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MOVE IT: Fitness specialist Shira Ishak teaches Gravity Pilates at Momentum Lab, where moves are done on a piece of equipment called the Total Gym.

MOVE IT: Fitness specialist Shira Ishak teaches Gravity Pilates at Momentum Lab, where moves are done on a piece of equipment called the Total Gym.

MOVE IT: Fitness specialist Shira Ishak teaches Gravity Pilates at Momentum Lab, where moves are done on a piece of equipment called the Total Gym.

MOVE IT: Fitness specialist Shira Ishak teaches Gravity Pilates at Momentum Lab, where moves are done on a piece of equipment called the Total Gym.

MOVE IT: Bbounce Studio, founded by former national swimmers Leslie Kwok and Joel Tan, uses trampolines for an intense cardio workout.

CREAMY: Milk kefir, a probiotic beverage made with either milk kefir grains or a powdered kefir starter culture.

We Are Cultured

APPEALING: MA'ONA's Purple Bliss, Green Popeye and Cacao Berry smoothie bowls

FRESH EATS: Norwegian smoked salmon and eggs at Haakon

The picture of health

The first half of 2016 may be over, but it's still not too late to get back on the wellness track. Whether you want to get moving or eat clean, BT Weekend lays out the options du jour.
Jul 16, 2016 5:50 AM

Gravity Pilates

Momentum Lab

805 Bukit Timah Road #01-06 Sixth Avenue Centre

You may have heard of Pilates Matwork or Pilates Reformer classes, but what about Gravity Pilates? You don't float in mid-air while doing the moves, but you do work against gravity.

Fitness specialist Shira Ishak who has been conducting Gravity Pilates classes for the last three years, says that Gravity Pilates caters to "all types of bodies". Ms Shira teaches at fitness studio Momentum Lab, where their signature class is Gravity Pilates.

Ms Shira explains that Gravity Pilates is suitable for everyone, regardless of height, size, and even for those with injuries: "First timers will be able to master the moves too."

The moves are done on a piece of equipment called the Total Gym, and Gravity Pilates is one of the group fitness programs which makes use of the machine.

Unlike the Reformer which uses springs to determine the level of difficulty, there are no springs on the Total Gym. Instead, users manually adjust the height of the machine to make the moves easier or more difficult. "Instead of free weights, you use your own body weight when doing Gravity Pilates," says Ms Shira. "You get more body awareness when using your own body weight."

By that she means that users will know what their limits are, and how much more they can push themselves further.

Each Gravity Pilates session is 60 minutes long, and participants go through a series of moves, which work the arms, back, legs and core. Some of the moves are traditional Pilates ones.

For example, the Hundreds, the classic Pilates move which involves doing a crunch with the legs out at an angle, and pulsing the arms for 100 beats can be done on the Total Gym. But on the Total Gym, the move is done on an incline, making it more difficult than the conventional way of doing it on a flat surface.

Another move that is frequently done during a Gravity Pilates class are squats. On the Total Gym, squats are done lying down on a moveable surface called the glideboard, but set at an incline. In this case, the higher the incline, the tougher the exercise. "As you are lying down, this move is safer than doing squats while standing up," says Ms Shira. "Those with knee problems will find it less stressful on their joints on the Total Gym."

"During a Gravity Pilates class, participants do moves that require pushing, pulling, rotating, extending and flexing, which makes it a full body workout," says Ms Shira. "You build cardio endurance, strength, mobility and flexibility."

Her classes are kept small, to no more than seven, so participants get personal attention. "Classes are multi-level, and if someone find certain moves too difficult, they are shown how they can modify the moves to their capability," she says.

She encourages doing Gravity Pilates at least twice a week, and participants will feel a difference after two to three months. "But for best results, you also have to keep in mind your diet and getting proper rest," she says.

Prices start from S$240 for five group classes.

By Tay Suan Chiang



Forget fancy fitness gurus and faddish workout videos. Kids have gotten with the programme for generations, bouncing around happily on a trampoline if they're lucky enough to chance upon one in a friend's backyard. Not only is jumping on a bounce mat a lot of fun for the young and young at heart, it is also the perfect workout - according to the folks at new gym Bbounce Studio.

"My partner and I were former national swimmers and ever since we retired from the sports, we have been finding ways to keep fit without (aggravating) our old injuries sustained during our swimming days," says Joel Tan, who founded the Orchard Road gym with Leslie Kwok.

