Updated: Mar 24
ASAWA member, Priya Naresh, has a Masters Degree from Pracheen Kala Kendra, India in Odissi (Indian Classical Dance). She is also a certified Zumba® and Bombay Jam® instructor, and a budding entrepreneur. ASAWA interviewed her for Perspectives.
Thank you for taking the time to talk to ASAWA. For the benefit of our members, please tell us in a few sentences about your journey to Bay Area from India.
Priya : Thank you for taking time to have this conversation with me. I moved to Bay Area around 4 years back from Philadelphia. Before that we lived in Singapore. My husband’s job was the reason for our move here to the USA.
You are a classical dancer with several years of training in Odissi. Please tell us about this dance form and your motivation to learn Odissi.
Priya: I started learning Odissi at the age of 5 and when I was 17 years old, I completed my Masters in Odissi from Pracheen Kala Kendra ,India. Initially, my motivation came from my parents who were art enthusiasts and wished for me to pursue this beautiful dance form. Later my main inspiration was my Guru, Shri Bharat Chandra Giri.
All Indian Classical Dance forms are unique in themselves. Odissi stands out from other dance forms for its sensual, graceful and softer movements. The ornaments in Odissi are made up of silver filigree works unlike any other Indian classical dance forms. Another significance of Odissi is; being one of the oldest surviving dance forms in India, mostly due to its historical connection with the sculptures and relics found in the temples of Odisha dating back to 2nd century BC.
There are several obvious physical benefits of learning classical dance. Are there any specific ways that you feel classical dance has led to your personal or professional betterment?
Priya: Being a trained classical dancer and performing within Odisha and parts of India at a very early age, things changed once I reached my graduation. Life happened and I excused myself from actively pursuing Odissi Dance.
But after many years and two kids later, Dance came back into my life in form of an accidental Dance fitness class. Not only it helped me in feeling better and getting fit but also it saved me from a possible post-partum depression. I walked into a Zumba class in Philadelphia, and fell in love with movement again. As its said, once a dancer, always a dancer.
Bombay Jam® came as a very natural progression after moving to the Bay Area as the soul of the program lies in Bollywood Music that I absolutely love. I got certified as a Bombay Jam® instructor and haven’t looked back since then. I run my independent sessions in Saratoga & Almaden. I also teach at multiple corporates around the Bay Area along with few individual private clients. I have conducted several Bombay Jam ® Master Classes around the East Coast and many cities in India promoting and spreading more awareness about the program.
Can you talk to us about Bombay Jam? Is it different from Zumba?
Priya: Bombay Jam® is a Total-Body Format which is comprised of both Cardio and Toning, targeting major muscle groups. The music mixes are a combination of Bollywood chartbusters and International Top 40. Zumba’s soul lies in Latin music where as Bombay Jam’s is Bollywood. Also the Toning section (using one’s own body weight) incorporated in a Bombay Jam® makes it stand out amongst many other Dance Fitness formats.
Can anyone do Bombay Jam? There may be a few of us (maybe just me) with two left feet and probably couldn’t keep up with the counts.
Priya: Any one can do Bombay Jam®. Each dance exercise class offered at Bombay Jam® provides its unique mixture of Cardio and Fat burning total body workouts through a variety of easy and engaging dance moves. We recognize that no two students are same, hence there are easy modifications for any possible intense step so that everyone can achieve their desired results safely and effectively . The program is super fun, exhilarating and effective for anyone over 13 at any fitness level.
Talk to us about the success and challenges of being an Indian entrepreneur in a relatively new fitness field.
Priya: Over 3 years ago, I took the plunge and got certified and started teaching Bombay Jam® here in Bay Area. I would be lying if I say it has all been a rosy path. Well, Bay Area provides great opportunities and also greater challenges/competitions. When I got certified, I was relatively new. But my focus in life has been belief and striving towards the 4 Ps I believe in: Passion, Preparation, Punctuality & Professionalism. I have been fortunate enough to meet , connect and make friends with many other fellow Bombay Jam instructors who have been supportive and inspiring in my own journey as a trainer. I am constantly striving towards bringing the best of the bests, learning and participating in other Fitness formats to help me towards bettering my skill sets. I am looking forward to add more studios and one-on-one sessions in future.
You are a classical dancer, certified Bombay Jam instructor, and a budding entrepreneur . What do you do in your spare time?
Priya: I love to paint ,craft, hike, write poetry and watch British Crime thrillers during my spare time.
As parting words, can you share your observations on any commonalities between students who stick to an exercise routine and those who do not?
Priya: I feel what differentiates a student from another is the motivation to exercise. There are 2 types of motivations; external and internal. External motivators include; looking good in a dress or bathing suit, getting flat abs, losing weight, gaining weight, wanting to fit into an old dress etc. That is not always a bad thing. And internal motivation comes from within and it is less fleeting than the previous one. Some examples ; exercising because it feels good, love that high feeling after every session, working out because it relieves stress, feeling good when your body gets stronger and your stamina increases, enjoying exercise because it gives you time to think or zone out.
As an instructor, I encourage my students to identify their own strengths, understand their own limits and strive to work out around that. I encourage them to adopt Exercise as a lifestyle not as any passing fad .
Priya, thank you so much for your time. Can we wrangle a few classes for our members?
Priya: It was entirely my pleasure and I had a wonderful time talking to you about my journey so far. To show my appreciation, I wish to extend an invitation to 6 ASAWA Members to join us on my birthday August 25th, as complimentary guests and celebrate with us at this FUN-tastic Dance Fitness session. Please wear comfortable sports shoes, bring your awesome vibe and lets party .
ASAWA message: If you would like to sign up for a free class, register on the website. First come, first serve.