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Cool People

September 20, 2009

Sarina Jain’s Indian Dance Workout Kicked My Ass

The first time I ever took a fitness dance class, it kicked my ass. Sarina Jain invited me to her Masala Bhangra sweat-fest and I innocently said “yes.” Here is an excerpt of what we chat­ted about the follo­wing day:

Sarina Jain: You know my mom said you were very handsome. And she said something else, but I can’t tell you.
Stefan Pinto: Tell me.
Sarina Jain: I can’t tell you. But she said you were very nice.
Stefan Pinto: I hardly spoke with her. I did thank her, though. She’s sweet. But this is not about me, you know and I am afraid that if the tape machine stops working –
Sarina Jain: But, wait… is this for your blog? Where is it going?
Stefan Pinto: Yes, for my blog and probably on Deepak Chopra’s daughter’s website, Intent.com. Do you know Mallika Chopra?

Sarina Jain: No, but I do know Deepak Chopra. He has told me “You have a gift. You energize people.” I did an event where I opened for him. I had no idea that I was opening up for him, and before I went on, they told me that he was one of the first guest speakers. I almost fell on the floor. Deepak Chopra, before he went on, said “you’re amazing, if you can energize people like this, please come to my retreat.”
Stefan Pinto: What event was this?
Sarina Jain: It was a program put on by the the Institute for Integrative Nutrition that hosts anywhere from 800 to over 1,000 people. Deepak is one of the main speakers. I am a speaker too, there to get everyone up and moving. Everyone’s been sitting on their butts for hours and I come in and get everyone on their feet, get them to clap three times, shout balle, balle! We go back and forth on emails, now. When I told him about the protestors, he advised me to embrace it, and not to worry about it.

Stefan Pinto: Protestors? You have people protesting your dance fitness classes?
Sarina Jain: [sighs] Long story short, I’ve created a workout — an Indian dance workout. I’ve taken Bhangra movements which is a folk dance in the north part of India; very strong, very male oriented movements and created a workout out of it …
Stefan Pinto: Are any of these movements religious?
Sarina Jain: No, no this is folk. Cultural. They’re calling out to the beat of the music, they’re calling out to the drums. It is basically for the farmers, it is very much a farmers folk dance, like any other culture. There is nothing religious about it. Anyone can do it. But when you start bringing religion into it, you need to stop. So, here I am a girl who teaches Bhangra, a man’s dance, that I modernized. If I were to get very traditional on the movements, I would lose everyone. I would never be able to have a class, I would have never been able to last this long. But I modernized it just enough where it is not so hard core yet you can go to an Indian wedding, you can go to any sort of function, anything and throw down these moves on the dance floor and you’re going to be okay. You’re going to have blast. So, in March, my team and I were all on the Today Show. Slumdog Millionaire had just won [the Oscar®] and Today was doing a story on how Indian dance had become very popular. Kathie Lee had said to me that sure there must be an increase of people doing my classes because of Slumdog, but you started this ten years ago.

Sarina Jain (center) teaching Masala Bhangra

Kathie Lee inadvertently called the scarves that I used, “flags.” But if you see the clip, it is clearly obvious that they’re scarves and not flags.
Stefan Pinto: I saw this on YouTube, it looked like a segment.

Sarina Jain: Which one? Was I wearing a Sari?
Stefan Pinto: No! And that is something I must ask you, how come you never do this in traditional Indian wear?

Sarina Jain: I am, those pants I wore yesterday is traditional Indian wear.
Stefan Pinto: Well aside from that, and by the way, the one I wore is also traditional Indian, except I bought them in Coral Gables and they were made in Honduras. But aside from that, your videos all look like you’re wearing gym wear.

Sarina Jain: It’s a workout!
Stefan Pinto: Ok, now when Deepak Chopra suggested that you embrace [the protestors], have you?

Sarina Jain: Yes.
Stefan Pinto: How?

Sarina Jain: When I saw these emails, I thought, “you’re writing this, you know nothing about my program, your mother is probably upstairs working out to my DVD!” I went back and evaluated how I felt and asked myself, “am I doing something wrong?” “am I teaching Indian dance?” “how am I teaching it?” “should I be doing it this way…” I did reassess what I do and I’ve come to the conclusion that what I was doing is fine; I’m helping people to lose weight. I’m the first to bring my culture into the fitness industry and that is pretty major. I am recognized by the fitness boards and that’s awesome. I’m very good at teaching. I might not be the best dancer out there, but I’m going to teach you what I know which is all of the dance moves that we grew up with and today, there are so many new moves that incorporate. Here I am now catering to an American crowd who can understand. I’ve put a name to it; the Bhangra Slide, for example. Of course, if I go to Indian parties, they would have no idea what I’m talking about, but they will know the moves. Look, I’m a very positive person. The whole reason I wanted to bring Indian dance to the fitness industry was to help people. Some people just don’t work out and they don’t see it is as important. Of course, taking Indian dance, calling it Masala Bhangra, and hoping people embrace it didn’t immediately happen. But now, these are huge events — more and more Indians are coming. So, yes, I have embraced it now.
Stefan Pinto: Do you feel a little disappointed? That what you’re doing is trying to help people and then some say these things?

