Fitness classes with a Bollywood twist prove popular

16:00, Mar 20 2014
Bollywood Fitness
HEALTH MISSION: From left: Jignal Bhagvandas, Ashna Medina Siraj and Kritika Satija, run non-profit organisation Arogya Mantra which offers free health and fitness classes weekly for South Asian adults in Blockhouse Bay.

A free healthy lifestyle initiative with a Bollywood twist is making an impact in the Indian community but needs funding to stay afloat.

Medical student Jignal Bhagvandas and physiotherapist Kritika Satija created the Arogya Mantra free health and fitness classes to help improve the lifestyles of South Asian adults in Auckland.

They were shocked by the high rate of cardiovascular disease and diabetes within the Indian community.

Poor diet and a lack of exercise are contributing factors, Ms Satija says.

"The two leading causes of potentially avoidable mortality in Indians are cardiovascular disease and diabetes," the 23-year-old says.

"Health professionals are also seeing more and more young South Asian patients in Auckland developing these conditions. These statistics are worrying for our population."


A five-week pilot programme ran in Sandringham last year.

Community members are attracted by the dance and pilates classes for adults set to Bollywood music, health professionals who can offer advice without coming up against language barriers and fortnightly speakers.

It was such a success that the number of people turning up far exceeded the capacity of the small hall they were using and they were forced to turn people away. This year they will operate the service from the Blockhouse Bay Community Centre.

The group desperately wants to keep it free but the cost of hall hire and lack of sponsors means it has had to start charging a gold coin donation. Ms Satija has had to stump up some of this year's costs herself.

They now have a larger team of volunteers comprising of registered nurses, dieticians, GPs, clinical hypnotherapists, pharmacy and medical students.

Ms Bhagvandas says the medical knowledge and cultural background of the volunteers is what sets them apart from a typical fitness programme.

"Because we know more than a regular instructor we can modify exercises if someone has back pain for example," the 21-year-old says. "We also have a cultural kick to our classes. Some South Asians are quite conservative and they don't always feel comfortable at a gym but here it's like a support group."

If you can help out with funding call 0210 697 007.

Search for Arogya Mantra - Just for the health of it on Facebook.

Central Leader