Get the in-depth view into Coach Satyaki’s world. This multi-talented coach enriches her life through dance and builds her strength through Pilates and yoga.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. How you got into fitness.
The start of my journey goes back to 2005 when I started taking some salsa classes, soon after that in 2007 I became a semi-professional. My instructor suggested I get a little more formal training, which got me to explore jazz and ballet contemporary. Soon I started getting familiar with terms closely associated with western forms of dance like posture, alignment, strength, core and the way a dancer defines these is very different from the way a fitness professional would. I of course thought I was quite literate so would understand these things, but clearly I was not. That was then and in 2011 when I had already started a salsa school of my own.
In Kolkata where I had my dance school, it was mainly the weekends that were busy, so that left me with a lot of free time during the week. That’s when I came across an add promoting Zumba as dance fitness. This definitely appealed to me as the moves were performed to latin music and with my background in salsa, this was something I was used to. I decided to become a certified Zumba instructor, something I could teach Mon- Fri. In year, because I was taking so many classes the impact started to show on my body and I realised I needed something more, something to do with strength and conditioning, something that would help me counter the wear & tear that was happening because of the cardio classes. This was now 2014 and I was confused as to what I should do because going to the gym was not an option as I had a pretty packed schedule. I that time I realised that I was already practicing pilates. My ballet instructor would make us do pilates as a warmup ( a good 45 mins of pilates ). At that time I didn’t look at it specifically as pilates. I didn’t know if certified courses were being offered to become a pilates instructor in India at that time.
In 2014 is when I got my certification and it took me a year to fully understand and study the program because it was quite different from anything I had done till then. It needed some in depth knowledge about anatomy and also to understand the philosophy behind the workout. So I’ve been teaching pilates since 2015 and pretty soon I realised it made a huge difference in terms of my body, the way I was dancing. So I guess, the pilates certification that I got, had me totally hooked and motivated. Very excited to teach it.
Any challenges you’ve had to face or sacrifices you’ve had to make on your journey?
I think the biggest challenge that I’ve faced was to get people to appreciate and understand that Zumba is not just a dance program but a dance fitness program. So there was a lot of ignorance about the form of fitness. It was not just with the consumers but also with the managers at gyms, they had no idea that it could be promoted as a fitness program. The common thinking was that we were just a bunch of dancers or we were just dancing, that there was no science behind it. The initial phase of being a Zumba instructor was this, getting people to understand that it’s a dance fitness program and a dance program.
Sacrifices were being extremely exhausted, burnt, overworked. Very often I had to give up on dance training or travel related to dance programs which at that time would have taken my career way ahead as I was already dancing quite a bit, so this really stunted my professional growth. Being in Kolkata made it very difficult to travel so often. When I had moved to Pune I realised how accessible these cities could be and I could really teach more, travel more during the weekends which wasn’t really happening before. I think that’s what I would count as the sacrifices I had to make.
How do you keep clients motivated and engaged?
With my private clients, I usually start by asking them questions before each session about how they are feeling at the present moment, letting them know what the session is going to be about. I also encourage them to keep giving me constant feedback, like how a certain exercise makes them feel, is it doing the real work. And what I also do is send them some tips, some interesting videos or fun quotes about fitness & nutrition. So basically I encourage a dialogue so that we stay connected on a regular basis.
Sometimes it also happens that they find something interesting and share it with me. I like to keep it fun and light, so that it’s more of a stress reliever and not like they are being burdened to do something like a chore. I like them to know that I am paying attention to what they are saying and also to how the sessions are impacting their bodies. So this is how I keep them motivated and engaged by keeping up a constant connect and dialogue.
What do you see as your greatest strength? And your weakness?
I guess my greatest strength would be my ability to assess my client’s needs at a given point in time. Weakness, I guess would be a habit that I’ve been trying to inculcate for a really long time, which would make major changes to my day.
I’m nocturnal by nature so find it very difficult to sleep on time. Sometimes I do manage, but most times it’s a failed attempt. That’s my weakness for you, i need to fix my sleep!
How often do you update yourself on new trends?
I pretty old school when it comes to trends. I do update myself once in a while because it’s important to stay connected to the present moment and not lose track of what’s essentials. But more often what I do is go back to the fundamentals, again and again. That actually does increase my adaptability. So the more I go back to basics, the more I go back to fundamentals, the more I adapt to trends. As a pilates instructor I definitely want to know what’s happening currently in the pilates community, around the world. Thanks to social media it’s become more accessible and you can see what’s happening, before it wasn’t this obvious.
I’ve observed with experienced instructors they always recommend going back to your basics, teach yourself that more often, practice more often. So I think the updating happens more naturally. The more you observe people around you, the little things you pick up. But you wouldn’t be able to pick up on all this had the foundation not been strong enough. So that’s what I like to do, I like to keep my fundamentals strong, teach them more often and then I do change them once in a while and also modify them.
What is your personal fitness philosophy?
My personal fitness philosophy has always been ‘Keep it simple and short’.
