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“A spiritual calling led me to Yoga” says celebrity Yoga trainer Payal Gidwani Tiwari

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Celebrity yoga trainer Payal Gidwani Tiwari is responsible for the fitness regime and toned figures of a score of celebrities. Top names include Kareena Kapoor Khan, Saif Ali Khan, Malaika Arora Khan, Farhan Akhtar, Jacqueline Fernandes, late Sridevi Kapoor, Rani Mukherji among others.

She also has to her credit a number of books on wellness and fitness. These include ‘From XL to XS’, ‘Body Goddess’ and the most recent one is ‘Own the Bump’. She runs her own studio in Mumbai ‘Cosmic Fusion-the Yoga Wellness Studio’ jointly with her husband Manish Tiwari. The studio witnesses A-list celebs from all walks of life attending fitness classes.

In a conversation with TLJ, Payal shares how Yoga shape her life!

What role has yoga played in your life? How has Yoga changed you and your life in general?

I started as an interior designer, turning places into sites of beauty and utility depending upon the requirements of the projects. Then a spiritual calling made me venture into the world of yoga and self-realization. It was a 360 degree turn in my life. Yoga led me to a completely opposite lifestyle wherein I changed into a positive, calm and a non-judgmental person, who accepted life as it came, and at face value while I also learnt to be happy and content in my skin.

What kind of challenges did you face as a yoga instructor?

15years back when I started teaching Yoga nobody wanted to follow a yoga regime because they all felt it was too boring. Nobody acknowledged the numerous benefits of Yoga, despite the fact that it is rooted within our Indian culture. The push came from the Bollywood celebrities who took to it after seeing the West. I started teaching Power Yoga, which was a revised version, so that people begin to get attracted and start it! Once they were set to explore, I introduced the actual yoga techniques which till date every student of mine swears by.

What is your yoga philosophy?

Yoga is union–the union of mind, body and spirit. The main philosophy of yoga is simple: mind, body and spirit are all one and cannot be clearly separated.
The ancient yogis did not view yoga as a therapeutic modality. For them, yoga was a path to liberation, an end to suffering. They noticed that right from aches and pains to sickness, all improved for those who practiced Yoga. It (Yoga) leads you to both physical and mental wellness.

Which is your all-time favorite yoga asana?

Hanumanasana or the monkey pose comes under the intermediate level of asana. It is an intense leg stretching exercise, in which your legs needs more flexibility and stretching. So, before attempting this pose, you should have mastered the basic level of yoga. Hanumanasana Stretches and strengthen groin region, hamstrings and thigh muscles. It stimulates the digestive and reproductive organs, by boosting their functioning. Monkey Pose makes hips flexible if practiced daily, it stretches back muscles also. It also helps to release tension and stress.
One important caution is that this pose must be practiced under the supervision of an expert trainer since it is not a basic yoga asana. If you don’t do it the right way then you might end up hurting yourself. Avoid this pose if you have groin injury or in hamstrings.

Can you enlighten us on some yoga health benefits?

A consistent practice of Yoga Asanas ensures all kinds of mental and physical health benefits. Some like improved flexibility are evident. Others including mental clarity and stress reduction may be more subtle but are just as powerful.

For women in their menstrual cycle- should they practice Yoga asanas? And if yes, then which asana is a big no-no for them and of benefit for them?

I do not advice Yoga for the first three days of the menstrual cycle.

Any postures for Cervical or Spine Care that you recommend?

Yoga asanas for spine care would be brahmamudra, bhujangasana, sarpasana , dhanurasana. I suggest that one must practice these under the guidance of a yoga expert.

Why is yoga preferred by most compared to gym and other work outs?

Yoga is a mind- body- soul connect and works on all aspects of a person compared to only the physical benefits which are achieved with gym workouts.

How does Yoga helps in weight loss? Any specific asanas?

Suryanamaskar is the best asana for weight loss. Sun salutation is said to be the complete body workout for weight loss, doing 12 sets of sun salutation translates into doing 288 powerful yoga poses in a span of 12 to 15 minutes!

They say through yoga we can grow higher spiritually, could you explain?

Yoga gives you a glimpse within and makes you reach a point of calmness and contentment. The meditation techniques get you to accept and face life as it comes. Look inside and you find everything you ever looked for is within!

International Yoga Day falls in June, your message for the readers…

Yoga gurus from India introduced yoga to the West. In the 1980s, Yoga became popular as a system of physical exercises across the Western world. Yoga in Indian traditions, however, is more than physical exercise; it has a meditative and spiritual core as yoga enhances total health of mind, body and soul. So Yoga is a treasure from our ancestors which carries benefits beyond count. In today’s life hwere everything is so fast paced and stressful, I feel a yogic lifestyle can get you to accept everything that comes your way. So my question to people often is ‘Do you yoga?’

Tell us something about your latest book?

‘Own your Bump’ is my third book and is dedicated to moms-to-be. Motherhood is a life-changing event in a woman’s life. Keeping in mind the fast- paced lives of nuclear families and sometimes unhealthy lifestyles, the book brings to fore the importance of preparing the body and soul for such a change. From pre- pregnancy to post-natal regimes, I have utilized age-old knowledge of yoga and provided essential advice to take care of oneself before, during and after the birth of child. The workout sessions are especially designed for modern parents.

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