Sarina Jain: People assume things. Maybe it’s your aura, it’s how you present yourself, it’s your confidence — all of these things– and people want to knock you down and gossip is a story. And what I created is history. I’ve paved the way for a lot of people now who want to come and teach Indian dance as a workout. I don’t care if you can move or not, or if you can dance. I want you to come. I want you to sweat. I want you to work out. I want you to live a long life. If you don’t sweat, if you don’t work out, how are you going to live a long life?
Stefan Pinto: Well, our class was pretty packed.

Sarina Jain: That was nothing. I just came back from India, where I did a class at [a popular Indian gym]. I didn’t think there would be many people. But, it was completely packed. I didn’t even know how we were going to move. Of course, people were standing there, waiting to see what I could do.
Stefan Pinto: And did they do the Masala Bhangra?

Sarina Jain: They did! The actually needed to stop to catch their breath. It is a workout.
Stefan Pinto: I did not expect it to be so vigorous. I really didn’t. How long was the class, anyway?

Sarina Jain: An hour. Some people laugh but afterwards, they realize just how energetic it is.
Stefan Pinto: At the beginning of yesterday’s workout you said, “dance as though you’re at my wedding.” Why do you say that? Is it cultural?

Sarina Jain: I just want people to take these steps and have fun anywhere and most people will dance more at weddings. I just use myself as the guinea pig. Of course, if you were getting married and took my class, I would say “Dance, like you’re at Stefan’s wedding!”
Stefan Pinto: An Indian wedding?

Sarina Jain: Of course an Indian wedding. It just gives you the visual — have you seen a Bollywood movie?
Stefan Pinto: Uh huh.

Sarina Jain: Which one?
Stefan Pinto: Slumdog!

Sarina Jain: That’s not Bollywood.
Stefan Pinto: No… I saw… growing up we would watch… I just remember them being like an epic; there was love, there was murder, there was dancing, there was mystery, there was comedy, there was singing. You would start watching at seven in the morning and by nine at night you would finally be done, and you would be sweating…

Sarina Jain: [laughs] They’ve changed a lot since then. It’s about three hours. If you’re not doing anything tonight, go rent one. There’s a new one in the theater right now you should go see. It’s called Love Aaj Kaal
Stefan Pinto: [I write Love Actually]

Sarina Jain: No, not Love Actually. It’s Love… you have nice handwriting. [Sarina very slowly spells out A...a..j... capital K... then, a...a...l]
Stefan Pinto: That means?

Sarina Jain: Today’s type of love. It’s two stories. It’s a story about a guy that lived in the 80s and the love that happened then compared to the love that happens today. It’s harder today than it was years ago.
Stefan Pinto: I believe so. Do you think it is because of choice?

Sarina Jain: Yes, it’s more challenging. Today, many women have careers and we’re getting more picky. Men once married women that would stay at home, produce babies and not necessarily have a career and they were okay with that. Today’s women have a career and they want to pursue many things. I do believe that if you’re going to get married, your husband comes first. You have a certain responsibility. You need to make sure your kids and household are taken care of. And then, you as a wife and as a mother then pursue your dream. For me, for example, I’m not going to quit my business, but my business is such that I can do it out of my own house. But when I get married, I want to be able to cook for my kids, I want to be there for my husband as well. I can’t just say, “make your own food, I gotta go.” There are a lot of women who say [snaps fingers], “go make your own food, I don’t have time to make food for you.” And, I’m not of that thinking. There are women who are doing really, really well; quite well educated, with their Master’s and are making money with their own careers. Guys have to sort of understand, and say, “ok, she doesn’t need me; she can actually go live on her own.” There must be a balance –
Stefan Pinto: It takes a very secure man to say that.

Sarina Jain: A very secure man to say that? Ya! And there’s a lot of insecure men out there. And I’m still trying to find the straight, secure man.
Stefan Pinto: I don’t know what has happened. Insecurity is quite pervasive. And someone with your disposition, has presumably become unattainable.

