Meet the woman who keeps Bollywood celebrities fit


Meet the woman who keeps Bollywood celebrities fit
Yasmin Karachiwala

Know more about Katrina Kaif, Alia Bhatt's fitness trainer


Anamika Chatterjee

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Published: Fri 5 Jan 2018, 4:15 PM

Last updated: Sun 7 Jan 2018, 4:06 PM

A typical Bollywood film, more often than not, is a passport to an impossibly beautiful world. Good triumphing over evil. Gorgeous views setting the tone for happily-ever-afters. At the heart of these narratives, usually, are two leading stars - of exceeding beauty - coming together to enact these notions on the big screen. Today, the idea of said beauty is changing - it's not simply about how a star looks, but how 'fit' they are. Every minute detail of their bodies is examined, every bulge documented, every toned muscle taken note of. Behind these fit silhouettes, we worship on screen are stories of uphill battles fought at the gymnasiums to achieve a body we can all aspire for. In a world that has, arguably, become more fitness-conscious than ever, how do stars go about setting benchmarks? By being better than the best?
Recently, the Salman Khan-Katrina Kaif-starrer Tiger Zinda Hai released in the theatres and immediately made its way to the superhit club. Among several aspects of the film that have received adulation are Katrina Kaif's action sequences. "Everyone who saw the movie couldn't get over how effortless Katrina was in those action sequences," says Yasmin Karachiwala of Body Image, the celebrity trainer the actress trained with to prepare for her role.

Yasmin Karachiwala training Katrina Kaif
It says something about a trainer's abilities and determination when her clients playfully call her 'Hitler'. In Yasmin's case, it is a testament to her never-ending zeal to help her clients - celebrity and non-celebrity alike - attain the shape of dreams. However, often, it's her celebrity mentees and their dramatic transformations that are duly noted by the press. The list is rather long - Katrina Kaif, Deepika Padukone, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Alia Bhatt, Parineeti Chopra, Kriti Sanon, Bipasha Basu, Jahnvi Kapoor, among many others, owe something to Yasmin's uncompromising attitude towards fitness. With a robust social media following of her own (she has about 458,000 followers on Instagram alone), it would also be safe to say that she is also a leading influencer in the world of fitness. A more lay mind, however, would recognise Yasmin as the woman who made pilates the 'it' thing in Bollywood. "I didn't really start with pilates. In 1991, I was a group fitness instructor and had gone to the US, got certified, came back and started training. Over a period of time, people started noticing changes in their bodies, and would ask me questions about it. I felt that to be able to answer these queries better, I needed to go deeper into fitness."
That's when Yasmin started doing weight training. Today, a flurry of videos showing female trainers lifting heavy weights might be the most common sight on social media. Not so much 20 years ago. "At that time, women did not weight train. A lot of my friends would tell me, 'Now you will start looking like a man.' But once you know the science behind something, you are in a better position to understand it."
Weight training might have helped her acquire a fitter, well-toned body, but men, it seems, were not quite convinced. Yasmin says, initially, very few men would come to train with her because they thought "since I am a woman, I would not be able to do the kind of training that's suitable for them". Women, as far as the fitness stereotypes went, only stretched. "Thankfully, that notion has undergone a change. Today, unless you come from a very orthodox background, you don't look at your trainer as being a man or a woman. you only look at how credible they are."
Yasmin began to train a handful of women at her personal training studio in Mumbai. When her apprentices saw their bodies change, the word of her work spread. even to Kareena Kapoor. "Kareena heard about me and started training with me. That changed the outlook of many women towards weight training and then men also joined in as they realised I wasn't one of those delicate women."
Her pilates journey, however, started about 12 years ago. It was born out of the need to answer that oft-asked query - how to get rid of abdominal fat? "After I had my two children, I always struggled with abdominal fat. I would lose weight, be in great shape, but abdominal fat would still be there. That's when I decided to go to California and get certified in pilates."
Pilates, to put it simply, is a set of controlled movements that promotes flexibility and agility. "It is also more expensive than regular gym training. Pilates reaches a different kind of clientele because of that. Initially, people here didn't want to spend that kind of money on something they did not understand. But one has to realise that if you come up with something that is not a fad, you need to be patient for people to understand what it really is."
Today, Yasmin trains several stars who are known for their gorgeous, awe-inspiring frames. To answer the question raised above, how, rather why, do actors strive to set benchmarks when it comes to fitness, Yasmin says it stems from their need to look the part. "Today, actors so want to be into the role, that they want the public to believe that it's them. Actresses are not there just to be pretty faces; they want to get into the mud, fight the battle, and show their audiences that they stand by what they're trying to project. You have to see how hard they work. They shoot for hours, rehearse, and yet find time to train and eat right. We may not realise but it's actually a lot of hard work."
There might be considerable truth in that claim. If you have been a true blue Bollywood fan, you might just remember scenes from Bollywood films of '80s and '90s where leading actors singlehandedly fight 10 men, but rarely appear fit enough to do so. Compare that to contemporary Bollywood films, and you will realise the actors are, perhaps, a tad more invested in looking the part.
Which is what makes someone like Yasmin's job as difficult as it is easy. "I am a strict trainer. If I decide that this is a workout you need to do for today, you cannot change my mind or make me give you an easier way. So, if I decide that Alia (Bhatt) needs to do weight training this week, I know that she has a goal to achieve in terms of muscle-to-mass ratio. If she sends me a message saying, 'How about doing functional training?', my response would be, 'Okay, if you don't want to achieve your goal, do what you want!' She obviously trusts me to have her best interests in mind. I'm also strict about timings. Since they come back-to-back, if one person is late, it upsets the schedule."

During a training session with Alia Bhatt
Where there's hard work, there's room for plenty of fun, too. This is most evident in the fun workout videos Yasmin posts routinely on her Instagram page. "Sometimes, Katrina performs these movement-based dances on stage. She wears these tight cholis and ghaghras where her midriff is visible. She often jokes that, 'If anything jiggles the act, I am going to tell the whole world what a bad trainer you are!' Often Deepika (Padukone) makes me come at 6.30 in the morning; she knows I am not a morning person. But she'd joke it's your calltime." Being a fitness trainer in the time of social media comes with its own set of powers and responsibilities. "It's our way of reaching out to the world and creating awareness about fitness," says Yasmin. "But when you are an influencer, you also want to send out the right message. When I post workout videos, I make sure the exercises are simple, and not very advanced, so that whoever is replicating them does not get injured in the process."
Ending her franchise with A-Tone Fitness Lounge in Dubai on January 12, Yasmin is planning to set up her own pilates studio in town. With a career spanning more than two decades, one can't help but ask - what has really changed in people's approach to fitness? "Back then, I had to tell people how important fitness was. Today, I answer fitness-related queries."
How to get started with your fitness journey in 2018:
1) Add some sort of strength training. As we age, we tend to lose bone density and it's very important to build your muscle to support your bones.
2) Remember, fitness is a journey, not a destination. It has to be part of your lifestyle.
3) For every long-term goal, make a short-term goal. Once you have achieved these, make another short-term goal. Plan the journey for what you truly want to achieve from your workouts.
4) Opt for a diet that you can realistically follow for the rest of your life. If going vegan works for you, great! I always advocate clean eating! - Yasmin Karachiwala

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