The Mat Effect

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, Fitness

From humble to super-glamorous, here’s how Bollywood has added to yoga’s popularity among the new generation, says Promita Mukherjee

From eating healthy to exercising right, there is no stone that our Bollywood stars leave unturned in their quest to stay fit. From kickboxing to Zumba and from belly dancing to Pilates, the fitness brigade of the Hindi film industry has tried every type of exercise. And as these celebrities flood social media with information about their fitness routines, fans follow suit. One of the commonest genres of exercise among the film fraternity is yoga and thanks to star-backing, this ancient wellness practice has had a phenomenal rise in its popularity among masses. The phenomenon, however, is not restricted to India alone, as yoga is being embraced across the world.

 

Ahead of International Day of Yoga, celebrated across the world on June 21, we jog down memory lane to track how yoga has become a favourite, especially among millennials who, even five years back, preferred to sweat it out at the gym instead of rolling out the yoga mat.

The credit behind popularising yoga among star-struck fans goes primarily to Bollywood stars Shilpa Shetty Kundra and Kareena Kapoor Khan. While her enviable figure was always the talk of Tinseltown, Shetty says that she initially took to yoga to battle cervical spondylosis. “Yoga changed my life. It cured my ailment, changed my lifestyle and turned me into a lifelong fan,” the actor says. She has gone on to write books on her fitness routine and even has a DVD called Shilpa’s Yoga.

For Kareena Kapoor Khan, yoga was a miraculous exercise that helped her get into the famed “zero size” figure before her 2008 film Tashan. The film tanked at the box office, but size zero became a trend. The actor says, “The size zero phase was a result of a combination of yoga and Rujuta’s [nutritionist Rujuta Diwekar] meal plan. I was weighing 68 kg and she brought me down to 48 kg for Tashan. I took up that project as a challenge. Adi [producer Aditya Chopra] had told me, ‘You need to be super-fit in this movie.’” Today, more than a decade later, she still practises and preaches yoga, attributing Surya Namaskars (a group of asanas) to her post-pregnancy weight loss.

Celebrity yoga guru Bharat Thakur, who has trained several Bollywood stars including the late Sridevi, Salman Khan and Katrina Kaif, agrees. He said in an interview: “When Kareena transformed, everyone was curious about how she had achieved it. When she mentioned yoga, people were very impressed.”

Model-turned-actor Lara Dutta Bhupathi, who also actively learns new forms of yoga, says: “I never miss out on yoga.” She even did prenatal yoga during her pregnancy.

So what is it that is making yoga so popular among celebrities? Explains Thakur: “Celebrities are interested in yoga because it is the only form of exercise that can make you look younger as you age. It keeps the body and mind healthy and reduces stress levels. It’s a complete wellness package. Yoga adds energy to your system instead of draining it out.”

 

Almost everyone in Bollywood seems to be following some form of yoga or the other. Actor Alia Bhatt, for instance, loves yoga so much that she even tried aerial yoga (a combination of Pilates and yoga that is done while being suspended in air) while holidaying in the Maldives. Actor Bipasha Basu Singh Grover has roped in husband Karan Singh Grover to practise asanas together. Actor Akshay Kumar too prefers couple yoga with wife Twinkle Khanna. The constant uploading of yoga videos and posts by these celebrities on social media and in the most fashionable yoga wardrobe has certainly piqued interest in this traditional fitness form. They have made yoga glamorous. Aqua yoga, power yoga, aerial yoga or the plain old asanas — it won’t be wrong to say that yoga is now the hottest trend among health-conscious millennials.

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