Sarina Jain: I’m very happy with where I am and I love what I do. A lot of people assume a lot of things; that I already have a boyfriend or that I have children; a lot of other things that I’m not and so they just never approach me. And the thing is, I’m not looking for your average Joe Schmo, I’m looking for someone who is making a difference with their career and who gets what I do and say “love it, love it.” Some guys when they get closer–if I allow them to get closer–they’re like, “why did you meet with Stefan Pinto when you could’ve hung out with me?” Hello. I’m always with you. I have a career, too. I can’t just go teach my class today, and if people want to talk afterwards or ask questions, just ditch them by saying, “I gotta go.” You need to know how to handle yourself and embrace that I have a career and say, “go, go, do what you have to do. Don’t ever stop doing it.”
Stefan Pinto: Or, “I want to hear all about it!, Let’s talk about it.”

Sarina Jain (center) teaching Masala Bhangra

Sarina Jain: To a certain extent. After a while, I don’t even want to talk about work anymore.
Stefan Pinto: Do you see this as work?

Sarina Jain: It’s a passion. I created my job out of scratch. Where I was in the beginning compared to where I am today has certainly grown. I handle everything; the accounting, the data, to the training manuals, to the fun stuff. Everything. Yes, it’s work. Yes, this is my job, but I’m happy. I love what I do. I love what it’s doing for people. I love when my instructors say, “you’ve changed my life. This class is awesome.” It’s truly amazing. I just love it. I make a difference and I want to be with someone who is making a difference as well. Who could also take care of a house financially, when we have children. There are some women who would say, “I don’t want to run to my man for that.” Very modern thinking. I’m not of the modern thinking. The man brings the bread home and if the woman also brings the bread home, let her, but she should also be the Goddess of the house, in my thinking. And she can handle it all. Women know how to handle a lot of things.
Stefan Pinto: You’ve said this is a dream come true. It’s a balle, balle! Yesterday, at one point, towards the end of class, you closed your eyes while we were dancing…

Sarina Jain: Yeah, I was praying. I was basically thanking God for allowing me to do what it is I’m doing — everyday. It’s a nice way to close the class. It’s very Indian. In India, when you take a dance class, the teachers are very respected; they’re gurus. And at the end of the lesson, you close your class with that. And all of the students go to the teacher, the gurus, and say “thank you.” Now what I do with my Masala Bhangra workout, I start off by saying, “let’s rock this out, I’m really happy, trust me for the next 45 minutes is for my guru.” I basically thank God everyday, I can’t believe I’m doing what I’m doing. I couldn’t ask for anything better.
Stefan Pinto: Well not many people can end their day thanking God for what they do.

Sarina Jain: Yeah. I started this from scratch in LA after my father died at a young age. I started it in my garage and then moved to New York to grow it.
Stefan Pinto: So, today was your certification class? What does it entail?

Sarina Jain: You have to be in the fitness industry, teaching fitness currently. My trainings are small; I need to know your name, I need to know who you are. I need to be able to call out your name and say, “Stefan, stop moving your hips!”
Stefan Pinto: Is the certification one day?

Sarina Jain: Two days. I’ll be here tomorrow, do you want to meet me tomorrow as well?
Stefan Pinto: You know what, I would love to do it… um, to learn this sort of thing, but I’m not — I’m not a trainer. Maybe for personal use, would be fine. Something like that.

Sarina Jain: [laughs] That’s fine. You know, it’s a two-day training.
Stefan Pinto: You know, you’re more modern than you think. You’re certainly more modern than I thought. I know you say you’re not modern…

Sarina Jain on Good Morning America

Sarina Jain: No, no… I am modern. Mumbai [formerly Bombay] is very modern. You should come in December, I’m shooting my workout videos in India. You’ll have to find somebody to pay for it.
Stefan Pinto: I’ll put the PayPal “donate” button back on the site.

Sarina Jain: [laughs] I definitely believe in family values, taking care of my family. After my dad died, I helped to take care of my mom. When my sister finished college she encouraged me to go to New York. She said, “okay, it’s your turn, go do what you have to do.” It’s funny, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more proud to be Indian. It’s my culture. The beauty about Indian includes so many things…. when Slumdog won, I started crying.
Stefan Pinto: Yeah. Me too. I found somewhere where you said that you were reading “Shantaram.” Did you read it? You know he was a convict?

Sarina Jain: Yeah… You need to read this story.
Stefan Pinto: I started reading his poetry. I find it quite fascinating. Tomorrow, I’m doing a poetry reading. I’m reading Rumi.

Sarina Jain: Can you email me the poems you will be reading?
Stefan Pinto: Sure. Shantaram reminded me of Le Petit Prince. The story seems similar. Did you identify with this in any way? You seem to be a person that loves adventure.

