Yoga helps you connect your body with your soul, says Shilpa Shetty Kundra
A lot of people know me as an actor, a businesswoman and a mother – perseverant, fortunate and star-kissed. But not nearly as many people are familiar with the ordinary girl that I was, and still am. When I was a little girl in school, sports and dance were two great passions of mine. I played basketball, learnt Bharatanatyam and also hold a green belt in karate. The concept of fitness has been embedded in my lifestyle for many years now, and yoga is something that feels like a part of who I am. I do not see it as something I do as a distinct fitness routine, but as an experience that has transformed me at a personal level and has led me to be truly at peace with myself.
It runs in the family
I owe a certain amount of my fitness philosophy to my father, Surendra Shetty. He was very athletic, played basketball, did long jumps and walked regularly – something he continued till his last days. He was a big foodie too, and never thought twice before indulging in his favourite dishes while always making it a point to exercise. He had his priorities right and would never miss his walks. Thanks to him, the importance of being healthy was instilled in me during my formative years.
Embracing a lifestyle
I see fitness and yoga as part of my life and not something I have to make an effort for to add to my routine. I don’t see them as being about beauty or about fitting into a perfect dress. They are not about being powerful either, pushing yourself to do 50 surya namaskars at once. This International Day of Yoga (June 21) I want people to realise that if you are able to do 16 surya namaskars properly, that is in itself a great workout for the entire body. Being able to do that at an optimum age is what fitness means to me. I see 60-year-olds going on regular walks and exercising, and at the same time I see people in their 20s being lazy and complaining of body aches. It’s the choices you make that define who you are.
Yoga, to me, is not about competition – I am not competing with anyone to be the best at it. I pursue yoga in the traditional way – old school, where being in the right posture is most important. Yes, perfecting a pose is a gradual process and I take my time to do it right. People often project me as someone who is an expert on yoga but that is not true! I am still learning asanas, and trying to do them correctly. For example, right now, I am trying to balance myself in the bakasana (crow position).
There are so many changes that practising yoga can bring about – both physically and emotionally. It connects your body with your soul, and when they are aligned, you are at peace with yourself and the world around you. Also, when you are in control of your body, you have the power to shape your soul. Perfecting a yoga posture takes time and therefore teaches you the virtue of patience too. An understanding of yoga and regular practice of its slow breathing techniques also help shed ego, thus making you more tolerant.
Getting it right
It is disheartening to see a lot of misinformation about yoga and asanas on the Internet today. I believe that social and digital media are the way ahead, but you should be aware of the kind of content you choose to follow. I try to demonstrate traditional yoga postures through my videos, because newage techniques such as hot yoga and power yoga do not interest me. People should know that yoga is easy and that they can do it on their own.
People look up to celebrities, expecting them to do something for the betterment of society – something they can also contribute to in their own little way. Most of my colleagues from the industry are associated with charitable organisations and causes, and I believe that my attempt to popularise yoga is my way of giving back to society. Through my channel and my shows, I try to make yoga more accessible to everybody. Mothers, I believe, have the hardest time of all. It is tough to look after a child, continue with regular exercise and maintain a diet at the same time. A mother’s life is demanding, and I say this from personal experience. Along with my research team, I plan nutritional diet plans for my viewers too, making sure they are easy to follow. People need direction sometimes, and if I am able to give them any, it is karma for me.
– As told to Shrabasti Mallik