Malaika Arora is one of the fittest personalities in the Hindi film industry. Be it on a flight or on ground she can take some time out to stretch anywhere. Her love for yoga is even reflected in her social media posts. In fact, she calls herself a Yogi on her Instagram handle. Apart from being an ardent yoga practitioner, she is also a co-founder of a yoga school called Sarva. In an interview with the Cinema Journal ahead of the International Yoga Day (June 21), Malaika talks about her love for yoga and its benefits. Excerpts:
When and who introduced you to yoga?
Honestly, I don’t remember. I faintly remember starting yoga when I was in school. I think it just happened subtly and without the realisation that it would have such a deep impact on my life.
What school of yoga do you follow?
None in particular.
What are your favourite asanas?
Suryanamaskars are my favourite. They are easy and uncomplicated. In addition to these, I love twisting asanas, they are great for detoxifying the body.
What are the most challenging asanas?
I would say back bends. It needs everything — strength, stamina and flexibility.
Do you have a yoga teacher?
I have so many fantastic teachers at Sarva. I look forward to my class with them everyday.
How quickly did you pick up the basics of yoga?
Yoga focuses on a lot of natural movements. So, picking up yoga basics is easy. It’s moving from beginner to intermediate practitioner that is the challenge.
What motivated you to start a yoga school?
Well, I have been a practitioner for such a long time. And I see how people go through their life with challenges that seem insurmountable. I often think, how much strength do people need for this. And that’s where the idea struck. What if there was something we could do to help people out there live better lives? And it all comes down to mental, physical and emotional strength. The answer was with us all along: Yoga!
Do you see it as a group activity or a returning to yourself and therefore a solitary practice?
The journey to self is not hinged on the physical presence of someone around us. In my opinion, you can be in a crowded market place and still be one with yourself. Group yoga sessions are fun, they challenge you to further push your limits and of course, who doesn’t love a fabulous encouraging group of people to practice with.
Do you do it for physical well-being or as part of your spiritual quest?
You can simply replace the OR with an AND. I do it for my physical well-being AND as a part of my spiritual quest.
Are you also into meditation?
Yes, I am. A very big portion of my yoga practice is the meditation. It’s not easy to keep a calm mind in situations that demand your best all the time — whether its work, family or any other area of life. It’s important that we spend five minutes daily to simply look inwards.
How have you benefitted from yoga?
Yoga establishes a mind-body-breath connection that creates a balance and equilibrium within. This creates a sense of calm and quiet that helps us stay centred.
What should one avoid before doing yoga?
One should definitely avoid eating for up to three hours before a yoga session. The process of digestion is an important time when our body absorbs the nutrients from the food. At such a time, practicing yoga may cause harm. So, practice three hours after a proper meal.
What should one do after a yoga session?
After a yoga session, it is important to sit for a few moments and let the body cool down. After an intense session, the body emanates a lot of energy, especially when you have had a high intensity class and done some intensive pranayama/kriya as well.
How can yoga help in one's mental well-being, especially in such tragic and difficult times?
Yoga creates a sense of calm. I feel that breath is the centre of life. The better we breathe, the better we live! Staying fit, keeping calm and finding peace are all goals that can be fulfilled with yoga. As a Covid survivor, pranayama, some gentle asana practice and meditation aided greatly in my recovery and my mental health during my quarantine.