Bellyjam and Bollywood Fitness
How did you get started in health and fitness?
I have been in some form of dance for a large portion of my life. After I had focused completely on Middle Eastern dance, I thought it would be a great thing to bring to a health club environment.
How would you describe your training style?
I guess I would describe my training style as "deceptive"! When you are dancing, you are getting a great workout without being aware of it because you are having a great time focusing on the steps and technique.
Top three favorite exercises and why?
1) Jacknife Pushups: they really pump up your energy!
2) Hip twists in a Plank: you can really feel the power in your lower abs and your arms are also strengthening.
3) Arm and Leg Resistance: like squats and pushups. I like to use the floor and my body only to work out. That way, I can be assured my body is only doing what it can handle. I do this with my physical longevity in mind. Also, for women especially, resistance training is one of the only ways you can increase bone density after a certain age.
What food would we find in your fridge?
Cold string beans - I eat them like french fries! They are crunchy and refreshing.
Do you use supplements? If so, which ones? Why?
I use a multivitamin with 100 percent iron, biotin for to keep my hair strong and long (bellydancers are serious about their hair!), and MSM for joint health, as my life involves a lot of jumping on all different kinds of floors, some of which may not be the most supportive!
Any classic healthy meals that you eat?
I absolutely love chicken and broccoli over moghrabiyya coucous (the fat kind) with a side of steamed spinach!
If I am out to dinner and it is available, I will most always choose ahi tuna steak.
Give your best 3 health tips that people can do right now:
Eating: watch your portions. You would be amazed to see the smallness of what a healthy portion is supposed to be.
Eating: more fruits and veggies! If you think you are doing okay, do more.
The best way to get your body's vitamins is through real food.
Work up a sweat: do your cardio for a solid 15 to 20 mins. It is great for your immune system and may activate NK cells.
What are your best tips for losing the last few pounds?
Change up your routine. If your body is used to your regular workout regimen, do something new.
10. Do you have a fitness role model? If yes, who are they and why do you look up to them?
This may be an obvious answer, but I find Dr. Oz to be an inspiration. His advice is practical and down to earth.
What is your favorite inspirational quote?
There are many, but here is a good one:
"This is the true joy of life: the being used up for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clot of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy." - George Bernard Shaw
Everyone has different things that they deem worthwhile to do - if yours is fitness, career, art, whatever...no one is going to get up and do it for you. You must take action to achieve your goals.
What is the best piece of advice you were ever given about health and fitness?
Surprisingly, this advice was given to me by a musician, but it applies: "You have to pick up your instrument every day." In other words, if you slack in your practice, you will not progress as steadily. I try to apply this to my dance practice - even if I don't have that much time, I try to fit something in.
In a general fitness setting, even if it's something small like walking around the block for a few minutes, it keeps you on a routine.
What are your favorite exercises for developing abs?
As I said before, I prefer to use the body's resistance and the floor, so in my classes we do controlled leg lifts from a supine position to build core stability. My dancers can always feel their work the next day!
Another great ab workout is the extended sit up using a yoga ball. Once you have accomplished this, you feel great. For those who are in great shape and needing an extra challenge, doing sit ups on an inclined bench is really excellent.
What are your favorite exercises for developing a nice butt?
Squats, squats, and more squats! Also a dog leg lift from a prone position straight up towards the ceiling with a flexed foot.
Where does your inspiration come from?
My inspiration has always come from my teachers. If you work with the best, you accelerate your trajectory on the road to becoming the best.
What is your favorite form of cardio?
Dance, of course!
What was your funniest moment at the gym?
One time, I had a class to teach before a gig, so I wore hair extensions. Towards the end of class, my phony pony went flying!
What is your favorite part of teaching fitness classes and/or personal training?
Having my students feel great about their bodies is the ultimate reward. Bellydance is for all ages and all sizes, and I love when my students feel beautiful.
How do you handle setbacks in your own fitness journey?
If I take a path that isn't working, I try a different method. Most importantly, I do not stop or give up.
If you could be the best at one sport/fitness activity, what would it be?
Besides bellydance (of course!), I would choose Gymnastics. I started taking lessons very late in life, and my coach said, "Where have you been all these years?". The sheer force and power combined with grace is compelling to watch and a thrill to execute. It's just you and the floor. It must feel the same for those who love parkour!
What is your favorite song to workout to right now?
Although it is not Middle Eastern, I am really into the music of Stromae right now, and try to fit his music into my classes. My students now love him as well! His sound is EDM and old French and hip hop at the same time - it really is beautiful and can pump you up! Very danceable.