"Rebounding was one of the most effective ways to keep fit, hence we decided to combine our experience in athletic training with rebounding to create our own hybrid rebounding fitness studio."

While it sounds more like a post-breakup distraction to keep one's mind off an ex, rebounding is in fact a form of exercise performed on a mini trampoline. And it certainly is an effective cardio workout (Mr Tan explains that a participant could burn 600 to 1,000 calories in a single session) and strengthens multiple muscle groups - as one would probably need to activate the core, legs and even derriere when trying not to fall off a trampoline as club music pounds away in the background during a class. However, the benefits go beyond burning calories and toning those glutes, or so Bbounce Studios' founders claim.

"Rebounding is one of the few vertically-oriented activities that improves your lymphatic system and even after you stop rebounding, the lymphatic circulation still continues," adds Mr Tan, who opened the gym last month.

"The lymphatic system clears the cells of toxins and its poor circulation is the cause of many health problems. Lymph in your body flows vertically, this means horizontally-oriented exercises such as running won't be as effective as vertically oriented activities that use the G-force (force of gravity)."

A healthier lymphatic system leads to improvement in the immune system, explains Mr Tan, useful in fighting off bacteria and viruses. Furthermore, the founders of the gym have combined their experience in training competitively with world-class coaches with the exercise, which was first popularised in the 1980s in the US.

"What we have done is to create a unique workout called Hybrid Rebounding, the first of its kind in Singapore, probably in the world where we combine metabolic cardio, strength training and muscle sculpting to achieve the fastest results," says Mr Tan.

It promises a full body workout through routines that are very low-impact, as joints are subject to less stress on a trampoline than on a hard surface. Classes range from a beginners session to a boot camp that melds a variety of workouts performed on a trampoline or a class that combines barre work, pilates and body core strength training.

"Rebounding is one of the most effective workouts in the world and what we have to do is to educate people on the benefits on rebounding and more people will start taking part," says Mr Tan.

"We also cater to all fitness levels, from beginners to professional athletes. In fact, our oldest participant is a 70-year-old lady."

By May Yip


The Bushwick Foodlab

New Yorker Daniel Gerick sells milk and tea, but not the kind you would normally get off the supermarket shelves.

Instead, he sells milk kefir and kombucha, through his company The Bushwick Foodlab. For the uninitiated, milk kefir is a probiotic beverage made with either milk and kefir grains or a powdered kefir starter culture, with a slightly sour taste. Kombucha is fermented tea made using a "symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast" otherwise known as SCOBY, and it has a lightly effervescent and vinegary taste.

Mr Gerick first started drinking kombucha and milk kefir in 2009, when he was living in Bushwick, a neighbourhood in Brooklyn. When he came to Singapore slightly over three years ago, he found it difficult to source for milk kefir and kombucha, and ended up making his own.

He says that as the drinks cured him of a host of illnesses. "I guess my gut wasn't used to the microbiome of Singapore, and I was getting sick constantly when I first moved here," he recalls. He got his hands on some kefir grains and made his own, and within a month, he stopped getting sick.

"I haven't had a single case of food poisoning or caught a virus in over three years," he declares.

He adds: "Milk kefir contains over 50 strains of probiotic bacteria and beneficial yeasts, while kombucha contains plenty of enzymes and antioxidants."

Both products are believed to help control blood sugar levels. "That means you get few hunger cravings, which is good when you are trying to lose weight," says Mr Gerick.

Through The Bushwick Foodlab, he retails milk kefir and kombucha, which he makes himself from an NEA approved kitchen. The milk kefir is sold in 1 litre bottles for S$16, while the kombucha retails for S$12 for two 250 ml bottles.

He makes his milk kefir using milk from Viknesh Dairy Farm in Lim Chu Kang, and kefir grains. Mr Gerick has also developed a proprietary brewing method that makes the milk kefir mild in flavour and thick and creamy like the store-bought varieties.

For his kombucha, he uses aged pu'er tea, which is also one of his favourite drinks.

Besides retailing the drinks, The Bushwick Foodlab also has kefir grains and SCOBY for sale, so customers can make their own at home.

To spread awareness of milk kefir and kombucha, and also to ensure that consumers make them correctly, Mr Gerick conducts workshops, which he says are popular with both Singaporeans and the expat crowd.

