How does a former engineer end up teaching exercise, yoga and meditation to large groups of eager moms and health enthusiasts? Well, it’s not such an odd story for Anuja Rajendra, a lifelong Michigander. The Ann Arbor native, wife and mother of two has created a new whole-body fitness regimen she calls BollyFit®.
Rajendra says she has always loved dance, participating and performing since she was a little tike. After graduating from the University of Michigan with an engineering degree and working in the field, she decided to return her passion for dance. The idea of combining it with fitness and holistic elements from her culture seemed like a nice match. Initially, she was a little frustrated with her weight after gaining almost 65 pounds following her first pregnancy.
“Dance is a bridge for me between the cultures I grew up with and something I truly love,” she says. “Fitness, health and wellness are natural to the body. I just wanted a way to bring all three together and help people at the same time.”
Bollywood dance moves, yoga and meditation, along with classical Bharat Natyam (a traditional Indian dance form) and Bhangra (a folk dance of the Punjab region of the country) are set to traditional Indian-style music. All of this is mixed together during the class, which lasts just over an hour. The obvious question is, “can anybody do it?” The answer, according to the program’s creator, is a resounding “yes.” Just about any age or fitness level can benefit on the outside and in through the program.
Serving as a guinea pig for her own program, she was able to get rid of the 65 pounds and maintain her weight ever since. “This is designed to bring out the best in people physically and holistically.”
The creation of BollyFit® and her work in health and wellness has drawn the attention of some high-profile fans. Governor Synder recently appointed her to his Council on Physical Fitness, Health and Sports. Through the Council, she will host a series of physical activity events. BollyFit® POP! (Party on the Peninsula) events are scheduled across the state throughout September.
The inside-out approach of BollyFit helps participants shed weight inside and out, according to Rajendra. “Happiness comes from within, so what we do utilizes conscious choreography to make each session a meditative experience,” she said. “During each class, you can smile while you sweat, as well as feeling happier and healthier at the same time.”
The five- to seven-week class sessions are available at several locations across the area and more locations are being added all of the time. There is also a DVD that brings the class into the home. Anuja says she is also looking for fitness professionals to train as BollyFit instructors, or “guides” as she calls them, to do even more classes locally and abroad as BollyFit continues to grow in popularity.