Celebrity fitness trainer Namrata Purohit© Namrata Purohit

Pilates Can Change Your Life! Just Ask Namrata Purohit

Celebrity fitness trainer Namrata Purohit, who is also the Pilates instructor to stars like Janhvi Kapoor, Sara Ali Khan and Malaika Arora among others, enjoys immense popularity and rightly so. Her Instagram feed is rife with fitness and wellness tips that she shares every now and then with her fans. A serious accident introduced her to the world of Pilates when Purohit was a teenager, and she has not looked back since.

The celebrity trainer went on to become one of the youngest certified Stott Pilates instructors in the world at just 16 years of age. Since then she has trained many young Hindi cinema stars and also co-founded The Pilates Studio with her father, Samir Purohit—a pioneering space both in terms of training and equipment.

But Purohit’s interests aren’t restricted to only Pilates — she has also trained in pole dancing, boogie bounce, barre, Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS), and scuba diving. She penned and published her book The Lazy Girl’s Guide To Being Fit (Penguin Random House) in 2015 and launched her music video ‘Flow’ in 2019, which talks about rhythm and movement in life.

In an exclusive tête-à-tête with us, the Pilates queen tells us how to go about living a better and healthier life, how she embarked on her unique journey, the roadblocks she faced, and the most fun celebrities she has worked with.

HELLO!: You have been doing Pilates for many years now, tell us about your journey. How did you start and what got you interested?

Namrata Purohit: “So my journey actually started with a fall. I was 15 when I had a bad fall and injured my knee. I was in a lot of pain, and tried all kinds of rehabilitation methods, forms of exercise, to get out of pain and get better. But I was not pain free for a long, long time. Then, one fine day, when my father was hosting a Pilates course in Mumbai, I got a chance to try Pilates for the first time. And literally in 3-4 days of doing the course, for the first time after one entire year of suffering and trying everything and getting no results, my pain subsided. So that’s when I really became a believer in the exercise.

I completed the course which led me to think that if this can help me so much, it can help a lot more people out there as well, and I just wanted to spread the magic of Pilates. Then, I went on to do some more courses that were available to fully educate myself about the form and its ins and outs, and that’s kind of how my journey began.”

H!: What were the challenges and roadblocks you faced in the initial days? 

NP: “I guess the initial challenge was when people would look at me at the age of 15, 16 and give me that look saying, ‘does she really know anything? Will she be able to train us?’ They’d just look at me with severe doubt in their eyes. But I think once we started doing the exercises and got into the first class of the routine, they started to have some faith in me and realised that I probably knows what I’m doing. Luckily I managed to break people’s preconceived notions once they actually tried a class. After that it was all okay.”

H!: Besides pilates, which other form of exercise do you love and would recommend to others?

NP: “So, of course Pilates is my number one. I also love doing EMS, because it’s extremely effective and time efficient. If you just do 20 mins once or twice a week, you can get a full-body workout. One EMS session is equal to almost 4 strength training sessions. So that’s definitely on the top of my list. In general, I like mind-body forms of exercise; you know, where you can focus and breathe into it and don’t like anything that’s too hectic. I’d rather do things that help me focus and stabilise not only my body but also my mind.”

H!: What are the basic principles of Pilates and what should a beginner know?

NP: “One thing I keep reminding people is that Pilates focuses a lot on the form, so any good instructor out there is going to make you keep doing the same thing until you get it right. So, you have to have a little bit of patience, I would say, because the form is very important and we’re teaching you how to move through the centering of your body. So, Pilates makes you understand all the muscles in your body through mindful movements, it’s teaching you to use your mind and connect with your body and really be one with yourself.

The beauty of Pilates is that it’s a lot more in-depth. The principles it follows are based on breathing, control and alignment. All the principles focus on the body being in its most natural, neutral state, and helping you achieve the maximum benefits through these deliberate, purposeful movements.”

H!: Over the years, have you had to bust many myths with regard to pilates? 

NP: “I think I got a *couple* of myths to say the least (laughs). One being that many people thought that Pilates is only for women. That’s one myth I think we’re still working to get rid of. Pilates was actually started by a man for men at war! Then it was transformed and adopted by ballet and contemporary dancers. So, through Pilates, you’re actually going to get the strength of a warrior but the lean, long body of a ballet dancer. It’s kind of the best of both worlds. It’s also extremely customisable and anybody and everybody can benefit from this form of exercise.

Another myth is that people think it’s a slow exercise and works only on flexibility, which isn’t the case at all. In fact, depending on the routine, it can be quite fast-paced; it also works a lot on core body strength, whole body strength—legs, arms, everything. So, it’s more than just about flexibility, you know?”

H!: How interconnected are Yoga and Pilates?

NP: “In one sense I’d say they are similar because both require you to focus on your breathing. Both are mind-body forms of exercise; but Pilates and Yoga are otherwise very different—while the former is done more using equipment, Yoga is more on the mat.

Even though they both focus on breathing, the breathing principles in itself and the way the breathing is performed is completely different.”

H!: How has Pilates changed your life?

NP: “Oh, in multiple ways! One, of course, is allowing me to live a pain-free life, which was the most important thing for me, personally. But also the fact that, now, it’s a career. It’s been the most beautiful journey because I get the opportunity to train so many people from so many walks of life, and I get to see how it’s benefiting them and how they’re feeling in real time, which is a very satisfying journey.

For instance, when a client comes to you and they say they’re feeling better physically or that they’re seeing progress and it’s alleviating pain—it’s very satisfying to hear as a trainer. Pilates has also helped me grow as an individual and helped me know my own body better and be comfortable in my own skin. So I think it’s been an incredible path of just learning and discovering more of my own self.”

H!: What’s your fitness mantra?

NP: “I always say KISSS- keep it safe, simple and smart.”

H!: What fitness trends do you think are going to be ‘in’ next year?

NP: “I think the world is going back to its roots, and people have started thinking more of the mind and body as one entity. And I’ve seen that coming back especially after the lockdown. Everyone is talking about the importance of mental well-being as well.

So I see a lot of these mind-body forms of exercise coming back and doing well. Pilates, Yoga and other mindful movements are going to be in for sure.”

H!: A lot of people want to lose stubborn belly fat or fat from only certain parts of their body. Can Pilates help with that? What would you advise them to do?

NP: “Honestly it’s a myth again, that you can spot reduce. Unless you’re going under the knife and getting proper cosmetic changes done, no exercise can reduce fat from only certain areas of your body. And anyone telling you otherwise is lying!

Yes, you’ll probably be able to ‘spot tone’ to some extent, but spot reduction doesn’t exist. You need to lose fat overall to see any kind of muscle definition. Pilates can help you in that, it’ll help you tone your body.”

H!: What are your views on the fitness industry in India?

NP: “I think the fitness industry in India is really growing and evolving. There was a time when people only went to the gym and thought that was the only way to stay fit, but now people are going back to the roots through things like Yoga and Pilates. They’re more aware of the different so-called fitness trends and forms of exercise that are available. And, at the same time, people want to explore, they want to know more about themselves, they want to understand what would be best for their bodies, which is great.”

H!: You have trained many celebrities — who’s the most fun to work with? And who’s the most down to try new things?

NP: “Ah, that’s a very tough question! But, I think everybody is fun in their own way. And the best part is that because they have so much pressure on them to remain fit and look good, they’re the easiest people to train because they know they *have* to do it—it’s part of their job description to look a certain way and fit certain standards, so it comes with the territory.

Celebrities who are always ready to try new things are Malaika Arora, Sara Ali Khan, Janhvi Kapoor—all of these girls are happy to explore, happy to discover new things and willing to do what’s best for them.”