Dheeraj Vashishta, Zoe Modgill, Shwetambari Shetty, Nidhi B Mehta and Pooja Rao belong to the same ‘fitternity’. They have taken their passion for fitness a notch higher by making a career out of it. Their methods may vary, but the ultimate goal remains the same—rejuvenate the body, soothe exhausted mind, and heal one’s soul.
An IIMC post-graduate, Dheeraj Vashishta slogged in the electronic media for five years before calling it quits in 2009. “I realised that my hard-earned money wasn’t contributing to my body’s wellbeing. I was feeling miserable. I left my job and started practising and learning yoga. I established Vashistha Yoga Foundation in Ahmedabad in 2011, and since then, I have devoted myself full-time to teaching and popularising the ancient and holistic way of healing,” he recounts. His centre has a yoga studio with different batches from beginner to advanced, teachers’ training course as well as yoga therapy where one gets to learn on a one-to-one basis with the help of a team of five teachers.
Ditto for Nidhi B Mehta, a professional dancer, performer, teacher and choreographer, and founder and creator of BollyArobix™ workout. She worked with a leading MNC for two years after earning her management degree, and went on to start a Bollywood dance studio (www.bollybeatz.com) in Silicon Valley, California, in 2002.
“I was a good student throughout my school and college years, so a corporate job was the best career option for me. But I loved dancing too. BollyBeatz was born purely out of my passion for dance. I have taught more than 800 students, and today BollyBeatz runs its classes in California, Chicago, Texas, Singapore and India,” quips the globe-trotter who teaches BollyArobix™, BollyChoreo, Zumba, BollywoodYoga and BabyBeatz at her classes.
Bengaluru-based banker-turned-fitness entrepreneur Shwetambari Shetty, who started off as a stand-alone Zumba instructor in 2011 and went on to co-found The Tribe Fitness Club in 2014 and merged it with Cult by CureFit in 2017, has 27 centres in Bengaluru, and four in Gurugram. She says, “I can vouch for the fact that this is the most gratifying job, people love you and respect you for helping them. It is also challenging because fitness is a luxury in India and not a necessity.”
Pursuing fitness as a parallel career, Delhi-based Zoe Modgill was a sporty but an overweight kid during her school days. “I had the skills, but my fitness level was not anything to be particularly proud of. But from horse riding to basketball, I was always active. In 2007, I got into working out. From training to climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to going for a 6 am run at Lodhi Gardens, I soon became addicted to that incredible feeling of sweating it out and challenging myself.
And there was just no stopping,” says Modgill, who has a degree in Graphic Design, a bachelor's degree in Social & Ethical Advertising from Central St Martins and The London College of Communication as well as an instructor qualification for Les Mills Cxworx and Bodypump. “Fitness is my passion,” proclaims Modgill, who started her career as a graphic designer with an ad agency and later spearheaded The Art Company to bring art and design with a difference, apart from co-founding a fitness studio, Studio 60.
The most challenging aspect of being a fitness entrepreneur for Bengaluru-based Pooja Rao has been finding and training the right type of instructors. Rao quit her corporate life in 2010, and trained to be a Pilates instructor and, after teaching freelance for the first five years, opened Transform Pilates Studio in 2015. “When I started, there were at best one or two authentic Pilates Studios in Bengaluru, and it was not in demand except among people who had tried these classes abroad. But over the last eight years, the demand has grown,” says she, adding, “My biggest challenge is that there aren’t enough qualified teachers.”
The best takeaway as the graphic designer-turned-fitness instructor sumps it up for all of them is “changing other people’s attitude towards fitness, making them enjoy it and understand how it can change their lives.”