel good after my juggling practice and the wow feeling I get after my morning practice session helps me approach any situation during my day with a new perspective.”
Among their students is 8-year-old Nivaan Kekre who joined them after watching his best friend perform some cool tricks.
“I got interested in juggling when I saw my best friend perform the juggling tricks. Looking at me now, my father got interested and, I have become his juggling teacher,” he quips.
Working together is a key aspect of juggling.
Mahit says, “Juggling is a practical fitness activity that can be done by anyone at any place, it is also entertaining at the same time. Juggling is a great sport to learn and it is the only activity that is not limited by any external factors like the weather, place, space, equipment, nothing matters. You can play it alone or in a team. You can self-regulate the intensity of your workout as you cannot progress to the next level unless you have mastered the earlier pattern.”
He is also fascinated with the mathematics of juggling which makes everything fall into place so neatly.
For Shrinivas Bhat, juggling provides a spiritual connect. He says, “It has limitless scope for learning and inventing. You can always progress to new patterns or start experimenting with various props like balls, clubs or diabolos and increase the number of props from 2 to 9. To take it to another level, you can progress to intense props like the knife, fire etc. When you mix juggling with dancing, unicycling, slacklining, marathon, skating, or acrobatics it becomes more interesting. These diverse possibilities are what make juggling fun.”
Shrinivas has performed juggling on a unicycle at many events. Shivam has always been a sportsman and loves to play cricket, football, and badminton, but juggling is a convenient sport as he can practise it at any time and in any place. He credits juggling for the improvement in his confidence levels and creativity.
“After I started regular juggling practice, I feel more focused at work. I used to write poems occasionally, now I have started writing poems more often. To ensure that I don’t miss out anything, I capture the thoughts pouring out of mind into my mobile phone”.
The brain, like many parts of the human body, needs regular exercise in order to maintain strength and vitality. Some common brain strengthening exercises include crossword puzzles, Sudoku, and other word-and number-based brain teasers. Juggling is believed to help build brainpower and increases your problem-solving capacity.
Any form of physical activity tires you out and this helps you sleep better.
“Exercise of any form helps boost the immune system, juggling does it the same way. It also helps increase the body's stamina and gives a boost to the endurance capacity of a person,” says Mahit.
His students love what they have learned and find that juggling has had a positive impact on their lives in many ways.
Abhroneel Ghosh, a 14-year-old, has been practising juggling for over 1.5 years. He says, “I feel it has made me energetic and fitter as I practice juggling at least once a week. Also, this way, I get a breath of fresh air instead of just staying cooped up at home. It has certainly improved my concentration and focus. This is because juggling, as an activity, requires a great deal of single-mindedness and focus, and doing this exercise regularly improves my mind.”
He adds, “I enjoy the rhythm of juggling, different patterns create all sorts of fantastic rhythms, giving a great sense of time, beats, and of course satisfaction at the balls landing in the right place at the right time. Several throws such as under the leg or behind the back also create a great effect that I enjoy. It is fun practising in a group because of the perfectly imperfect mistakes – when the balls collide spectacularly or you accidentally knock the balls off during a pattern.”
Another student, 12-year-old Amishi Agrawal, says, “Juggling gives me a break from my studies, it makes me feel more energetic and refreshed. I feel that my concentration level has increased and so has my ability to resolve problems. I had a juggling performance at school on Teacher's Day. Everyone loved the performance.”
There are many YouTube videos that teach juggling, and you only need a couple of balls to start!