What is one advice you absolutely live by?
In life and fitness, simplicity is key. Not doing everything all at once or not getting distracted by who’s doing what, but by simply staying focused. Simple workouts, simple food, trying to keep it basic and everything that is accessible rather than making it difficult and not attempting to change everything all at once .
What is the best set of advice you give to clients?
When a client gets in touch with me, my first question to them is ‘ why do you want to do this?’. It’s surprising actually to see how many people don’t really know what they want to do. Or if they are doing it, why they are doing it and what is the goal. So the first thing is to help them identify what they really like, so that they stay consistent for at least three months. That way they can figure out if the program is for them, instead of giving up.
So that’s the best advice that I give clients is to find a workout that you can stick to for at least three months before giving up and simultaneously helping them to identify what it is that they naturally tend to enjoy and gravitate towards. So I advice them to start from there and once they have a discipline around it they can make it a little more robust by including more variety.
What does a day in your life look like?
A day in my life:
Wake up, have my coffee and then I meditate for about 5 mins. This includes deep breaths, followed by a short 10 – 15 min stretching session that I do almost every day. That’s to get the circulation going and my body to open up before I start with my classes. Then in my breaks I usually read or write or watch videos related to fitness, dance, nutrition , physical therapy.
I also listen to podcasts, not just based on all of the above but different topics. Whenever I get the chance I’ll step out and meet friends to dance ( dancing had always been my first love ) . It’s something that enriches my life, nourishes my soul, so I’ll always find the time to dance. And of course I’m still working on my sleep habit, fingers crossed that I can fix it soon.
What workouts do you enjoy the most?
I enjoy everything that is holistic. As I mentioned earlier , I love starting off my day with yoga stretches. Depending on what type of day I have ahead, I plan my workout accordingly. Sometimes it’s a short pilates session, if i have the time then it’s a slightly longer yoga session that would include arm balancing etc. So I like to work on my strength with yoga and pilates mostly. I love to dance, something that’s not just fitness to me but also spiritual. If I can’t do a dance workout then I’ll occasionally walk, which is also very refreshing. I don’t strain myself by doing too much, but I do train everyday.
Something that I’ve really started to enjoy is including props ( a block, fit ball, mini ball etc..) in my workouts and that really makes the workout very enjoyable. The workout becomes intense and more effective in a short duration rather than a longer one and achieves the same results. So I’m really enjoy this phase of working out with props.
Name a few essential exercises suited for almost everyone.
In my 15 min stretch session, these are the things I feel are an absolute essentials, for example spinal releases with cat & cow, spinal andulations, cobra oscillations, followed by some lizard, pigeon to open up my hips. Some down dogs to open my hamstrings, my calves, stretch the legs and then followed by planks, chair pose and boat pose which are more for strengthening. So these are my essentials.
How do you ensure a fitness program is effective?
The first is to really understand what the client needs as opposed to what the client wants. That’s because I feel there is a difference, they sometimes don’t understand. So it’s important to first explain the difference to them and let them know what the program is going to be and by tailoring it for the individual. Then it’s about tracking progress by constantly taking feedback, asking them to articulate their response to the workouts, either via text or after a session if they want to share a few thoughts about what they felt. If they felt uncomfortable or challenged, like how the workout stimulated them.
Challenging them so that they stay consistent and motivated. Also adding loads of variations to make sure they are fully involved. Often what happens if they have been doing the workout for a while, it’s just done in auto-pilot mode and they stop paying attention to what muscular engagement they should be performing at that time of the workout. So adding variations is something that really keeps them going.
What is your personal experience with fitness and nutrition?
I am a creature of habit. So I mostly stay consistent with what I do or practice. However I do tend to get distracted easily, so something that I don’t find difficult to stick to is my self care and that includes both fitness and nutrition. I think what has really changed over the past couple of years for me is the way I look at myself.
Sometimes, I do a lot thinking that I am being productive but the wisdom that has come after these years is that I should be resting adequately and not just forcing myself to do things because I think it’s making me productive. So I think my relationship with myself has changed post adding this one element. That is above exercise is rest, I rest a lot more than I used to .
What is your favourite experience with a fitness enthusiast or client that has motivated you to be better in your field?
So, this is a fellow dancer of mine. She joined my classes when the lockdown started and since then she has been consistent to class and there are barely any days that she misses. She works out 4 days a week with me. Her name is Namrata, she’s a dancer as well. When she sent me her picture after six months, her transformation shocked me because I couldn’t perceive it before.
Sometimes you need to see the visual and it really changed the way I was looking at the program myself. Whenever she sends me pictures or videos, I have featured her in my videos, Instagram feeds. People have messaged me appreciating her transformation. The way she has felt about the process and the conversations we’ve had about it have motivated me to keep going and work a little harder to update the program etc. So Namrata is one client who has helped me get out of my comfort zone, bring the right changes making the classes better and better, creating more content and variations.
Tell us a quote that best describes you.
It is and always has been “Less is more”.