Category Archives: Indian Celebrities

An Interview with Hemalayaa

In case you missed out on the last post – we’re giving away 3 brand new DVDs from Hemalayaa: Yoga for Everyone. Click here to find out how to enter the giveaway!
So you’ve seen her on TV shows like The Elen DeGeneres Show and The Today Show, you’ve danced along to her workout videos, and now you’re hoping to get your hands on a copy of her new release….but wouldn’t you like to get to know Hemalayaa? What if you could sit down and have a conversation with her…what would you ask?
Well, I got a chance to do just that, and I tried to anticipate what questions the IndianTies readers would love to ask… so keep reading to find out what makes Hemalayaa tick!

Hemalayaa, where are you from?

Toronto, Canada

I understand that your parents are Indian… can you tell us a little about your childhood (and the influence of Indian culture while you were growing up)?

Yes, both my parents are from Punjab India. They were brought up very traditional Sikh’s. It was a challenging transition to move to North America, from the values they were brought up with to us here in the west. They tried to keep us strict in our traditions, but we were exposed to how much more freedom our friends were given. We would rebel and try to pioneer our way to a new way of thinking and being. That made our parents even more fearful of losing us to the western world.

The weekend parties when we danced, is when all our cares and worries went away. Indians dance like no one is watching, and let all their problems go away and celebrate with movement and great music. This was the best part of growing up in this culture.

Do you recall how your interest in dance & yoga originated?

Dad did yoga when I was young, and taught me some meditation and to chant Aum before an exam, to calm my mind..

Dance, I was doing my whole life. Every weekend we’d get together with other family’s and when the dinner & socializing portion of the evenings was over, we’d dance our buns off.

I started studying yoga in my early 20’s. It was a way to heal the stress of leaving my family a the age of 19 (a very un-traditional thing to do). I moved across the country to Vancouver to explore life and i didn’t know it at the time, but was drawn to find my spiritual connection. Rather than drink and party every night, which is the way I explored for the first part of my trip, I found yoga was a better way to deal with learning about myself.

Through your experience, how do you think Indian culture & yoga has influenced & been received by Western societies?

Although yoga is not all about a physical practice, I think it is an open-minded change from the type of exercise we have been doing for the past few decades (aerobics and weight lifting). With yoga, we are finding health in all areas – mind, body & spirit.

The Indian culture has become more popular and intriguing to many westerners. If you’ve seen Indian movies, you know there is a real sense of fantasy, mellow drama and play. It’s fun to see how life could be if we let ourselves get over our selves. We could let our stress and worry go by dancing in the middle of the street. Wouldn’t that be refreshing?!

India’s culture is so rich and has so much to offer in terms of spirituality & health that it’s about time the Western world add spice to their life. It appears that it is being received and honored well.

Do you think that India is still perceived as “exotic” by the West?

I think it is perceived as exotic still, but it’s different than it was. There is more of an acceptance of it being a part of the norm here, because of the multiculturalism.

What inspired you to do your first video? How did you get started making your videos?

My first yoga DVD was made in Vancouver, BC. It was a community project that was intended for bringing yoga to homes, to women that wouldn’t normally get out to a class. I was teaching classes and wanted to create something for my existing students as well as for others that I knew wanted to practice in their own home, as I did for the first few years of my practice.

My First dance DVD was inspired by dancing in my living room as I did often. I was free, playful and silly. I wanted others to experience the joy and freedom I was feeling in those moments. I pitched the idea to Acacia, and they took a risk and we made “Bollywood Dance Workout” and “The Dance of the KamaSutra” in April 2006. Now I have 8 DVD’s on the market, and 3 more coming out in the next couple of years.

Do you travel frequently to India? What is your favorite Indian destination?

I haven’t gone back in a couple of years. When I was there last, I went to the South. Kerala and Bombay were my favorites for that trip. I, of course love Punjab, where most of my family is. I plan on going again in 2010.

I’ve gotta ask: what’s your favorite Bollywood movie? Who is your favorite Bollywood actor/actress?

Umarao Jaan. Rekha.

What’s your favorite food? Favorite Indian dish?

