Bollywood actress and model Esha Gupta, who will open the two-day XYoga Dubai festival at Kite Beach on February 21 with yoga expert Jacob Manning, has been practicing Iyengar yoga for the last 10 years. For her, doing a split — a move that calls for superb flexibility — is her idea of warming up and a comfortable posture to sit.
“Honestly, I have been an athlete all my life and yoga has always been a part of my life. It has helped me stay active, focused and determined … Yoga is not just for my body, but for my soul,” said Gupta in an exclusive interview with Gulf News tabloid ahead of her UAE visit.
More than 2,000 yoga enthusiasts are expected to take part in the event, organised by Dubai Holding, at 8am.
Immediately after her Vinyasa Free Flow yoga session at Kite Beach, Gupta — who has acted in films including ‘Rustom’ and ‘Baadshaho’ — will fly to Thailand to film her new web series and then shoot for her new movie ‘Tipsy’ in London with director Deepak Tijori.
As she gets ready to take over Dubai this weekend, here’s her take on …
XYoga Dubai and her love for it...
“What excites me is that there will be so many people in one spot doing yoga during early hours of the morning and all you have to do is register online to participate. It’s not some brand promotion, but they just want to promote good health … My father is 75 and he still wakes up at 5am to do two hours of yoga every day. I started doing yoga while I was in school.
"Honestly, I was bored quickly because I had so much energy and I preferred to play active sport. But as I grew up, I realised the importance of yoga. Since college, I have been practicing yoga out of my own free will. I wake up at 6am and I go to bed by 10.30pm every day. While I am usually hyper as a person, yoga grounds me.”
Why she gravitates towards Iyengar yoga...
“I have been practicing Iyengar yoga for the last 10 years. I want my body to be aligned and this form of traditional yoga helps me achieve that … Iyengar yoga is all about breath control and is a combination of postures and pranayama [breath control]. You feel elongated after a session.
"It also helps me with my strength. We use props like ropes and soft bricks. But if you are not focused, then your breath control isn’t right and your asanas [poses] are not under your control. I work out first thing in the morning because you need to concentrate while doing yoga.”
How yoga helps her deal with public scrutiny and hate...
“The generation before us was very different. There was not so much showing off or so much negativity. The maximum you may face is that ‘neighbour auntie’ who will speak something ill about you. But we celebrities get hated a lot … People have become so dependent on social media and it’s becoming difficult to switch off. But that one hour of yoga helps me calm down and relax. Breathing calms me down and there are times when I end up sleeping towards the end of the session. Just after five minutes of that, you feel so refreshed and invigorated.”
Doing a headstand...
“I can do it, but I don’t do it anymore because I got a bad shoulder injury while filming for ‘Baadshaho’. So I don’t want to stress my upper body unnecessarily.”
Her go-to yoga move...
“Ten Surya Namaskars [sun salutations] is my go-to routine. At times as actors we are shooting at various places or we have to leave home by 6am, so all you need is 10 minutes to do those 10 Surya Namaskars. But the trick is to go slow and breathe right in each pose.
"Just hold for five seconds in each pose. Recently, I was in Abu Dhabi for a holiday and I was doing it every day in my hotel room. Even today after all these years of doing yoga, my legs shake and quiver when holding it. But remember, go slow to gain strength.”
“I come from a family of vegetarians. We are vegetarians not for religious purposes though. Although I am a Punjabi, I have lots of vegetables with collagen in them.
"I am gluten and dairy-intolerant, so I avoid it completely. When I eat gluten, my stomach hurts and I get acidic. Plus, I don’t believe in having milk products because I don’t think our body needs it. I also have carbs until 6pm. For dinner, I just have dal [lentils] or soups.”
Gyms being a runway for athleisure and not a temple of fitness these days...
“I don’t understand Instagram influencers who put on make-up and head to the gym. In my opinion, you need to dress up for yourself — whether you are walking on the runway or going out to work. When I work out, you might often see me without shoes unless I am doing cardio exercises.”
Idea of being fit...
“It doesn’t matter what size you are or what body shape you are, the real question is whether you can climb a flight of stairs without any problem … Being healthy is not about being thin … I remember seeing my young cousins in Dubai and them fretting about being a size four. But I told them, you can be any size but focus on being healthy and fit. I don’t want to have a daughter tomorrow who’s concerned that she isn’t thin.
"So, our focus should be on being healthy and fit. Lots of designers have banned size zero models and that’s wonderful. American model Ashley Graham has such a beautiful face and body. You look at her and you know that she works out too and remember just because you are smaller in dress size doesn’t mean you are healthier than me.”
Three top tips by Esha Gupta for her February 21 session:
Tip 1: Don’t be conscious about what others are doing around you and their fitness level. Whether you are 16 or 60 years of age, turning up on Friday is a good start.
Tip 2: It’s never too late to start your own yoga journey.
Tip 3: Keep your phones away during the session and don’t worry about taking selfies. Try to be in the moment and try to forget your problems at work, home or office.
Tip 4: Hydrate well. While you can drink a bit of water during the session, avoid it if you don’t want to do yoga on a full bladder.
XYOGA DUBAI: OTHER STARS TO WATCH OUT FOR
Here’s a look at the XYoga schedule and sessions:
Friday — February 21
8am - The Mass Opening Session with Esha Gupta and Jacob Manning
10am - Stand UP Paddle Board Yoga with by KSD with Paola
11am - Mom & Me Yoga (3-10yrs) by Move On Yoga with Carla Julian
1.15pm - Secrets of a Healthy Mind by LightHouse Arabia with Dr Catherine
2pm - Flexibility Flow with Amina Taha
4pm - All about inversions and backbends with Jacob Manning
5pm - Turn it UP(side down) with Sjana Elise Earp
Saturday — February 22
8am - Family Acro Yoga with Ben and Angela
11am - Rocket Yoga with Goli Hashtroudi
2pm - Live Piano Flow by Yoga La Vie with Dina Cassir and pianist Aresh
4pm - Animal Flow by MEFITPRO with Parveez
5pm - Yoga in Arabic with Roudha Al Marri
Don’t miss it!
Do yoga with Esha Gupta and Jacob Manning on February 21 at Kite Beach at 8am. Entry is free but online registration is required.