Sucheta Pal: Zumba Goddess, Inspiring New Mom and More!
Sucheta Pal is a pathbreaker who brought Zumba® to India and was felicitated in 2018 by the Honl. President of India as “First Lady” for women wellness. Having successfully trained many Zumba instructors, this engineer turned women’s fitness role model has inspired many with her own journey. In 2019, she took to social media to share her pregnancy journey as she danced her way through her pregnancy. Let’s deep dive into how she keeps it real and drowns out all the chatter surrounding pregnancy and new moms.
Here’s a glimpse into what it takes mentally and physically to become the role model that Sucheta is…
You had to overcome many challenges on your journey to success. What was it that led you to Zumba?
I come from a small town called Ranchi and like most of the people from there who either become engineers or doctors, I became an engineer. I used to enjoy dancing and as my passion grew, I used to go out dancing and party and at the same time I was working full time so I faced the pressure to perform. That caused many health issues and I developed social anxiety disorder.
This is my 10 year mark as a warrior who battled this disorder because when I discovered that dance is what I enjoyed, I learned dance professionally at the age of 25 and I was competing with youngsters who start their training in their teens. After I moved to the US, I discovered Zumba accidently because I thought it was a dance class. I realised that it was a fitness class where I could experience dance and culture of the world and no one judged me based on how I looked. I fell in love with it as a student first.
Being fitter ultimately gave me confidence and from there I started working as a trainer first and when it was launched in 2012 in India, I became a Zumba Education Specialist.
The same girl who couldn’t talk to people 5 years back was now training 100s and the journey continues.
As Zumba is now being taught in so many parts of India, many women walk up to me and tell me that they never knew they could walk into a gym and not feel judged. That has been truly rewarding.
Apart from Zumba was there anything else you did to overcome your anxiety?
I tried everything from hypnotherapy to gem therapy to psychiatrist at the time. When my mindset shifted from wondering what people think of me to thinking about what I could do for the people who walked into my class, that is when everything shifted.
Meditation helps and even now I do guided meditation using apps like Calm and just breathing.
What inspired you to chronicle your pregnancy on social media in such an honest manner givn that celebrities are judged so harshly?
I react with a lot of women and when it comes to pregnancy there are three main apprehensions and they either worry about losing their independence or that their life will get over, about their weight and about their career.
I decided to get pregnant at 37. I also had some of these apprehensions and I decided to do everything in my power to not worry and conducted a 7-city Pregnant and Perfect tour where I actually taught Zumba during my pregnancy.
People saw me practise what I preach. I got an amazing response from women who were worried and when they saw me they felt that they could also do it. In fact, a lot of people wrote that they wanted to get pregnant. That’s when I posted about the other side of pregnancy.
Exactly! Many celebs tend to keep it all glossy and try to skim over the difficult bits. How come you shared it all?
I was very open that I was struggling with all this emotionally even though I was doing it all. I think many appreciated the candidness. Very few people had negative comments like don’t travel or don’t move or things that they had heard. I realised that they were projecting all that on me so I didn’t engage with those.
People see me and think what an intense workout. But, they don’t realise that I had been doing it for 10 years. But, if I were asked to run a marathon I wouldn’t and I didn’t.
So I always told people to go with their body and their doctor.
Even after the pregnancy, you put up a pic of one boob being bigger than the other. That was so real…
We need to celebrate the raw power that we have and not under-rate pregnancy and show what the body goes through. I showed my beautiful pregnancy body and now this body. I am not talking about weight loss but that these are the changes that are happening.
I want to show that these changes affect us mentally and physically and if our body could endure all this, it’s not about bouncing back to our old body. Just imagine what we can do next.
Awesome. After you recorded your pregnancy, what are the top three things you wish you had known about delivering the baby?
I really wish I had known about the fourth trimester. How, you are in a turmoil after the baby is born. No one warned me about the emotional part of it all.
Second I think breastfeeding is a different journey altogether. I think we should talk more about it.
Third is that one is not prepared for the advice we receive. I think people mean it the right way but they don’t realise that the mother knows what to do and the doctors know. I don’t allow anyone to force their opinion on me. From what I hear, women often give advice based on what they have heard and it is meant to make a woman feel vulnerable and “not enough”. Just let the mother be and let the couple figure it out!
What has worked for you to maintain your emotional health that you would recommend to other new moms?
I make time for myself. Do not feel guilty about it. I workout for a couple of hours when my nanny is at home. I watch Netflix when I express breastmilk. Meditate for at least five minutes in any way like you can listen to music, be with nature. Just be without thinking or being on your phone. And finally, communicate. I have a wonderful partner in my husband and I really communicate and he listens and we embrace our feelings.