Sarina Jain: I love adventure. What I love about Shantaram, and the reason why I read it, I knew everything that he was talking about in the book; I knew exactly where he was, the bars on the streets… Leopold Bar in Mumbai was my hangout. You know they’re making a movie about Shantaram? Johnny Depp is playing Shantaram. Mira Nair is the director. She did Namesake. You should send her your head shot.
Stefan Pinto: I didn’t see it.

Sarina Jain: Shantaram is amazing. He identifies little things, about India that were familiar to me. The people saw him as some sort of god, because of his height and his skin color. They don’t know what to do. He doesn’t know what to do. He then says “Namaste.” And they started jumping up and down. He says how everyone in India talks with their heads. It’s so true! How he got the name Shantaram…
Stefan Pinto: What does it mean?

Sarina Jain: “Shanti” means peace. “Shanta ram” means the peace one. It is amazing who gave him the name. You have to read the book. He still lives in India today. He has found a home in India. Why did you ask me that?
Stefan Pinto: You just seem to love adventure, that’s all.

Sarina Jain: I moved to New York not knowing a soul. Where’d did you move from?
Stefan Pinto: I moved to Miami not knowing a soul.

Sarina Jain: I thought you were based in Miami? You’re not based in Miami right now?
Stefan Pinto: Tuesday was three weeks that I live in Los Angeles.

Sarina Jain: How do you like LA?
Stefan Pinto: I love it. When I moved to Miami, I promised myself, “five years.” And, it came. I’ve been here before. The first time was when I came to shoot Playgirl.

Sarina Jain (center) teaching Masala Bhangra

Sarina Jain: Playgirl? So, you’re gay?  [laughing, hysterically]
Stefan Pinto: Why would you say something like that? Because I did Playgirl?

Sarina Jain: [still laughing] I’m trying to get a reaction out of you.
Stefan Pinto: I used to be fat; I would have done Playgirl for free.

Sarina Jain: [leans in closer to me. She whispers] How fat were you when you did Playgirl? Do you have photos?
Stefan Pinto: Photos of Playgirl or of me fat? Why are you whispering?

Sarina Jain: What’s considered fat?
Stefan Pinto: I think more so when I started writing about it, I did Fat-to-Fit and a friend said “your story is more of the ugly duckling. You really weren’t fat. You look completely different.”

Sarina Jain: What did you look like before?
Stefan Pinto: Completely different. I was stopped in Frankfurt, “DIS IS NOT YOU!”

Sarina Jain: Have you met anyone here in LA?
Stefan Pinto: I met you. You know, while I was sitting here waiting for you, I was observing the people, mostly couples, that walked by. Body language says so much.

Sarina Jain: Really? What body language convinced you?
Stefan Pinto: I could tell who was really in love and who was not. People accuse me of being reserved, even going so far as assuming I’m stand-offish. I’m not. I’m just observing [the person] give everything away.

Sarina Jain: Thanks for waiting for me, by the way…
Stefan Pinto: I didn’t even realize that you were, you know, 10 minutes late. I knew you were upstairs. I saw one of your students at the top of the stairs presumably talking to you, while having a cigarette.

Sarina Jain: Do you smoke?
Stefan Pinto: No. I have no vices. I do drink a lot of coffee.

Sarina Jain: You have no vices? You don’t drink wine?
Stefan Pinto: Scotch. I like Scotch. But I don’t drink it too often. Alcohol really ages you, and I’m stupid when I drink. I lose control. And I like to be in control.

Sarina Jain: Well, when you’re buzzed you tend to not think about what you’re saying, and say something stupid. This is true. When was the last time you lost control? [Sarina’s phone rings].

End notes: In literature, there is a plot device Greek author’s once used. It’s called, “Deus ex machina.” This Latin phrase literally means “god from the machine;” basically when a person [or thing] appears out of the blue. Deus ex machina was frequently used when a character was in a seemingly insurmountable pickle. Here, Sarina’s phone did indeed start ringing.

About Sarina Jain

Sarina Jain, America’s first cross-cultural fitness star is the creator of the Masala Bhangra Workout®.She is an energetic fitness innovator, music-video choreographer and international television/radio personality. She hosts her own TV segment on Discovery Channel’s Fit TV and has a show on Exercise TV.tv. Her regular appearances on The Dr. Oz Show, NBC’s The Today Show and other major media have catapulted her to fame across mainstream America, and solidified her place as “Jane Fonda” of India. Jain is also the new face for Nestle Fitness throughout Latin America, where 2.6 million cereal boxes include her “Masala Bhangra Workout® Bollywood Style” DVD.

  • This post was written on my birthday! Happy Birthday to me.

    Stefan Pinto

    10:42 pm
    17/07/2011

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