It’s hard maintaining a proper workout regimen when you are travelling. You’re in a different place, following a different schedule, the gym may not be accessible, you’re tired, you want to try new foods etc. The reasons to slack off and do some pait pooja are numerous and, more often than not, you give into them. The next thing you know you’re returning home with wonderful memories but also an unwanted companion: vacation weight.
Judging by her photos, Meesha Shafi, singer/model/actor/mom and “the only current female performing artist from Pakistan who has worked in Hollywood, Bollywood and Lollywood,” probably doesn’t know what a muffin top looks like. Or the war you have with your jeans as you resort to lying down on your bed hoping your weight will ‘spread out’ just so you can zip them up against their will. Because while us mortals return from our trips a few pounds heavier and too ashamed to face our own treadmills, Meesha Shafi’s Instagram account is full of stunning photos of her in a variety of yoga postures against beautiful vistas around the world.
So how does she do it? Clearly she travels a lot as she mentioned that this year there have been times when she’s taken 9-10 flights within a span of a couple of weeks. “This is not counting travel by road, or crossing borders on foot, which has also been happening frequently!” she related.
“Previously, I would wait for the crazy days to pass before recommitting to my yoga and well-being,” said Meesha, “But I have had to revise that. I now incorporate my practice into my schedule wherever I go. Getting myself a great travel mat (for yoga) was a good call!”
Doing yoga while travelling isn’t easy; she’s often had to go into stealth mode. “I’ve even started doing yoga on long-haul flights,” she laughed, “After making sure everyone around me is asleep or hasn’t recognised me!”
Meesha started doing yoga around a year and a half ago. “My second child had just turned one, and I was feeling the need to decompress from all the multitasking my life involves,” she related, “As an artist, I’m highly sensitive to my surroundings and I believe creative minds absorb more than the average person. I love the tempo involved with yoga because you can build it up or tone it down. Hysterical cardio routines and pumping gym routines don’t work for me as my agenda is not weight loss but strength and well being — both physical and mental.”
While the world over, people are switching more towards High Intensity Interval Training, Meesha prefers to stick to this more traditional form of exercise. “Yoga gives me the option of being able to stop, drop and stretch whenever and wherever I get the chance,” she explained, “It doesn’t involve a lot of paraphernalia. Additionally, the breathing involved really benefits my lung capacity and that has made a huge difference in my live vocal performances. It adds a lot of power to my voice projection.”
Enough of exercise, let’s get down to the thing that matters the most: food. “I’ve never been a fan of junk [food],” she said, “I prefer eating good-quality food which is freshly cooked and not packaged. When I’m on the go, it can be a bit challenging but I have never followed diet plans or been hard on myself as far as counting calories goes. I enjoy what I feel like eating. And I don’t resist my cravings. It’s a blessing to have good genes. I don’t gain weight easily. Please don’t hate me!” Trying not to!
Production sets are notorious for not serving their artists healthy food, but Meesha has learned to adapt to these conditions. “Although it would be great to be taken care of while on set, but I don’t believe in throwing tantrums and getting my diva on,” she related, “Some local productions have started understanding the significance of taking care of your artists and talent. But generally speaking, it’s an alien concept in the Pakistani industry — which is sad. If I am working in long stretches, I pack my own food and take it from home. But when I’m travelling, it’s easier to just let go and ride the wave.”
So what is Meesha’s quick travel workout routine? “I do Haatha yoga mixed with some Vinyasa for more of a workout,” she said, “A basic 30 minute sequence with about 5 to 10 minutes of breathing at the start. Some of my favourites are: Mountain, Butterfly, Downward/Upward Dog, Pigeon, Warrior 1, 2 and 3, Crow, Wheel, shoulder stand and a headstand to finish it all off with an inversion. And last, but not least, Savasana (Corpse pose).”
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, October 2nd, 2016