At the workshops, he provides a brew jar, a culture and sample of the finished products. "But more importantly, at the workshop, I teach about food safety, a brew method with several time-saving tips and tricks that you cannot find on the Internet, a history lesson, health benefits and I also personally answer all questions," says Mr Gerick, who conducts private lessons too.

"Awareness about milk kefir and kombucha is growing in Singapore," he adds. His Facebook page has over 3,000 likes, and he has "lots of repeat customers".

"That said, these two probiotic beverages have not fully caught on yet. It is going to have to show up on supermarket shelves for that to happen," he notes.

Of his future plans, Mr Gerick shares, "I need to find a full-scale AVA approved facility to bring these wonderful products to more people in Singapore."

Tay Suan Chiang


We Are Cultured

Think of it as Yakult for millenials. Teabiotic, by new homegrown beverage industry brand We Are Cultured, is a range of powders that contain 2.5 billion live cultures per serving for a healthier gut and immune system. It doesn't hurt that these probiotic- and prebiotic-rich supplements come in flavours like lemon and ginger (as found in the cheekily named blend Morning After) or are infused into a ceremonial grade matcha, and can be sprinkled into hot water for an invigorating brew or even into your favourite soups and baked goods.

"My seven-year battle with leaky gut issues and multiple allergies sparked off a revelation of how powerful 'good for you' bacteria is, and how the health of our guts has a domino effect on one's immune system and beauty concerns, to emotional and physical well-being," says the brand's 27-year-old founder Sheryl Tan.

Unlike health drink du jour kombucha - a tea and sugar-based aerobic ferment that might not always boast the same consistency of live bacteria in every brew - the ingredients and fermented bacteria in Teabiotic are in a dry, powdered form, which ensures stability even when stored in a pantry and not the fridge, and a guaranteed dosage of good bacteria with no fermented aftertaste. Each blend contains organic ingredients such as turmeric, ginger or Peruvian yacon root, a natural prebiotic, and a patented strain of good bacteria that can withstand heat and high pressure, bacillus coagulans GBI-30, 6086 (GanedenBC30). It also comes unsweetened and does not contain dairy, unlike chilled cultured milk drinks.

And probiotics - live bacteria and yeasts that are naturally found in your body or in products like yogurt - are certainly having a moment. The global probiotics market is forecast to total US$50 billion by 2020 according to a recent report by research resource Research and Markets. So enamoured is Ms Tan with these superheroes of gut bacteria that she created her own Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore-approved facility to produce the blends.

"The daily stressors of modern life invite unfriendly bacteria and yeasts into our bodies, producing an irritable digestive system, food allergies, headaches, skin breakouts, and other more serious disorders," says Ms Tan, a graduate from the Singapore Management University who has worked in creative and technology industries.

"Eighty per cent of the immune system is located in the digestive system, making a healthy gut a major focal point for an optimally functioning you. We have crafted each serving of Teabiotic to support a healthy gut, yet gentle enough so you can consume up to four servings a day in your own creative ways."

Ms Tan suggests incorporating this 'magic dust' into your favourite matcha cheesecake recipe or a ginger bone broth, spiced lattes or homemade jams. Beyond aiding digestion, some beauty junkies are swearing by the topical application of probiotics to treat acne-prone skin. Ms Tan also recommends creating your own all-natural probiotic matcha beauty mask using Teabiotics powder.

"Teabiotic is designed for limitless applications," adds the entrepreneur. "Our heart is for you to approach healthy food and wellness with fun and liberty."

May Yip



The founders of MA'ONA, want you to feel ma'ona after eating their range of smoothie bowls.

After all, ma'ona meals full or satisfied in Hawaiian.

A trip to Bali six months ago, got Chua Ruiyi and Cleon Tay thinking about creating a health food business. "We had plenty of local Balinese food, as well as wholesome and healthy dishes that focused on more fruits and vegetables, rather than meat and grains," says Ms Chua, a secretary. Mr Tay is a car salesperson, and the two are also part-time students.

Ms Chua adds: "People are starting to understand the importance and benefits of clean eating, but we feel Singapore is still lacking in such dining options." The dating couple hope MA'ONA will fill this gap.

On the MA'ONA menu are three types of smoothie bowls - Purple Bliss, Green Popeye and Cacao Berry. Each bowl costs S$8.

The base of the smoothies are made purely with frozen fruits, which are blended to a smooth and thick consistency. The toppings are made of an array of ingredients, such as granola, coconut flakes and goji berries for crunch and a balanced snack.

