How to get in shape like a beauty queen –

Practicing more yoga has taken her to a new level of self-understanding, says the beauty queen.

With all huge gatherings halted due to the pandemic, concert fans and theater geeks can only reminisce on past performances and dream of heading back to their favorite venues. One other group that has been left in the lurch are the country’s many beauty pageant enthusiasts, some of whom can recite the names of winners and runners-up of all the major crowns going back decades.

But what about the contestants themselves who spend months preparing, making sure they look their best on pageant night?

Ysabella “Bella” Roxas Ysmael was determined to join the Miss Universe pageant this year. Two years ago, she placed first runner-up in the Century Tuna Superbods competition, which helped boost her popularity in the pageant circuit.

With her almond-shaped eyes, high forehead and full lips, this 24-year-old is already blessed with the makings of a beauty queen. She credits her toned body to the rigors of dance, ballet in particular.

“I never really considered myself a ‘fitness buff,’ as exercising isn’t my favorite thing to do,” Ysmael told Lifestyle in an email interview. “Exercise for me is more about dancing, yoga, running, boxing—anything I can do to remain active and break a sweat.”

She started taking ballet classes as a toddler. “I’ve always been known as the ballerina. I try out other dances, too, like a bit of jazz and contemporary ballet, plus the occasional hip-hop class when I feel like I need to explore a different dance world.

“What most people don’t know about me is that I am also quite sporty. I played volleyball in elementary, badminton in high school. I enjoy playing football on the beach with my cousins and friends, and I used to play basketball out on the street with my brothers and their friends. Now, I’m more into water sports—surfing and wakeboarding are two things I’m quite obsessed with,” Ysmael said.

Her decision to join the Superbods competition seemed almost unplanned. “I decided to join just about a month before auditions so I really went hardcore and exercised more than I usually did. My body was in transformation throughout that competition. I wasn’t completely ready for it in the beginning, but I did gain a lot of new knowledge on what it meant to take care of my body that I was able to apply to myself.”

Joining Miss Universe Philippines was more deliberate. Ysmael had months to prepare with a physical trainer who helped get her into her best shape.

“We would work out four or five times a week. I also had ballet classes during the weekends, and I did my best to maintain a balanced diet,” she said.

Her hard work paid off, and she was chosen Miss Universe Philippines-Parañaque. Ysmael said that when they started in February, she had to get used to the rigid schedule. The pageant and corollary events, however, were later postponed.

“Since March, the pageant has been more online, with me and the other candidates remaining active on our social media platforms, conducting meetings with the MUPh Team, basically doing everything from home.”

Miss Universe Philippines-Parañaque Bella Ysmael: “I was able to find my comfort zone in exercise.”

The lockdown gave her more time to exercise because she didn’t need to worry about travel time, call times or schedules. “I had the liberty to decide how long I was going to exercise and when I would do that. This helped me a lot, because I was able to find my comfort zone in exercise and what routines helped me best,” Ysmael said.

Lockdown has also allowed her to be more introspective, more attuned to herself.

“A huge chunk of my time in lockdown has been dedicated to connecting with myself. We take so much time in our usual schedules traveling, working, being distracted with our busy lives that we often overlook our mental and physical needs. I have taken this time to practice more yoga and meditation, and I can definitely say it has taken me to a different level of understanding of who I am and what I have been doing.”

Although many of us have settled into a routine, the prolonged lockdown and its many privations (human contact, shared meals, normal conversation) have affected our mental health in ways we have yet to fully understand.

She shares a few tips for those who may be struggling.

“When you feel down, and can’t seem to shake it off, it’s good to sit in silence for a few minutes and just try to keep your head clear. It can help you understand what you’re feeling, or simply calm you down.

“If that doesn’t help, I suggest moving. If your knees feel stiff, shake them. If your neck feels tired, move it around. If your hips feel stuck, sway them around and side to side. Keeping a healthy mind is essential during a time like this, and it is crucial to our productivity in quarantine,” Ysmael said. INQ