Globally recognised yoga guru Bharat Thakur says while Madonna popularised yoga in the West, it was Kareena Kapoor who made it popular in the Hindi film industry.
"Celebrities are role models for the rest of the nation. When Kareena transformed her figure, everyone sat up and realised that yoga can give amazing results, thus getting attracted towards this form," Thakur told IANS in an e-mail interview from the US.
"Similarly in the West when Madonna took up yoga everyone sat up and said 'What is she doing and why?' When they saw her body and face, they said,'Oh, this yoga must be working,' " he added.
Thakur's first Bollywood client was Sridevi and later he trained many in tinsel town including big names like Salman Khan, Katrina Kaif, Anil Kapoor and Neha Dhupia. He says currently quite a few personalities are into yoga, but it wasn't so popular in Hindi film industry five years ago.
"There was no concept of yoga in Bollywood five years back. Till that time everybody was just going to the gym. The interest in this form has increased majorly in the recent past.
"Celebrities are interested in yoga for a simple reason - it is the only form that can make you look younger with age. It works on your body, mind and stress levels - so it's a complete package. Going to the gym can be boring and can drain you out. Yoga adds energy to your system," said Thakur whose favourite student in Bollywood is singer Kailash Kher.
"Kailash is one of the most talented, warm and open persons I have come across. He is ready to learn anything. He is special," Thakur said.
Thakur's international client? includes Hollywood actor Michael Douglas, singer Norah Jones, tennis player Boris Becker and cricketer Shane Warne. He feels international celebrities are more interested in the mystical aspects of yoga.
"I think in India fitness is more important than yoga right now. However, the West has already been through the fitness fad in the 1980's and 90's. They realised themselves that the mind is equally important as the body.
"So, international celebrities are more interested in meditation and mystical aspects of yoga than just getting a six pack which they can get with any trainer," said Thakur who is married to Indian actress Bhumika Chawla.
The yoga guru says word of mouth helped him create his base in the industry but now he rarely teaches yoga.
"I rarely teach personally. I train my teachers for years before they can teach. Our studio charges Rs.3,000 a month. The rates differ from city to city," he said.
Thakur has also penned eight books on yoga, including Yoga For The Family, The Art Of The Mystics and Yoga For All and is even keen on going behind the camera one day to make a film on the subject.
"I want to make a film one day about the mystical aspects of yoga that are not known to people right now," he said.