My favorite food is kale. I sauté or steam the kale, add more veggies, avocado, etc and dress it with olive oil, lemon, salt and love. Totally bland compared to Indian food…But I love my veggies with lot’s of oil and lemon!

My favorite Indian dish is Bindhi Masala (okra) and homemade Keer (rice pudding)

What’s the latest song/album you added to your iPod?

Narfat Ali Khan & Gauiri.

Do you have a favorite style of Indian dance?


Is there a message in your videos/classes that you want your audience to grasp?

Love yourself enough to spend time playing and having fun whether through dance, yoga and doing things that make you smile. On top of dance, yoga and hikes, I love going to the Garden shop and seeing all the happy plants and playing with the wind chimes.

When you allow yourself to have fun, even for a moment every week, you’ll have an abundance to share with others.

What are your current projects? Tell us your latest news…

  • I’m writing a couple of books. Really fun process.
  • I’m working on a teacher training to teach others to teach dance and yoga together. Co-leading it with
  • I’m collaborating with some very cool women teachers on a couple of workshops. SF & LA. Jenni Saur-Klien in SF and Maya Fiennes in LA
  • Every month I write a blog called “Yoga and the City” on my e-newsletter (Hemalayaa e-diary). You can sign up on my website

These two last are personal projects:

  • I am striving to accept myself fully and completely with all my perfect imperfections. On-going process.
  • I am working on accepting my mother and our differences and having a peaceful relationship with her.

Do you have any advice for beginners who are trying to get fit?

Take baby steps and stay consistent even when you feel like skipping out on your practice. Do DVD’s at home at first until you gain confidence in yoga and/or dance. Go for it and have fun!

Do you have anything else you’d like to share?

Thanks for the opportunity to answer such in-depth questions.

Something I have realized recently is that we all wear these masks of “who we are”. It’s what we show others constantly so that we are loved, or enough, or wanted. That’s not who we truly are.

We are love, and joy.

Spend more time playing and get to know the true you!

Amitabh Bachchan’s Blog

Along the same lines as yesterday’s post

In case you’ve not yet discovered or read Amitabh Bachchan’s blog, be sure to check it out while you’re feeling the Bollywood Spirit! It is an interesting look into the mind/thoughts and day to day activities of one of Bollywood’s biggest icons.

I have to say, the most entertaining part of his blog is reading the fan letters, which people post in the comments section. Lets just say some people are really desperate to meet him or have some kind of interaction with him. I guess that’s a testimony of how hard he’s worked over the years, and the status he’s achieved today, in his 60’s.

Photo above is from

Intercultural Marriage: Rajiv & Sonia Gandhi

In light of the recent elections in the USA, I am reminded of India’s colorful political history. If you do not know the story of Sonia Gandhi and her Indian family, you are missing out!
Sonia Gandhi was born in Italy in 1946. In 1964, she met and fell in love with Rajiv Gandhi (son of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, and grandson of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru). Sonia & Rajiv met in the UK, where they both were students.
Sonia and Rajiv were married in 1969. They lived and worked in India. Their two children, Rahul and Priyanka were born in the early 70s. Sonia acquired Indian citizenship after she had been married for 14 years.
She married into a very influential family on the Indian Political scene. Sadly, tragedy struck when her mother-in-law, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, was assassinated by her own bodyguards in 1984. Sonia’s husband Rajiv, followed his mother’s footsteps and became the next Prime Minister of India (the 3rd from his family to achieve this position). Tragedy struck again, when Rajiv was also assassinated in 1991.
Following the death of her husband, Sonia refused to have any part in politics. But in 1998, she joined the effort to try to revive the Congress Party, and was soon elected as the President of her party. In 2004, Sonia lead her party to victory in the national elections, and despite much protest, she was the first foreigner to be eligible to become Prime Minister. She eventually declined the Post. However, she continues to be named among the world’s most powerful people by Forbes and Time magazines.
Sonia’s life story sounds like a movie, with many triumphs and tragedies. It is encouraging to know that India not only accepted her as a foreigner married to one of their “princes,” but embraced her in her own right. Although she remains a Roman Catholic, she has become Indian in many ways, she wears sarees, speaks Hindi and has raised her children in her adopted country. I find her story an inspiration! To read more about Sonia Gandhi, check out these books.

