Zainab Sarwar is a registered certified power yoga specialist and nutritionist, and has run highly successful yoga studios in Pakistan. She is known for her unique approach in dealing with her clients because she provides highly personalized support for everything from diet to exercise to help her clients reach their weight loss goals. She has now moved to Dubai and is re-establishing her brand – Moksha Studio Power Yoga. She shares some of her nutrition/ exercises with AltMuslimah.
Zainab, how would you describe yourself? A yoga expert? A nutritionist? A life coach?
A Holistic Health & Wellness coach would better describe me. I work on changing people’s lifestyle approach through yoga and nutrition.
How long have you been in practice?
It's been 10 years since I became addicted to yoga practice and 5 years since I started teaching it professionally. In 2012, I launched my yoga studio with the name of “MOKSHA STUDIO POWER YOGA “ and till date have delivered more than 2500 classes successfully.
What made you interested in yoga?
I have polycystic ovaries so I had always struggled with weight issues and after my marriage, the symptoms actually became worst. I was very depressed, perplexed and my mood swings were at their peak. With multiple attempts to curb my issues, a friend motivated me to attend a yoga class for a change. I attended my first yoga class with Jason Crandall who later became my Mentor in this field. After my very first class, I felt my stress reduce and my focus increase.
The experience left a very positive impact and every passing day, yoga rejuvenated my psychological and physical health. Not only did I feel more connected to myself but my depression vanished and I started thinking more positively about life. I also started losing weight and my PCOS symptoms were almost gone.
Yoga transformed me inside out. Yoga taught me the art of letting go and keep moving on no matter what amount of hardships come in life. After completing my first 21 days of Yoga practice, I was willing to pursue a lifelong journey to explore the human condition. This was a turning point in my life and I realized that if one session could bring such changes in my life, the same can be offered to hundreds of women around me with similar issues. This became a career objective which I have been relentlessly pursuing up until now.
During the course, I went through three miscarriages and an ankle repair surgery and it was because of Power Yoga that I healed quickly from all the physical, emotional and psychological traumas. Through sadness, depression, happiness, anxiety and joy – Yoga has allowed me to experience myself and the world around me in a way that is honest, humble, skilful and energetic. Now I am committed to yoga for life.
Do you think a lot of people are intimidated by the idea of practising yoga?
Not really! Actually, people come to my class with a general perception that yoga is a very easy practice in which you sit cross-legged, do some breathing exercises, meditate and that’s how you lose weight and get all the potential benefits.
In my sessions, I don’t just instruct my students while standing separately at the front of the room. I teach, train and supervise each and every person myself. People generally get intimidated about the idea of trying intermediate or advanced poses but I make them comfortable first and never push them beyond their body potential.
What advice would you give to women who feel like they don’t have time to set aside time to go to the gym? Should they focus more on their diet or exercise?
Both diet and exercise go hand in hand. Healthy diet is important to lose weight on the scale whereas exercise is very critical in sculpting your body shape post weight loss. So many women do diets and lose weight but still, after losing about 10 kg of weight, their fat is still hanging around their bodies. On the other hand, those who do exercise with diet successfully drop their dress sizes as well as their weight on the scale and look more sculpted.
You must have heard about 80/20 theory where 80% is contributed to diet and 20% to exercise respectively. That 20% of exercise should be based upon the right approach otherwise your body suffers. So if you are eating right and exercising wrong, the whole combination will turn out as a disaster for you and vice versa.
I would like to give one piece of advice to women: Give yourself due importance if you want other people around to give you importance. Take one hour of your day out for yourself, as no investment is better than investing on yourself. Even if they can’t join any gym or workout session, go for a 30-minute walk daily and watch what you are eating as you eventually become what you eat.
One of the things you are known for is your 21-day yoga and weight loss sessions, where people are given individualized weight loss diet plans and asked to attend five days of yoga. You set up WhatsApp groups in which everyone sends pictures of all their meals that day, and openly discuss their weight. Is there a reason you encourage that level of openness in the class?
When I started my professional journey, I realized after some time that people generally lose their motivation after a week if left alone on their diet therapy so I devised this 21 days Power Yoga Fitness Challenge in which I offer exercise and nutrition solutions under one roof. These specifically designed 21 different workouts are so effective that people start seeing results as soon as from their 2nd or 3rd class. People must also send pictures of each of their meals into the group WhatsApp.
I normally take measurements on day 1 of the challenge and repeat those measurements after day 3 and everyone loses about 2-3 inches off their overall body that boosts up their self-esteem and confidence. I set up a WhatsApp group for nutrition part so as to keep everyone motivated. I encourage this level of openness in my class because women generally suffer from self-esteem issues and have so many underlying psychological and behavioural issues. When everybody posts their meal pictures, talk about their struggles and weight then those with particular issues can actually relate to them in a most positive way.
I have witnessed my clients’ mood and behaviours change. This approach of including everyone in a group works like a supportive community where everybody is encouraging each other without judging anyone. If a client loses some weight on scale and post it in the group, everybody congratulates them and at the same time get their motivation that if that person can do it then so can we. So this 21 days fitness challenge is just more than a weight loss class. It is designed to change them physically, mentally, socially and psychologically.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Muslim World Today.