Blog: Anuja Rajendra



Anuja Rajendra is the creator and CEO of BollyFit, the Fitness through Dance™ sensation illuminating Michigan. 
BollyFit synthesizes the artistic elements of Indian classical, folk and Bollywood dance styles in a dynamic dance experience.  A spiritual thread is woven in and participants increase presence through dance. A loyal Michigander, success to Anuja is eliciting the dormant dancer within every body in her home state and helping Michigan reach the top of the charts in the "healthiest state" category for both physical and spiritual well-being.

Anuja is an experienced dancer and choreographer and magnetic motivational speaker.  Students have come to BollyFit's flagship Ann Arbor classes from as far as Battle Creek, Detroit and Chicago. To meet growing demand and make the program more accessible, Anuja developed the BollyFit Guide for Guides™ program to certify instructors to teach classes featuring her proprietary content and choreography.  
 
Her private clients include Michigan-based U.S. National and Four Continents Ice Dance Champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White. Together with their coaches, Anuja developed a traditional Indian folk dance for Meryl and Charlie's upcoming competitive season that they hope to showcase at the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver, Canada.

Anuja, along with her two sisters, studied Bharat Natyam, a classical Indian dance style that is over 4000 years old, Bollywood and Bhangra dance styles and performed professionally as "The Rajendra Sisters" throughout the United States, Canada and India. Anuja earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial and Operations Engineering and a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Michigan. Although she recalls missing a few classes to dance and does not recommend this practice, she excelled in the corporate, non-profit and technology start-up sectors.  

Anuja and her husband live in Ann Arbor with their dancing buddies – two smiling sons and a beloved dog adopted from a Michigan shelter. 

Anuja Rajendra - Most Recent Posts:

Post 2 - Beyond Turfs and Towers: The "Ego Free Zone"

Q:  What is the "Ego Free Zone"?

The world is comprised of groups, cliques, and individual achievement.  Groups and cliques constantly vie for attention and individuals strive for achievement against others. These actions are all ego-driven and are based on the premise that something or someone is better than the other.  

Through the layers of every such drama twinkles a space built upon trust, comfort, support, and mutual success.  Enter the "Ego Free Zone". In the Ego Free Zone (EFZ), the burden of one-upping another is lifted off shoulders, the scrutiny of physical form rendered irrelevant, and unity is completely uplifted by common ground.  The EFZ is an environment where human beings feel safe, energetic, equal and light (both from the outer form layers lifted off them and from the illumination from deep within self). The EFZ unleashes energy within and around, creating kinetic results for individuals, organizations and communities.   
I learned about the concept of being without ego from Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth, and came up with the term "Ego Free Zone" after a student, who also reads Tolle, described Bollyfit classes as being "without ego".

Q:  How does BollyFit create an EFZ?

While Bollywood movies glamorize the unattainable, the aesthetic, and the young in a highly ego-centric representation, the magnificent music and artistry in these movies weaves a thread of pure peace, love, and joy that does exist within each of us.  BollyFit harnesses this idealism, the best of Bollywood, into the fabric of the EFZ.  The rest is neither natural nor relevant.

BollyFit's EFZ unravels knots and students sweat gracefully and laugh and learn together loudly.  Choreography synthesizes music and dance styles while, in the sweat of the dancers, simmers a marvelous Michigan Magic – all ages and backgrounds connect and unleash energy beyond the confines of color or age of skin, transcending political, religious, and economic assertions.  Strangers sweat similarly.  

No one has more clout because she has more dance training, grew up in India, or is as thin as a rail. Culture and dance are important but what we're doing really is peeling back the layers of the outer form, realizing the dancer within, and connecting her with the dancers in the room and the dance of the universe. Individuals genuinely care about each other, develop trusted friendships, and become a respectful team that dissolves drama and dances delightfully.

Q:  How can BollyFit's EFZ be applied to Michigan?

BollyFit is fitness through dance – Indian dance with Bollywood music. Given the cultural slant, one might expect long-term BollyFit students to be only young, Indo-centric people.  Or for diverse people to come in and out of class chatting casually and then go their own way without much in common.  One might also expect that outspoken opinions (from choreography to costumes) undermine teamwork.  However, these experiences seem to be more the exception rather than the rule.  I believe that this is because we have removed particular interests and stereotypes from the equation and relate to one another at the core of our being.  Whether it's festivals we perform at or friendships we foster, this this thread weaves seemingly disparate interests together, dissipates knots, and a purposeful collective energy unfolds.

I personally believe that Michigan can learn something from this phenomenon and enter the EFZ.  Michigan has been hard hit by the recession and its "matka" has broken. Now is the perfect time to reassess where we are and where we want to be as we move forward as a state. Let's change our focus from individual 'End Zones' to a collective EFZ.

We are a richly diverse state in culture, religion, and ethnicity. We may all be different on the outside. And yes, we all have different life experiences and backgrounds.   Whether it's the UAW or the automotive companies, the Republicans or Democrats or the cities or the suburbs, each of these groups might seem inherently different on the surface, but at the core, we are all connected as people and have a unified purpose to better our state.

When we see the world in this light, and know we all have the same light within, it helps us to listen to, and integrate, each other's ideas in an open way, without ego, and produce powerful and unexpected results.  Connecting at this level evokes passion and unites people coming together through self-organization.    How about if we all just take a deep breath, break the matka of the egos, and dance in the Greatness of our Lakes?  


