When we compliment Malaika Arora about how radiant she looks, the diva quips, “It’s hilarious because although I take it as a compliment, some people make it sound like I’m 70 years old. I’m 43 and I don’t care about age because it’s not that big a deal. But most of the times, people don’t get my age right. I’ve been called 45.” The self-admitted health freak has now opened a yoga studio (Diva Yoga) in Mumbai that caters to women of all ages, which she plans to expand across the country. Looking stunning in athleisure wear, Malla talks to us about the importance of a healthy lifestyle, and how yoga helped her overcome tough times.
You have hardly changed in the last one-odd decade...
These compliments flatter me and make me feel that my hard work isn’t going unnoticed. I feel like I’m doing something right. I’m not doing it for someone’s appreciation. As selfish as it may sound, it’s for my longevity. It’s tough and easy at the same time.
Why do you say that?
Because no matter how unwell or tired you are or if you had a late night, you still have to hit the gym in the morning; even drag yourself sometimes. Unfortunately, we are in a field where we have to look a certain way. But then, there’s a good side to it too. It brings out a sense of happiness, well-being and confidence. I would not trade that for anything because it makes me feel good. It’s purely about self-worth.
Fitness is huge now.
Nowadays, it’s a lifestyle. I won’t call it a trend. Unlike today, it wasn’t easily accessible earlier and there weren’t many gyms. Now, there is more awareness and consciousness about fitness among people. Back in the day, I was a little more casual about health, too. There would be long hours of dancing and even one hour of it can make you faint if you aren’t fit. Now, I’m more passionate about fitness and it’s a way of life for me. I feel incomplete if I don’t work out or do yoga.
You launched Diva Yoga completely out of passion...
You hit the nail on its head. It’s truly my passion, which I channel and translate into this. I can talk about it confidently. I know a lot about everything. I do my research on health as well as nutrition and how to go about it.
How did you get the idea of a yoga studio?
I had been toying with it for a while. I was checking things out and discussing the prospects. I thought it was an opportunity that I couldn’t let go of. I loved the concept as well as the business plan and took the plunge.
Till a few years ago, fitness for women was neglected. What about now?
At the end of the day, it’s all about self-worth. Women tend to neglect themselves and get too occupied about everything else. Sometimes, we just need to do a few things purely for ourselves. We want to create a space that’s for the women, by the women and where they don’t have to look over their shoulder and feel judged or like someone’s leching at them. They should be comfortable; it doesn’t matter if they are in a pair of tights, shorts or even salwar kameez. At gyms, I see slightly older women feel awkward about sporting gym wear. That’s something I want to eradicate and if I can achieve it with Diva Yoga, I will feel I’ve made a small contribution to my tribe.
For one, it helped me immensely, like thousands of people. I’m all for fitness — whether running, swimming, lifting weights or doing yoga. It creates a sense of well-being and it wasn’t just physical but also mental approach. All of us go through a lot of lows in our lives and it gave me that focus and direction. When I was going through my separation, yoga calmed me and healed me. You can do it for just 10 minutes. You don’t have to go on for an hour, although it would be fantastic if you can pull that off. You will see what wonders it does to your mind, body and soul.
What’s your daily regime like?
I’m an early riser. I wake up at around 6 am and start my day with yoga. The first 15-20 minutes involve breathing exercises and asanas. If I don’t do it, I become like a grumpy old person. There’s a sense of clarity when I do it. Apart from that, I have to handle household chores, making sure my son has everything in place, then go for meetings and office. I devote at least an hour to yoga every day, apart from working out. We just need to give ourselves a little nudge to start somewhere.
What foods do you avoid? Do you have cheat days?
I won’t call it cheating because I maintain a well-balanced diet. Fitness and food complement each other. One must never starve and do these fad diets or go crazy and binge either. We must simply follow a routine in terms of a healthy diet. If breakfast works for you, have it. Some people can’t have food in the morning, so that’s fine, too. A wholesome lunch and an early dinner are important. For me, it’s about eating at the right time and making sure I don’t have anything too late. I finish dinner by 7 pm. You can see the difference it makes.
Is Arhaan also into fitness and yoga?
Yeah! I try to instil as much as I can and force my ways. But he’s watched me all these years. He says, ‘Mom, what you are eating is fab. It can’t get healthier than this’. He is particular about fitness as well as eating right and on time. Kids his age can be whimsical and want a 3-am snack. Arhaan does that, too, sometimes when he is out with his friends. But by and large, he’s conscious of his health. I’m glad I’ve sowed that seed into him early in life.