When Anuja Rajendra started BollyFit, Inc., she knew it was more than a fad. The mom of two boys, ages 7 and 6, shares how she’s bridging cultural gaps and getting people moving with fitness classes that include Indian dance styles and mindfulness.
by Anuja Rajendra
as told to Julie Weingarden Dubin
I have an engineering degree and an MBA. I worked in the corporate, entrepreneurial, nonprofit and technology start-up sectors. So, naturally, I started a fitness company combining Indian dance styles and meditation.
A career turning point
I could not have guessed my path, but when I was pregnant with our first son after finishing my MBA, I felt the need to forego the corporate rat race to be home with my kids. I had the luxury of being able to make this choice which I was quite grateful for, knowing that all mothers do not have the option. Even though I was driven internally, I decided to put that on the back burner while I enjoyed my children.
I started teaching one Indian-style dance fitness class on Saturday mornings at 8:00 a.m. because that was the time I could get out of the house guilt-free to get my dance fix. Soon I had grown a bountiful, beautiful business, BollyFit. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit and I’ve always loved to dance. But I never thought I’d merge the two!
BollyFit merges artistic elements of Bollywood film dances with classical (Bharat Natyam) and Bhangra styles in a dynamic dance experience. It’s high-energy cardiovascular exercise that anyone can do in an inclusive, welcoming community space bridging cultural gaps. BollyFit also brings mindfulness — with yoga and meditation — into many of the classes.
People kept telling me that BollyFit was something special — not just exercise or another Bollywood dance class. So we added more “Guides” (instructors) and it started to grow.
BollyFit Guides are authorized by BollyFit to teach in areas from Colorado to New Jersey and soon we’ll be in the United Kingdom. Students come to take classes at BollyFit’s base in Ann Arbor, Michigan, from all over the U.S. We’re filming the first BollyFit DVD and it will be released in the next few months. I’m super energized about being able to share the magic of BollyFit with people in their homes.
Kids and business
I’m able to juggle best when I segment my time as much as possible. I literally close the laptop before my kids come home and move it out of the kitchen area back to my home office so it is out of sight. I’ve found that segmenting my time makes me more present with my work, my children and with every aspect of my life. I feel more efficient if I know I have [a] certain amount of time to do projects so I am less distracted.
Mothering without pressure
I hope I can guide my sons to live to their full potential without pressuring them and to also let them enjoy the innocence of childhood in a fast-moving world. I want them to gain confidence and continue to value and appreciate life.
My kids have taught me about acceptance. Even if a particular behavior is not acceptable to me, I realize this is not the essence of who they are. I also learn from their positive energy and unjaded attitudes.
You don’t need to be perfect for anyone else — don’t try to live up to an image of what you can or should be doing. You are the one who wakes up to your life every day. Do what you need to do for yourself and for your family.