Gandhi Jayanti!

Being in an intercultural Indian marriage, I feel that it is important to share and celebrate holidays from both cultures. We’re among the lucky few – twice the holidays! Some of the most popular & well-known Indian festivals include Diwali and Holi. Another important day on the Indian calendar is Gandhi Jayanti, a national holiday celebrated in India to mark the birthday of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (also known as ‘Bapu’ or ‘Father of the nation’).

Gandhi was born on October 2, 1869, in Porbunder, Gujrat. Gandhi was the most instrumental figure in acquiring independence for India. He headed the National Movement for nearly three decades. October 2 is also celebrated as the International Day of Non-Violence in honor of Gandhi.

Gandhi Jayanti is marked each year by prayer services and tributes all over India, especially at Raj Ghat, Gandhi’s memorial in New Delhi where he was cremated. Celebration include prayers, commemorative ceremonies by colleges, local government institutions and other institutions Usually, Gandhi’s favorite devotional song, Raghupati Raghava Raja is sung in his memory.

Source: Wikipedia

A Bollywood Workout

Everyone loves a good Bollywood movie, right? Is it the romance, the plot… or the song & dance routines? If you ask me – it has to be the dancing! What would Bollywood be without it? If you’ve ever secretly danced along to one of Shah Rukh Khan’s numbers in your living room, you just might be ready to take the next step: Bollywood dance workouts! Personally I’m not much of a dancer – but even I find this new workout series intriguing!

So if you think you can keep up – check out Bollywood Burn:

Bollywood Burn with Hemalayaa

Spice up your workout and boogie to the bhangra beat. Fitness star and yogini Hemalayaa leads you through three 15-minute programs inspired by the sassy, sexy moves seen in hit Indian films. The first gets you in the groove, the second ups the cardio, and the third has you shimmying like a Bollywood film beauty. Tone your core, hips, and thighs, lose weight, dance away stress, and have fun. For all fitness and experience levels.

If you want to find out more, see this preview on YouTube, or check out Ellen DeGeneres dancing along with Hemalayaa! If you’re ready to get your copy, you can find it here!

Staying in Touch

When we were going through some old family photos, we came across one that is priceless! I came to know that my father-in-law went to school with Amitabh Bachchan. The above photo was taken during their school days at Sherwood School in Nanital, U.P., India. Amitabh Bachchan is on the right, and my father-in-law is on the left. I love hearing the stories of all the fun they used to have.

I think family photos are such a treasure. I try to take as many photos and videos as I can & share them with all of our family & friends who are scattered all around the world. These days it is so much easier to take lots of pictures with digital cameras and store & share them in online photo albums and blogs. My mother-in-law even knows how to chat with us through her webcam! The world is definitely becoming a smaller place – perfect for cross-continental families!

Don’t know where to start? Try these free & user-friendly options for staying in touch over long distances:

Book Review: Gayatri Devi: A Princess Remembers

When DH and I returned to India this year for a visit, I picked up a copy of the book, A Princess Remembers, by Gayatri Devi. I have always been fascinated with “Princely India” – the period in history before Independence (1947) when much of the country was ruled by Maharajas. Gayatri Devi, Rajmata of Jaipur, is not only one of the most famous Maharanis in all of India, but she has been hailed as one of the world’s most beautiful women. She has lived an amazing life…

She was born in 1919 into royalty – her father ruled Cooch Behar, and her mother’s parents were the rulers of Baroda. She eventually married Sawai Man Singh II, the maharaja of Jaipur. Although she was his third wife, theirs was a love marriage. In her autobiography, she tells of her carefree childhood, how she fell in love with her husband and the many memorable events in her life. This book is an inspiration.

Personally, having had the chance to actually visit Jaipur and ride an elephant up to one of the places where the Maharaja lived helped the book come alive even more! Gayatri Devi has had many accomplishments in her lifetime, but what stood out to me was the way in which she handled herself with dignity and grace in every circumstance.

Click here if you are interested in finding out more about her life, locate a copy of her book, A Princess Remembers: Memoirs of the Maharani of Jaipur.

Or to find out more about Gayatri Devi’s life, click here.