By Emily Glory Peters
Pregnancy and labor are like snowflakes: no two experiences are exactly alike. Still, the process opens the door for women to bond, not just over their delivery, but all things postpartum—but not all women have easy access to that kind of community.
That was the struggle for dancer and fitness instructor, Nila Ghafarshad Bhalla, when she had her daughter Gia back in 2014. She didn’t know a lot of people in the area and none of her friends had children at the time. When postpartum depression set in, she knew she needed help, so she turned to what she knew and loved: exercise.
“One of my neighbors told me about FIT4MOM, community workout classes where parents could actually bring their children around,” Bhalla says. “I fell in love—so when the prior owners said they were selling, I decided to purchase it. We now hold outdoor classes at alternating locations in Pasadena, San Marino, and even at the Santa Anita Mall in Arcadia on rainy days.”
Taught by a first-class suite of fellow dancers/certified fitness trainers, the pre- and postnatal classes are what Bhalla describes as the right blend of flexibility and grind. Posts are set up with different workout drills, with moms moving from station to station while the kids hang out nearby in their strollers (kid-friendly entertainment is regularly included during and after classes). The workouts are not easy, she says, but easily modified so no one feels excluded.
“There’s this misconception after delivery that you’re not fit enough, but it isn’t true. What the female body can do is incredible. You just need the right motivation and support,” she says, explaining how she and her instructors alter drills so moms can adjust to their level. “I did my first workout at 14 months postpartum, and even with my background as a dancer, I was still so tuckered out. So the first thing I tell the moms after workout is to congratulate yourself, because you’re showing up for yourself and your child.”
While the surface goal for FIT4MOM classes is to help moms drop a few pounds and tone up, Bhalla emphasizes a deeper purpose for her business.
“FIT4MOM uplifts others when they most need it. Some moms came in with no friends, some came from out-of-state, and now they have this sisterhood,” she says, gushing over the group of moms that has, as she describes, “saved her life.” It’s not just for moms that have given birth, either, she says, recognizing that motherhood comes to women in all kinds of ways. Even a few dads have been known to show up for a workout.
“This is about moral support; to encourage you to be the best parent you can be. And to have our kids there is so special—because when you feel like quitting, you look who’s watching. Our children get to see us making them the priority as well as ourselves,” Bhalla says.
Part of making themselves a priority also means knowing when to swap reps for a night out. Monthly mom meetups are also part of the FIT4MOM agenda, generally at a restaurant, but hosted a few times a year in Bhalla’s backyard. “We’ve got a full bartender, music and an amazing group of moms. Not everyone sees each other in each class, so this gives them a chance to meet each other outside of yoga pants and covered in sweat,” she laughs.
As FIT4MOM grows, Bhalla acknowledges that there’s still a way to go. Getting the word out has been slow, and she’s eager to find better avenues to connect moms to the kind of community that she herself found so critical to her mental and physical health. So even with other projects on her plate—and a five-year-old and husband to care for—FIT4MOM Greater Pasadena will always have her heart.
“This is my village,” she says. “It’s a family”
The first FIT4MOM class is free, with additional plans or passes available to suit your schedule. To learn more about their upcoming class schedule and fitness instructors, visit www.greaterpasadena.fit4mom.com and be sure to follow along on Instagram @fit4mom_greaterpasadena.