"We are proud to say that there are no artificial sweeteners, nor dairy added to our smoothie bowls, and we can provide vegan combination of toppings to suit unique diets," says Ms Chua. "The smoothie bowls are both asthethically appealing and good for our bodies too."

Ms Chua points out that neither of them are trained in nutrition nor have had much encounter with proper education on eating right.

"But with a proactive approach, it is certainly achievable for everyone to learn on their own to feed their bodies with cleaner and more nutritious food," says Ms Chua.

"We might not have taken on a certain type of diet nor are we super strict with our intake, but we are particular about what we consume."

By trial and error, Ms Chua says they have managed to tweak and improve on their recipes. "I'm constantly on the lookout for new smoothie recipes to see how we can expand our menu," she says.

For now, they are selling the smoothie bowls at pop-up events. Upcoming MA'ONA appearances are at the Open Farm Community Kids' Event on July 16 and 17, and at the Goodman Arts Centre Farmers' Market on July 23 and 24.

Ms Chua says they are actively searching for a space to open a store. "This will allow us to reach a wider group of consumers," she says.

She adds that the smoothie bowls are a great option for breakfast or as a mid-day snack.

"With a store, we can even make them available for supper too," she says. "Singaporeans love to have supper but where can they find healthy options late at night? Hopefully at MA'ONA in the near future."

Tay Suan Chiang


Haakon Superfoods and Juice

118 Holland Avenue, Raffles Holland V, #01-03

According to the 2016 World Happiness Report, five of the top 10 happiest countries are in Scandinavia. Denmark tops the rankings followed by Iceland in third place, Norway and Finland are fourth and fifth respectively, while Sweden rounds up the list at number 10.

Singaporeans can now experience that Scandinavian lifestyle without having to move there, at the newly opened Haakon Superfoods and Juice cafe.

"The Scandinavian lifestyle is about spending more time outdoors, more exercise, better eating and good living," says its founder Andreas Dale. "As food plays a big part in people's wellbeing, Haakon tries to bring that to our customers by ensuring that our food is healthy, fresh and good."

The Norwegian, who has a background in psychology and marketing, opened Haakon with a partner who is a medical doctor.

Haakon is a Norwegian name, frequently used by those of royal lineage. "It is a name we feel symbolises strength, which falls in line with our mantra of healthy life, strong body and peace of mind," he says.

He adds: "Scandinavians are quite simple when it comes to food: wholesome, nourishing, healthy and never compromising on taste."

The menu comprises a range of juices, smoothies, all-day breakfast items such as avocado toast, waffles with smoked salmon, and a wide range of smoothie bowls served with chia seeds and homemade granola.

Mr Dale recommends Haakon's Classic Acai Bowl, which has an organic acai blend topped with coconut flakes, banana, strawberries and blueberries; and the Original Rio Bowl, which has an organic acai and banana blend topped with coconut, dragon fruit and cocoa nibs. "Both bowls are popular, because they are rich in antioxidants, and are energy boosting foods," says Mr Dale. The smoothie bowls are priced from S$7.90.

For its juices and smoothies, Haakon uses ingredients such as acai, spirulina, organic matcha, maca powder and cocoa nibs, along with unusual fruit and vegetable juice combinations not frequently seen in other cafes. For example, its Mjolnir smoothie has acai, whey protein, blueberry, chia seeds, maca powder and apple in it.

Its range of salads and hot dishes have been designed for the calorie conscious - to give consumers the protein and nutrients needed while omitting the bad, says Mr Dale.

All items on the menu have been reviewed by the doctor to ensure that they don't have hidden processed sugars or weird sounding unhealthy preservatives and additives.

Haakon also has traditionally Norwegian food products on its menu, such as the brunost, which is a Norwegian cheese with a distinctive caramelised flavour.

One way to have brunost is with waffles, coconut ice cream and fruits. Or diners could try the popular Smorrebrod brunost toast, which consists of brunost and lingonberry jam on rye bread.

Mr Dale says that the menu has options for everyone. For gym-goers, there are whey protein-loaded options. "For those who feel a cold coming, we have vitamin C-loaded blends," he says, referring to the Cold Assassin juice, a blend of lemon, orange, grapefruit and turmeric.

"It is not about a particular food or drink item that makes us Scandinavian, It is about embracing a lifestyle. We want to bring a piece of Scandinavia to our customers," he says.

Tay Suan Chiang