Success comes to those who work hard for it. Once you drown yourself in commitment, there is no looking back. The pioneer of pilates physical fitness system in India Yasmin Karachiwala‘s story shows us there is no dream far enough if we are ready to pursue it. Known as the expert behind some of the best celebrity bods we see, she has come a long way.
In a warm conversation with KenFolios, she talks about how a lazy child transformed into someone who is the best in fitness industry. Excerpts in her own words:
One heck of a rebel
“I grew up in Mumbai and went to an all-girls convent school, always feeling a misfit. I was a total tomboy and kept telling my mom to put me in a co-ed school because I wanted to play sports with boys. I grew up in a building where I was one of the only two girls in a group of 15 boys. I was comfortable being one of the boys. I was lazy and never took part in sports because I hated running. I liked to do things where I could show my strength.
Even in school, the only sport I did was short put and javelin throw, as it needed strength. I always made excuses when it came to running. I would never wear dresses, and instead sneak into my older brother’s wardrobe for shirts.
I started leaning towards being a tomboy when I had very long hair. Every day, I would trouble my mother to tie it up until I was satisfied, which took an hour. One day, she took me to a salon and chopped my hair off. I got so angry and told her that if you want a boy, I will give you a boy. That was when I started chopping my hair short and became a complete tomboy. I am a complete rebel.
If you would make me do something that I do not like then I do it all the more just to rebel. That was how my fitness journey started, too.
The days of obscurity
It all started when a friend of mine asked me to accompany her to a gym. I went to the aerobics section as it seemed very cool. Like most teenagers, I thought that I am fabulous dancer. So I went to the room and got the biggest shock of my life, as I was so uncoordinated. I made a fool of myself but the stubbornness in me had caught fire. I could not believe that I was bad at it and started going to the class every day till I perfected the entire routine.
My teacher recognized my talent, and I will be forever grateful to her. I was going to the US for an exchange program and she asked me to do a fitness course from there. Nobody in India then was certified. I went for the exchange program and simultaneously did a fitness course from ACE (American College of Exercise). I came back to India, started step classes, and received training to be a teacher for kindergarten students. I started teaching in the mornings and training in the evenings.
Sometime later, I got a job in French International School, in Breach Candy, as an English teacher. I also got married by then and moved to Cuff Parade. So, I would travel around the city everyday to take classes and training sessions. I enjoyed what I did and continued doing it until I had my first son. That was when I realized that teaching so many kids in a school required a lot of patience and by the time I reached home, I was really impatient. That was when I gave up on teaching and focused on being a mother.
Fit women do not become men
Teaching only two group classes was not enough and I wanted to do more. So, I studied to become a personal trainer. It was very challenging, as everyone told me that I would start looking like a man even after so many years of training myself.
All I said was I will figure it out whenever that day will come.
As people started observing my body changing, they wanted to try it out, too. They started coming to me for training. I started a little studio in my guest room, which nobody was doing at that time. As the number of people increased, I shifted to my living room. My kids were too small and my husband did not mind as long as I was home with the boys.
I was happy because I was doing what I loved and got to be a mom as well. I converted a part of my terrace and made a studio, which was my goal. I needed a bigger space and moved to Bandra when my kids started going to school. Over the years, I felt like my wok was set in personal training. So I went to the US and studied Pilates. I became the first BASI (Body Arts and Science International) certified Pilates instructor in India.
@fletcher.pilates towel workout works the upper body. 'It's a portable gym anytime anyplace', says @katrinakaif 😊 #befitbecauseyoudeserveit #yasminfitnessmantra #YasminsBodyImage #CelebrityTrainer #fitnessgoals #BeFitwithYasminKarachiwala #Pilates #PilatesMasterTrainer #PilatesIndia #FletcherPilates
Sweet elixir of success
I came back and brought one reformer, one chair, one trip pies that was very expensive and started pilates here. People were little weary about it, as it was something they had never heard of and it was expensive. But slowly. they started coming in, saw the results and spoke about it. The celeb started training. That was when the whole country sat up and noticed it.
I started from setting up a machine and increased gradually. Today, I have 12 trainers in pilates. I used to call a teacher from the US to train my trainers. I started getting franchising offers and realized that I need to train them very quickly. So I went to the US and became a master trainer. Today, her venture Body Image has four franchises in Dubai, Bangladesh, Hyderabad, and Kemp’s corner.
I travel a lot to learn and upgrade myself constantly. I feel glad that I have put India on the pilates map. I am invited to Boston next year to present a workshop on Pilates. I have also been offered a certification from Fletcher, West Virginia.
From a trainer to a celebrity
My journey was very organic in this respect. I had group classes where Gauri Khan, Chunky Pandey, Dimple Kapadia, Twinkle, Ekta Kapoor used to come, as they had heard of step classes. They liked it and that is how my whole journey started. I started personal training again. One day, Kareena called me asking for personal training and she joined my living room studio.
I met Katrina at a party after she signed up for the song sheila ki jawaani. She wanted to lose weight and asked me to help her. We started working out and it was she who started talking about me. That is how the word spread and I had other people coming in. Now I train Alia Bhatt, Deepika Padukone and many more celebs.
How long should one diet?
When you say diet, it means temporary. It is not a lifestyle or a food plan change. I believe that anything that has to be long term has to be a change that you are going to do for the rest of your life. I want people to understand the concept of eating right and healthy rather than just following a diet.
I have always believed that fitness is a journey, not a destination. I think people are understanding and trying to make it a way of life. Like technology grows at a cost, using up natural resources, I feel that it is the case with food as well.
People need to understand that there is so much junk out there. You need to know your body and eat healthy. Do what in your power at least. We can manage what to put into our mouths. Make good choices by eliminating small things one at a time and lead a healthy life.“