Friday, November 21, 2008

I want to transform the Idols: Mickey Mehta

A lean, composed man with a quiet manner, Mickey Mehta seems to embody the title he is known by—India’s biggest holistic health and fitness guru. For 24 years, he has been revolutionising the concept of wellness and redefining holistic health. His innovative ideas are based on Vedic philosophies and the therapies of Tao and Zen among others.

And he is the man who is behind keeping the Top 14 grounded, unified, healthy and fit. We talked to the guru on the what, how and why.

When you agreed to guide the Indian Idol contestants, what action plan did you have in mind?

We thought that just doing weight loss and trying to get them fit would be a very narrow idea. We wanted to do something very integrated—something that would primarily transform personalities on a broad-based understanding, keeping in mind that every contestant should have a better attitude.

Making a winner with a difference was the mandate. They needed to be transformed completely—in terms of personality, their physical look, confidence, attitude, self esteem and thought process.

So how did you go about it?

We started off with giving them nutritional guidance. We made them understand what foods would be best suited for such a programme—what would help them cleanse impurities, to purify, to invigorate, to revitalise and to fortify.

We also explained how the right food would influence the mind. You see, foods like fruits and sprouts influence the thought process and attitude. We showed them how to combat stress through food, how to get liberated energy through food. We prescribed a satvic diet to them.

What is their fitness regime?

They have gruelling 18-hour schedules every day. So they should be absolutely fit so that they can go through the grind and still remain alert, fresh and be rearing to go the next morning. So we got them to do a lot of yoga, free hand cardio vascular, pilates and strength training. We wanted to ensure that their body was strong so that they would not succumb to illness or stress. Our regime gave them more resistance, made them more tenacious and more perseverant.

We also did a lot of breathing exercises and pranayam. And, along with this, we also focused on intonation—improvement of throat quality and voice quality. This helps them to modulate better, to pitch better, get a higher octave and to improve lung power through deep oxygenation. This was a primary focus keeping in mind their very specific need as singers.

How else were you able to help them with your holistic approach?

I did a lot of group meditation with them, to help inculcate the spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood, to help them create a support system—so that one did not pull down the other.

I told them that they were not competing with the idea of killing the competition; they were contesting—trying to better their own talents. A true artist never gets aggressive in competition. A true artist improves, contests and competes with himself or herself. Being healthy is being sporting, happy, joyful and performing well—it’s not just being fit.

So I’ve tried to make them have a sporting attitude, to do away with the fear of losing and the greed of winning, because both will take away from the competition.

Was meditation a part of their routine?

Yes, I practiced the subtle sciences with them. We did candlelight meditation, which ignites a flame in you. It brings about awareness, puts you in touch with your jubilant self—which wants to conquer and to out perform. This meditation fills them with radiance and glory. And it also helps them not to feel homesick. (Smiles) It helps to bring them collectively together.

I also did aromatherapy meditation with them—where you inhale the aroma of flowers and fruits. This helps to transform every impulse.

Could you tell us a little more about your concept, health beyond fitness?

Fitness has a very limited spectrum. The bandwidth of fitness is simply strength, stamina, agility, tone and flexibility. But when you look at health it is energy, stability, high immunity, balance, equilibrium, sense of being, belonging, commitment and responsibility.

Health is also a heightened amount of immunity, heightened perceptions, being able to sleep well, work well, having a clear focus in life, a beautiful thought process, and conscious and righteous action. Health is organic soundness, it is organic unity.

That is why my approach is multi-pronged. We approach health through various areas of life like eating appropriate—the appropriate type of food at the appropriate time and in appropriate quantities. We tell people to bask in the sunlight, in the moonlight—to be in nature as much as possible, to absorb the intelligence of nature—so that you are able to soothe yourself, to distress, to find your centre and your being. So that you can come alive once again.

You were also responsible for their grooming.

I talked to them about etiquette, posture, body language, mannerisms and attitude. Your body language says a lot about you, so I advised them not to look lost or puzzled, to communicate through their body and their eyes, to never stand or sit sloppily, to be alert and upright always.

I have seen my words have a positive effect, too. Especially in Torsha. She was very uncommunicative and her face never showed emotions when she first came on the show. Now she is more expressive, outgoing and confident.

Is there anything specific that you hope the contestants will take back from their experiences with you?

It’s not only with me that they have learned things. They will learn and take away a lot throughout the tenure of Indian Idol. They are in the midst of a mêlée of gurus. Even when they are being judged, they are learning something. It''s not like learning happens just when somebody teaches—learning happens as a by-product of being with somebody. You just keep absorbing and assimilating.

Apart from the set curriculum, it just so happens that our wisdom and experience are also naturally shared with them. It has happened in my interactions with them, too. I feel each contestant will go back a winner, with a lot of value additions.