What are the secrets that keep Shilpa Shetty happy and healthy always?
Shilpa Shetty: I go by the philosophy of the Oneness University. That gives me immense happiness. I can’t explain exactly what it entails, but it’s a better way of living life. Along with that is my own spirituality. I am connected with God and I believe I am His special child. I don’t need a reason to be happy. Happiness is something you convince yourself of and, I believe that I am happy at all times in any given situation. There are two ways of looking at life — the positive and the negative. I believe in the positive. This positivity keeps me happy.
Is this something you have developed over a period of time?
Shilpa Shetty: It’s come with life and experience, though I veer towards being cheerful. My mum tells me that I have always been a happy child, but my happiness now comes from the way I perceive life today. Earlier, if I was happy, it was more a thoughtless happiness. You don’t think too much as you go through life. But now, I measure things more and realise how fortunate I am, how good life has been to me. It’s all about perception.
Your association with yoga has shot into prominence only recently. But you are among the fittest actors in the industry. How have you maintained your youthfulness and your health over the years in spite of your long innings in a highly competitive, stressful industry?
Shilpa Shetty: I didn’t take up yoga to look good. I’ve never given a good figure too much importance. Fitness was more my target. I went to the gym not to look good but to feel good and be fit. I worked out and I wanted to maintain a healthy body. Like Bhagavan says, [Bhagavan is the founder of the Oneness University] if you want to be successful, if you want to achieve something in life, you need to be fit. If your immunity is low, it’s not going to allow you to work as hard as you would otherwise have. It stems from this understanding. I wanted to promote yoga wherever I could because as a celebrity I’m given a platform. It is unfortunate that yoga is a product of our country and we don’t value it. I felt it my duty that if I was to come out with a DVD on fitness, it shouldn’t be about weight training but about yoga.
My initiation into yoga was a very gradual process. The yoga shown in my DVD is the ashtanga yoga — it’s the oldest form of yoga. I took special training before I made that DVD and I wanted to know the nitty-gritty and the benefits of every asana I was doing. Earlier I was doing general yoga; I got into ashtanga yoga two years ago. Yoga targets the mind, body and soul — it’s this three-in-one practice. It is the holistic approach to life. It is a scientific way of being fit. It cures you if you are ill, tones your body, and keeps you fit. If you are unwell, you can’t do any other form of exercise but yoga. It is quite brilliant.
What is the Oneness University and how has it influenced you?
Shilpa Shetty: This originates in a district called Chittoor, and Amma and Bhagavan are the founders. Their aim in life is to help people achieve their dreams. The core belief is that you can achieve anything if your personal relationships are in order. This includes your relationships with your parents, brothers, sisters, and husband/wife. In life, there are problems and if you are not able to achieve success, it goes back to your roots. So when you sort that out, anything and everything is possible. These are very simple lessons which we have forgotten. We’ve forgotten our culture, our value system, and our very roots in this fast paced life.
This is a beautiful way to get connected with things that are of paramount importance.
I got initiated into this by chance. A family friend from Chennai spoke of this and we went to meet Amma and Bhagavan. It was the most surreal experience of my life. I’ve met several gurus because my parents are both very spiritual. But earlier, while I took all this very lightly, now with age and experience, we know logically why we need to follow it. Although the University started just 6 years ago, it has among its followers international celebrities like Nicole Kidman, Meg Ryan and Madonna to name a few. People are looking to India to fulfil their spiritual needs.
At the University, they teach you certain philosophies — women want to marry and the next stage to marriage is motherhood. Right from conception to the age of seven the child is completely influenced by his mother. It is intriguing. It is a huge learning process to realise how much you influence your child’s life right from conception. And it’s all very scientifically taught starting from the diet you eat. Most people abroad suffer from amnesia because they have a lot of bread and butter. They advocate a high protein diet and your memory comes back.
Do you practise yoga regularly?
Shilpa Shetty: Yoga has become a way of life for me. But that’s not all that I do. I also do weight training. I’m starting my film early next year and for that I want to look muscular, so I do weights but that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped yoga. I alternate it with yoga. I will tell you how my association with yoga became known. When I went as an inmate into the house of Big Brother [a reality television series broadcast in the UK], I used to meditate a lot because there was nothing else to do. I used to practise yoga because there was no equipment to workout, no treadmill, weights — nothing. To do some form of exercise, I used to do yoga; that’s how people got to know that I practise yoga and it became famous.
So, even if practising yoga was involuntary, what are the payoffs in terms of health?
Shilpa Shetty: Well, I can’t say that I’ve become calmer. The reason I started yoga initially was because I had a terrible neck problem. I started doing bhujang asana. My physiotherapist asked me to do yoga and I felt she obviously knew what she was talking about. I started practising it and was more and more intrigued by it. But again I had done yoga a very long time ago when I was doing karate — yoga was a part of the karate training but after that I lost touch with it.
What yoga does is that it just opens up all the windows in your body. When you start breathing right everything else falls into place. Even if you just do pranayama, it will help you.
Did it help in other ways like boosting your self confidence, and improving relationships?