Post 1: Spawning an "Intimate Movement"

I'm choreographing and teaching a high energy BollyFit dance in which participants of all ages and backgrounds fill an imaginary matka (clay pot) with water, the essence of life. Then, each dancer breaks the matka over her head and is drenched.  On purpose and with joy.  The conscious choreography elicits physical and spiritual fitness.  Whether an individual or community situation, when a so-called matka, or comforting shell of reality as we know it, breaks, it's so we can dance in the resulting rain.  As someone wise once said, "Nothing is good or bad, it's thinking that makes it so."  And a broken pot is less a loss of clay form and more a release of pent up life essence that twinkles and touches new opportunities.

This blog entry includes two personal cases of 'dancing in the rain' when my matkas broke. I know there are millions of "Michigan Matka Moments" and hope you'll share yours in the comments.      

Case 1:
 
My dear 27-year-old older sister, Rachana, was tragically killed in a car accident almost twelve years ago.  Within 12 hours of the news, I left a dream corporate job with American Power Conversion in W. Kingston, Rhode Island, where I was promoted three times in 18 months, to grieve the untimely loss.  Anguished, I channeled grief into gratitude for time shared with Rachana.  Acceptance of the reality that Rachana's reason for form on earth was realized helped foster relief to be without regret about our interactions together. She always knew what she meant to me. 

I decided to sprinkle Rachana's energy across our hometown by moving back with my parents and starting a business in Rachana's memory in Okemos.  I cherished helping the community enjoy friends and family in a beautiful space that emanated Rachana's effervescence.  Moon-baked Creations fulfilled its purpose, and it was great to be an entrepreneur and participate in the Michigan economy.  But as my passion for retail business waned, I struggled with the prospect of 'leaving Rachana behind' should I decide to move on personally and professionally.

Conclusion:

I had an epiphany that Rachana's energy flows beyond the confines of Moon-baked Creations and, two and a half years after starting the company, I sold the business to two Michigan sisters, married my dream man and, without 'shelter within a matka,' followed my new husband to grad school in Durham, North Carolina.   

Case 2:
 
Two years later, back in Michigan as a full-time MBA student at the Ross School of Business in Ann Arbor, I optimized opportunities to explore, participate, and lead.  Unique experiences included work with Professor C.K. Prahalad, co-authoring a chapter of the renowned book Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, leading the Global Blue organization, co-chairing the National Business School's Food Fight ( a food drive raising foods and funds for needy shelters nationwide), and speaking at the MBA commencement. I dabbled in the corporate world again working at Lehman Brothers during my summer internships in New York City and Chicago, but knew I eventually wanted to start a socially responsible business in Michigan.

While the world was my oyster after graduation, I happily bore two sons in two years and became a devoted mother.  I struggled with conflicting choices of professional and personal alignment. For me, my children were the priority and I elected to be a stay-at-home mother from the start.  Through it all though, I was (and am) immensely appreciative that my husband's job with Ford Motor Company extends me the option, unlike many Michigan women today.  However, I lamented that I'd never figure out 'what I'm really going to do with my life' and what my peers thought of me 'wasting my education.'  Unlike my typical day at library story-time or play date at the park, peers were starting 'important' companies and solving real-world issues.

My old matka was that I needed figure out something 'big' to do.  In the interim, I decided to reawaken an old passion of mine, dance, and created a class for the Ann Arbor YMCA. Although I loved every moment teaching in the studio, my ego struggled with it when I was outside.  The truth is, when people used to suggest I be a teacher, or God forbid, dance teacher, I cringed.  My matka was bigger than that and I viewed dance as simply a pastime until something 'real' came up.  I remember realizing I was actually losing money between parking and paying my babysitter, and wondering when I would have a positive NPV!  

Conclusion:

I recognized magic in the studio when I taught—maybe even more for me than for students—I was consistent, present, alive and vibrant in a way I wasn't outside.  I let go of the relentless fear of figuring out 'my purpose' and embraced my current existence.
 
--The matka broke and life spiraled skyward.
 
--My YMCA class grew into the business now called BollyFit, which turns the traditional view of exercise on its head. Unlike dreaded, lonely workouts, my students crave the spa-like classes and emerge energized, exercised, connected, and peaceful.  My energetic spirit and gift for bringing people to their feet are growing BollyFit to an "intimate movement" of strangers-turned-friends dancing together throughout Southeast Michigan. 

--Two and a half years later, I am a BollyGirl, joyfully dripping with the water from a broken matka. Together with students, BollyFit Guides (certified  instructors who teach classes using my content and choreography), Givers (a BollyFit costume, print and design team comprised of BollyFit students who happen to be Michigan residents, professionals in their own right and devoted mothers), I am dancing "Rooftop to Rooftop!"

Michigan's Matka

Many claim we Michiganders 'broke our own matka' by relying too heavily on the auto industry and being complacent about the health of the state and citizens.  Perhaps.  But the old matka needed to break. Today, we have space for growth and resurgence - within and beyond the auto industry, within and beyond ourselves in Michigan.  Pain occurs when there is resistance to reality. Crying about the broken pot or trying to glue it back as it was isn't the solution.  We have more to offer than the old confines.  Acceptance that pots break as they should reveals rain showers unlimited by form and drought is drenched. 




--BollyFit is launching in its newest location, Clarkston, with a 6-week class at the Bella Pointe Dance & Performing Arts center. Click
here for registration details.
 
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