When I started my career at the Y back in January 2010, I had no idea at all what was in store for me. But I can safely say that the last 7 years as a group exercise instructor have been simply wonderful.

I have always been an avid exerciser for as far back as I can remember. I immigrated to the US in 2001, joined the Northwest Y right away and have been connected with the Y ever since.

Back then as a member, I enjoyed all the wonderful and various classes that were offered to us. It was during this time, that I met Eda Butts, a group exercise instructor. Eda would occasionally ask a few of the members to “lead” class for up to 2 minutes, and that’s when I realized I really enjoyed telling people what to do (my husband can also attest to this!). Upon Eda’s encouragement and support, back in November 2009, I decided to embark on a career in the fitness industry, and it’s been a roller coaster ride. It felt so right to do what I love, and also to get paid for it.

Once certified as a cycling instructor, I got a break and began to apply what I had learned in training when in January 2010 a cycling class became available for me to teach, and a few months later, another class. Under the new leadership of Lida Xhindi, I was offered a boot camp class that I continue to teach even today.

The Y means so much to me. It has given me a structure. It has given me a routine. It has given me a place I feel safe and secure. It has been a place where I have been able to grow and develop a side of me that even I didn’t know it existed. The Y has introduced me to a diverse group people, some whom I can now call friends. My daily interaction at the Y will range from people with similar outlooks and also to those who are completely different. I interact with people of all ages and abilities and for that I am so thankful and grateful. Being an instructor at the Y has allowed me to tap into my potential and to be what I am today: happy, confident and secure in the knowledge that in my small ways, I do make a difference in people’s lives.

Being at the Y has allowed me to tap into a group of people who were “exercise contemplators”. These are the people who liked the idea of exercising, but were unsure how to start. And that is when I stepped in. I was able to gain the trust and confidence of many of my current members, and gently introduced them to the idea of exercise in general and to attending group classes more specifically. I still make it a point to get to know all my class attendees, listen to their stories, and engage with them at the Y and outside the Y. I also encourage members to get to know each other and within the greater community of the Y, we have created a smaller and more intimate community in my classes. Over the years, I have had several people come up to tell me how exercise has helped them clear their mind, get off blood pressure medication, have their diabetes under control, and generally, how they feel fitter, stronger and leaner. Now that in its own is the best validation anyone can get. It truly is very rewarding and satisfying to know that this was made possible, in some part, by their trust in me.

Bringing people together is also an import part of being at the Y, in particular, when we host the annual celebration of the festival of Diwali. The last 5 years, the Y has very generously donated funds to this event, and the result is a table heavily laden with delicious foods, for all the members to share. The feast goes on all day during which time we provide light entertainment for the members, with some of the members being a part of this entertainment; looking forward to this year’s celebration on Tuesday, October 10 from 9am – 5pm.

Being as diverse as we are here at the Northwest Y, I have lots of folks from different cultures helping me run this all day long event, and some even come dressed up in the proper attire. So, when it comes to the Lunar New Year celebration, I too do the same to honor this holiday. What fun that is!

Most recently, I was given the opportunity to demonstrate how to cook Indian food in the kitchen at the Y. This was an event for staff only, but maybe going forwards, we can open this up to members.

So, as you can see, being an instructor at the Y has many layers to it. I have loved every minute of teaching here, being offered the opportunity to help people make better life choices, and also to give back to my community with celebrating various cultures such as with Diwali, Lunar New Year and the Indian cooking event.

Thank you to all for your continued support, trust and love.

Yours Sincerely,
Seema Bhardwaj