Shilpa Shetty: I can’t attribute it all to yoga. The Oneness University has done a lot for me. It has opened me up more to life and living. It has made me more confident than I was. They say if you want to achieve something, you have to think about it. If you have the capability to achieve it, you just have to keep the goal in your head and work towards it. It can make you attain and manifest what you want.
Tell us something about your daily diet plan. Do you follow any diet regimen? What is your typical consumption? Do you eat with a purpose — to fulfil a nutritional need?
Shilpa Shetty: I am a foodie. I love food, but I eat the right food. I have a healthy diet. I keep one day in the week when I eat anything like cakes, kulfi, and gulab jamuns.
My day starts with aloe vera juice. It is great for your immune system; it’s great for your skin. Then I have porridge and tea. I avoid white sugar as far as I can and have only brown sugar. My theory is to replace everything white with brown — be it brown bread brown rice or brown sugar. I don’t eat steamed or boiled food. I eat normal food but cooked in a healthy vegetable oil or olive oil.
For lunch, I have dal rice [brown] or chapatti and chicken curry and one vegetable. If I am hungry in the evening, I’ll have one brown toast with two eggs and tea and, at night, I try and eat early. I eat a salad, soup and one chicken dish. My diet is very simple. It’s easy to follow.
Sticking to a diet regimen is not an easy task. How often do you feel like going on a binge?
Shilpa Shetty: I believe if you are really tempted to eat something, go ahead and have it. But if you indulge yourself too often, then it’s not temptation, it is greed.
What was the most sinful food you had in the last one week?
Shilpa Shetty: Today, I had two gulab jamuns from Jhama’s [A sweet shop in Chembur, Mumbai famous for its gulab jamuns]. I was shooting for Big Boss in Lonavla and, on my way back, I stopped at Jhama’s. He keeps the most amazing sweets. I had two gulab jamuns there. Here again if you want to eat such stuff have it during the day not at night! But I kind of make up for it by not touching sweets for the next few days. I maintain a 2000-calorie diet.
Do you have a dietician or nutritionist you consult regularly?
Shilpa Shetty: No.
If you were not in the film industry, would you still have given so much importance to your diet and fitness regime? In other words, do you think your health consciousness is a personal preference to remain fit in mind, body and soul, or is it just a choice that arises out of the demands of your profession?
Shilpa Shetty: Maybe. I started off as a volley ball player and my culture of fitness came from there. When you are a sportsperson, you are very conscious about what you are eating and how you are looking. I wear a waist chain and that always keeps me in check. If I put on a little weight, the chain comes higher and I know I have to lose it.
But aren’t you naturally thin too?
Shilpa Shetty: When I joined the industry, if you remember my first film, Baazigar, I was really plump. I feel my body has gone through a whole reinvention now. I try to make it look different. The first few years I barely even worked out. It’s a misconception that you can work out and look exactly how you want. You have to find a balance between a controlled healthy diet and exercise.
You have mentioned [in previous interviews] that co-stars like Salman Khan and Sanjay Dutt [who are fitness freaks themselves] have provided tips on staying fit. How important to do you think it is to have a fitness buddy? How do they inspire and motivate you?
Shilpa Shetty: Salman taught me to have a great backside. I had a good backside but you know how you want to fit into your jeans attractively? He taught me a couple of exercises for it. Sanju taught me calf raises. I had very thin legs and that helped. It’s very important to have a fitness buddy. They’ve been there they’ve done it and their experience is valuable. The other day I heard that a woman was watching a yoga programme on TV and she tried sheershasana and she is paralysed for life because there was a clot in her nerve. You need to do things the right way. In my yoga DVD, I haven’t attempted anything that is remotely dangerous. Not even the suryanamaskar because you may injure your back. Especially if you are weight training, it is important to have someone watch you when you are exercising. Do’s and don’ts are very important. I think a fitness buddy is great.
What makes you happy today?
Shilpa Shetty: Happiness is a state of mind and my goal is very clear. I set it for myself. As I move towards it, I feel happy. My family support keeps me happy. I know people love me.
How do you deal with lows?
Shilpa Shetty:I’ve been through tremendous lows, but I’ve had this attitude that I may be down but I am not out. There have been times when the press has written me off but I’ve kept my positive approach. God has been extremely kind to me. I feel His support, and that keeps me going.
What kind of relationship do you share with God?
Shilpa Shetty: A very special one. I believe I am His special child. I am very fortunate to be given so many opportunities — at 32 to have seen so much — to be given a doctorate, to win an international show, to be a household name in the UK, to be given so much respect even in this country.
Do you have a role model?
Shilpa Shetty: Madonna.
Which two people come to mind here as the fittest Indians?
Shilpa Shetty: Rekha and Jeetendra. Jeetendra saab is so fit, he is amazing. He dances so youthfully and is still so light on his feet. And Rekhaji for obvious reasons.
What would be your message for the readers of Complete Wellbeing?
Shilpa Shetty: Follow a healthy diet. If you don’t have time to work out, try and walk from your home to the station or use the stairs instead of the lift. Walk at least two kms a day. There is nothing wrong in eating sweets, only eat them in proportion.
For mental happiness — be positive.
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