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Yogilates elixir of youth

Society puts a lot of pressure on image. Men and women both, have certain stereotypes which are further fuelled by the fashion and film industry. I think things will only start to change as women begin to love themselves. When women feel comfortable in their own skins and start radiating a self-confidence that can't be put down, then they can start dictating what beauty looks like.

Sadly, many teenage girls are anorexic. They skip meals and live off of cucumbers. This is completely unhealthy and it's sad. I hope by the time they hit their twenties, they discover that there are better ways to stay healthy. Eating regular healthy meals, exercising and building their self-confidence -- that's the way to go!

People aren't really into Twiggy-type skeletal looks nowadays. Fit is considered attractive; toned arms and taut tummies. These aren't the products of starvation but rather the payoffs of regular exercise.

In Dhaka especially, we live sedentary lives. Most of us don't even get to walk to work or to supermarkets. The most we do is walk from our bedroom to the dining table and back!

All muscles need exercise to stay fit. Without exercise, muscles grow weak and lazy. Our metabolism is also directly related to our activity levels. If we exercise, we burn more which allows us to eat more! Eating is crucial, not only because our taste buds are one of the finest gifts from God, but also because we need minerals, vitamins and energy. Dieting is a terrible way to lose weight because you gain it all back as soon as you start eating again. It's not a sustainable solution.

Stretching is also important, to prevent injuries and increase blood circulation. Once you start doing it, you feel so invigorated, that you never want to give it up.

We spend lots of money and time upgrading our cars, our homes, our wardrobes. But the one commodity that can't be renewed is the body and all your life experiences depend on your health, so it's important to invest in this!

The best form of exercise
There are many forms that are super. Swimming is great because water creates a resistance to movement and allows you to burn a lot of calories without straining your bones or skeletal frame. However, we don't have access to clean pools around here. Also, some people may find that chlorine damages their hair and skin, so there's a trade-off. Speed walking is also great, but you need the right shoes, the right track and enough miles to really make it a good work out. Considering all that, my favourites are yoga and pilates. These are fun, challenging, gentle and intense. They leave the body looking and feeling exactly how you want.

What is yogilates?
Yogilates is a fusion of yoga and pilates. This is a physical fitness system that focuses on the core muscles which help keep the body balanced and which are essential to providing support for the spine. Many doctors recommend it for people with injuries. Dancers and other athletes are also increasingly doing yogilates to stay limber.

Many people think that yoga is just stretching. While stretching is certainly involved, yoga is really about creating balance in the body through developing strength, stamina and flexibility. This is done through the performance of poses or postures, each of which has specific physical, mental and spiritual benefits. "As we fold into Downward-Facing Dog, arch into Upward Bow, or spiral into a spinal twist named for an ancient sage, we believe that we are moulding our bodies into archetypal shapes whose precise effect on the body, mind, and nervous system has been charted over generations of practice," says Anne Cushman, yoga instructor.

Pilates (pronounced puh-la-teez) is a physical fitness system that focuses on the core muscles which help keep the body balanced and which are essential to providing support for the spine. "The mind, when housed within a healthful body, possesses a glorious sense of power," says Joseph Pilates, founder of Pilates.

By fusing these two methods, it is possible to get a complete body work out.

I teach this combination of pilates and power yoga because it's fun and effective. I've been teaching for eight years now. I really enjoy it because it gives me the chance to stay healthy while helping others to stay healthy too. But really, it's more than just staying fit -- it's about balance, energy levels, positivity and feeling good! The class is suitable for men and women of all shapes and sizes. I do the class with the fan off, so we all sweat a lot and release all our toxins.

The art of staying young
Yogilates plays an important role in helping you stay youthful and energetic. It is much safer than hard-core gym workouts, including running and sports such as squash, which often have detrimental effects on your skeletal structure in the long run. Years of yo-yo dieting, starvation, over-eating and gym addictions take their toll on your body. Yogilates is gentle and designed to be your companion throughout this lifetime. Of course, physical fitness alone is not sufficient. Meditation, gratitude, healthy relationships and a positive attitude are all necessary ingredients as well!

Madonna's pilates trainer, Tracy Anderson, says, "I want to keep her body looking like it's 20 years old. Because you don't have to have saggy arms, or poor skin tone in your 50s. It just doesn't have to happen. Plus, it keeps you young. Who wants to get old?"

Balancing family, work and workouts
It's not easy! Many people, especially parents with children, say they don't have time to include workouts in their daily lives. They may believe they are doing their young ones good by staying at home at all times, however, the truth is, without energy, with injuries or illnesses, we are less likely to be able to keep up with the challenges of daily life.

Support from the family is important. I have a tight schedule without much 'free time'. I enjoy it that way. It allows me to do more. Though sometimes I feel like being lazy. The easiest thing to drop from most schedules is exercise; because that's something you do just for yourself. To stay committed to regular workouts, some people need a change in mindset, they need to think of working out as something they're doing, not just for themselves, but also to stay strong and healthy for the ones they love!

Have your biriani and eat it too! Do yourself (and your loved ones) a favour and enrol in a yogilates class near you.

By Shazia Omar
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed
Shazia Omar is a yoga and pilates instructor in Dhaka, and also the author of 'Diamonds in the Sky'.
For more information, email yogilatesindhaka@groups.facebook.com or instructor: shaziaomar@gmail.com.





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