We chatted with Rupa Mehta, creator of the Nalini Method and founder of the nonprofit organization, NaliniKIDS, about the vision and inspiration for her New York City studio method that emphasizes the connection between emotional and physical fitness.

I started The Nalini Method 13 years ago, having already trained for years as a fitness instructor. In all my classes, no matter the age range, gender, or lifestyle, I began to notice firsthand how emotional weight could make very physically fit people still feel overweight. The words and ideas they carried about themselves made them feel heavy, which opened my eyes to this idea of “emotional obesity.” You may have heard the expression, “abs are made in the kitchen.” Well, I say, “weight is made in the mind.” In my classes, I began to incorporate language that was encouraging and advocated an emotional diet. This kind of diet has nothing to do with food but rather with starting a word detox—removing negative language from your vocabulary and instead, consuming healthy words to strengthen both body and mind. I encouraged everyone, both inside the studio and out, to start thinking about weight as more than how much you sweat in class or how you eat.

Just like an effective school classroom, at Nalini Method, we aim to provide personal attention and support to each student. And although Nalini Method classes are technically 60 minutes in length, the results-driven experience begins the moment you walk in the door. Your name is written at your spot at the barre, we spend time with you going over any injuries and modifications (even how your morning has been so far!), and at the end of class, we strive to check in and have a quality follow-up. That time before and after class is just as important as actual class time.

NaliniKIDS is our non-profit that was created in response to the “weight of words” wellness philosophy that was building at Nalini Method. More and more of my adult clients were saying how valuable this kind of emotional education would be for their kids and families, and we agreed! Our in-school program teaches kids K-8 the value of physical and emotional weight. My team trains teachers to help students connect life skills, like owning their moods/feelings, to the subjects their students are already learning in school. We’re now partnered with the Department of STEM in the NYC Department of Education and Columbia University, who will be conducting a research study over the course of the 2016-2017 school year. The NaliniKIDS program helps students learn more about their identity, which is crucial to helping them make smart, healthy choices to achieve their dreams and connect more to the world around them.

At Nalini Method and NaliniKIDS, we strive to give you an experience that has a customizable menu, one that offers a wide spectrum of physical fitness and emotional wellness. It’s great for adult clients with busy lives, teachers with ever-changing classroom needs, and students with unique and developing skill sets. Adults and children alike have the option to sweat out the stress, fully embrace an emotional workout alongside a kick-butt workout, and connect with a philanthropic community in a way that offers a deep connection to overall wellness. The choice is yours—and at the heart of all these choices is a powerful drive to connect. Connecting your mind to your body, connecting to other clients, and connecting to your emotional center.

My work with both adults and youth over the years have inspired my most recent book, The Nalini Method: 7 Workouts for 7 Moods. That’s right: Mood Workouts. Moods dictate everything we do (or don’t do), so I wanted to write a book that shares proven techniques on how to own your mood emotionally and physically (anything from deep anger to overwhelming happiness). It’s a fitness book that has you connecting words and exercises to transform your mind and body. You get to explore the diversity and complexities of your own moods which will, in turn, make the workouts even more engaging.

For NaliniKIDS, we will be introducing the Connect Collection this fall, which is a children’s book series that makes your child the artist. As part of our mission to connect children to powerful concepts of emotional and physical fitness, the Connect Collection will be a series of 10 unique stories that can be used by families at home and will also be taught in schools as part of the NaliniKIDS elementary school curriculum. Each book focuses on an exciting lesson that children can bring to life through their own creative illustrations, and all 10 books build on one another to create a thoughtful and complete collection. Because no two artists are the same, no two Connect Collections will be the same, making your child’s completed set a precious and unique keepsake.

Rupa Mehta is a teacher, entrepreneur, fitness expert, creator of the Nalini Method, and founder of the nonprofit organization, NaliniKIDS. Her wellness philosophy—rooted in an understanding that true health comes from being emotionally and physically fit—was developed after years of working with clients in her New York City fitness studios. In her career, Rupa has helped thousands of adults and children on their journeys to emotional and physical wellness. Learn more at nalinimethod.com and nalinikids.org.