Health and Fitness: A Poet Laureate for Business

Zelda 674 x 280

As told to Kathryn & Nick:

Zelda Stewart is Poet Laureate for Indio Fitness, a global fitness and nutrition company based in Anaheim, California. Currently in England promoting a new book, Zelda agreed to tell us more about her work on just one condition, we had to complete an Indio beginners class first. Once the 5′ 2″, impossibly blonde coiled spring had subjected us to a range of – not totally unpleasant exercises – she finally took us through what we really came for.

Good morning and welcome, breathe out, hold, breath in,
Your Indio class is about to begin.
We’ve structured your diet and exercise plan,
Soon you’ll have the power to be all you can.
By now you’ll have read through your Indio Chart,
So get in Prone Position, we’re ready to start…

It’s not buzz words, it’s not empty platitudes; it’s carefully crafted motivational spiel that gets you up and at ’em. Indio begins and ends with positive reinforcement. It’s fun, it’s personal, it pushes you that extra inch… and our practitioners love it.

We’re all about balance. We combine isometric yoga, good food and mental discipline. We utilise spiritually similar, nutritional combinations to bring you a focussed, healthy body; and carefully strategized yoga techniques, to give you core strength and fitness. Everything is then wrapped up in our own unique presentation. Indio works… and I couldn’t do what I do if it didn’t.

When I was first approached for the job I had my doubts. For starters I made a living as a working poet, performing at recitals across the country. Would I be selling out? Would I join the ranks of the lying marketers who bombarded my inbox on a daily basis? And most of all… did I believe in the product? After all, here was this entity, presented to me as a completely new way of thinking about my life and the way I live it. My touchy-feely alarm went haywire instantly; I’d seen these so called ‘cultural phenomenon’ before: The Pritikin Program, The Chesney Plan, any number of stand-alone diets ranging from Atkins to the Plan Z… and more exercise fads than I care to mention. Some worked, all bored me. This didn’t. In fact, it revolutionised the way I thought about food and meal preparation. It’s not faddy either, it’s just regular food, paired correctly to aid weight loss and wellbeing. Once combined with Indio’s yoga plan, which uses isometrics to keep you in the fat burning zone, I felt better than I ever had.

Some might say it’s a little unusual for a company to employ a poet laureate, but countries have them, our States back home have them, even tiny towns here in England have them. Why not a caring corporation? Companies employ ad agencies, copywriters and all manner of PR gurus to carefully craft and shape a, sometimes, disingenuous message. Indio is different though, we’re not going to force empty pledges down your throat, we mean what we say and deliver on everything we promise.

When the company was founded back in the late 60s it was done so with a simple, ethical mantra: “Californian Body, Indian Soul.” The visionary behind it was Angelica Andress, a young UCLA student who combined the practice of yoga with her knowledge of nutrition, and bound it all together with powerful messages and motivational mantras. Angelica came up with the concept, the exercises and the diet plans. What I do is merely an extension of what she started.

Just before I became their resident poet I met with Angelica. I don’t know what I was expecting, but certainly not model looks and flowing blonde hair. She looks half her age and has the body of a teenager. She invited me to her home and cooked a holistic beetroot and mackerel risotto, before making me recite a poem about it on the spot. I can’t remember what I came up with, but I do recall rhyming risotto with simpatico. I must have done something right, I was hired immediately and I’ve been helping to expand Indio’s message and inspire our practitioners for the last four years.

It’s remarkable how much the company has grown in that time. Indio is now franchised to over 850 teachers, who mentor our practitioners and run a range of programs from beginner through to master-classes; all of which receive full support. There’s also a range of DVDs, a TV channel, weekly video releases and an interactive newsletter. It’s quite the community. We’ve got almost one million practitioners taking part in Indio and it’s my privilege to be able to deliver fun, inspirational snippets to all of them. My poems appear online, in mails, on podcasts and in all videos.

The best bit though, is I’m not some marketing creative coming up with empty nonsense. I’m delivering messages that matter and help people achieve their goals. If I can help push people over the finish line – and they can have fun getting there – then I’ve done my job. Next week Angelica is personally tailoring a diet plan for my move up to the Indio Master program, I’ve already started writing a poem about it. I can’t wait to put into action:

No wheat, no gluten, low fat and no dairy,
The humble cheese sandwich is our mortal enemy.
We’ll cook up our wheatgrass, our kale and our spinach,
Add egg whites for body and raw sprouts to finish.
As goodness and strength cut right down to the bone,
We’ll become Indio Masters of the fat burning zone.


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