Namrata Purohit talks Pilates and shaping up with Sara Ali Khan, Sonakshi Sinha, Janhvi Kapoor and more

Pilates expert and trainer to the stars, Namrata Purohit gives Hannah Cardozo a glimpse of how Pilates transformed her life and how it can benefit everyone.

A sportsperson and fitness enthusiast at heart, Namrata Purohit believes in enjoying the process that keeps one fit. And that’s a belief that she tries to pass on to all her clients, which include actresses Sara Ali Khan, Sonakshi Sinha and Janhvi Kapoor. She is also a firm believer in practicing what she preaches, and lives by the mantra KISSS – ‘Keep It Safe, Simple and Smart’. 

We sat down with her for a chat about discovering the power of Pilates, her journey to the top, and the lessons she’s learnt along the way.

At 16, you became the youngest trained Stott Pilates instructor, what made you choose Pilates over any other form of exercise?

My journey started with a fall. I fell off a horse when I was 15 and badly injured my knee and had to undergo surgery. For almost a year after that, I tried various fitness forms to get back on track. I went to the gym, to physiotherapy, and a lot of different things. Eventually, I tried Pilates, because my father, Samir Purohit, was hosting a Pilates course in Mumbai. And just four days into the course, for the first time in an entire year, I was pain-free. And that’s when I felt the magic of Pilates. And I thought, ‘If this can help me so much, it can help a lot of other people out there’. And I became a believer in Pilates. That’s how my journey started.

You’ve come a long way since then… could you tell us a little bit about what Pilates is and how it can transform a sedentary life? 

Pilates was started by a man called Joseph Pilates for men at war. And then it was transformed for ballet and contemporary dancers. So I always say, when you do Pilates, you’re gonna get the best of both worlds – the strength of a warrior, but the lean, long, flexible body of a dancer.  

Pilates involves mindful movement. It requires focusing on your breathing, focusing on your mind, and then moving the entire body. Core engagement is a very big principle in Pilates. There are various benefits of Pilates – strength, flexibility, lean body mass, stability, balance, endurance, agility, coordination and concentration. It can be done by anybody and everybody because it can be customised for each individual’s needs. It is a pain-free way to exercise and not only helps you if you are in pain, but also helps prevent injury. If you do it right, there is zero chance of injury.

Should one complement Pilates with any other form of exercise? 

Pilates doesn’t need to be done with any other form of exercise. However, you could add cardiovascular exercises, depending on your goals, needs and lifestyle. But otherwise, Pilates alone is sufficient because it works the entire body. It’s great for sportspeople, athletes, those who want to gain weight, lose weight, everything. 

Pilates works your body and mind simultaneously; how has it transformed your life?

The biggest thing that I learnt when I started Pilates is that our body is amazing. It’s a machine that we really do not appreciate enough. It’s taught me to love my body. This also helps me train others as I can help them understand their bodies better, appreciate their bodies for what they are, and just be more positive about their bodies. Pilates has also helped me stay positive and calm.

Food is an equally important part of staying fit; as a sports nutritionist, what are some mistakes you often notice with eating habits? How can one change them?

There are two to three big mistakes that people tend to make. The first is when they start a regime or when they think about losing weight, specifically, they think about eating less. And that is a big mistake; it’s not about eating less, but about eating right. Food is not our enemy, food is our friend. We need to take in the right nutrients and nutrition to get the best out of our bodies, and eating less is not the solution. It can harm the body, the mind, energy levels, our hair, our skin, and everything. 

The second thing is when people are starting anew or suddenly have a new goal that’s come up, they want it tomorrow. So they push themselves to the brim.  Fitness or exercise or diet – a word I hate – should be sustainable. Working out is important, but train smart rather than train hard. And lastly, rest well; sleeping less is not a solution. 

Do you find it challenging to stay consistent? What motivates you to push through?

I genuinely don’t think it’s hard to stay consistent if you are enjoying what you’re doing. I think with anything, even in fitness, if you find a fitness regime that you enjoy, be it Pilates, Zumba, EMS or even just playing a sport, the most important thing is to enjoy what you’re doing and you are more likely to stick to it. Another thing that helps people is to either have a buddy or trainer who motivates them, or an equation with people where you enjoy training with them because any activity should not be stressful. Those things are really important to stay consistent in your workout. 

Even with food, if you know how to make delicious, healthy food, you’re less likely to go out and binge; or if you eat at the right time and give your body the right nutrients, even if you have to push yourself the first week, the second week your body will crave those nutrients and crave the bad stuff less.

What have you learnt along the way that you would not recommend doing?

I do not recommend overdoing exercise because that actually causes more harm than good. The most important thing is to give your body rest because your body transforms during the rest period and not during your exercise. Because when you exercise, you tear microfibers. So if you’re going to exercise, and tear microfibers, and then exercise again, and tear microfibers, when is your body getting a chance to build those microfibers back in a stronger way? It’s really important to realise that rest and recovery are the building blocks of your journey. I can’t emphasize enough the need to rest. 

You’ve been working with some of the biggest celebrities and sportspersons. Can you tell us about some of them, what they enjoy about Pilates, what their fitness goals are, and what motivates them to be consistent?

Working with Bollywood celebrities and sports personalities has been an incredible journey. They’re the most focused, dedicated and hardworking people out there. After all, that’s their profession. And they know that they’re scrutinized on every little inch and every little thing that goes right or wrong. They’re extremely motivated. And because they are motivated, they come regularly. And because they come regularly, they enjoy what they do, they don’t like missing their workout. And that makes my job a lot easier. 

It’s also fun because their needs keep changing. The goals keep changing, depending on the time of the year with sportspeople, because sometimes it’s performance time or recovery, and sometimes it’s rehab. It is also fun because it’s challenging. You have to keep using your mind and using all the things you’ve learnt and putting it together to make sure they get the results they require. So it’s been an incredible journey, whether it’s with Sara Ali Khan, Janhvi Kapoor, Leander Paes and even with Kareena Kapoor Khan when she wanted to lose weight after delivering Taimur.

It is no secret that you love sports… what are some of your favourite sports and what do you love about them?

At the moment, I’m enjoying my equestrian sports. I’ve been playing polo and show jumping. What I like the most about it is that I can also connect with nature and animals while I’m playing a sport and being active. It’s just such a wonderful journey because you’re also learning so much through the horses because they are also athletes. And so not only am I training myself, I’m training my horses.

I also love playing squash – I played at the national level – football, and I’m a water baby as well. Whether it’s scuba diving or surfing, kayaking, wakeboarding, water skiing, or swimming in general, I love my watersports.

What does your workout playlist look like?

Oh my God, it’s a huge mix. I would say tropical house, techno, a little bit of deep house and sometimes I can go into Indie tech and psychedelic trance as well.

Pilates is not a form of exercise that is widely accessible to the general public. What kind of exercises can a layperson do at home that mimics Pilates?

The reformers and all the equipment takes Pilates to a different level because you have equipment that could challenge you or assist you. But at the same time, Pilates can also be done on the mat. You can do exercises using your own body weight, as well as props like a foam roller or Swiss ball, and even resistance bands. These are a few props that you can keep at home that could sort of mimic what you do on the reformer. 

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