For Natasha Stephenson it's a case of if you can't take the heat …
Day in the life of a Dubai bikram yoga teacher
Natasha Stephenson owns RAWR Bikram yoga studio at Concord Tower in Dubai Media City. The 30-year-old Estonian came to the UAE from London and has spent the past three years bringing bikram yoga to the masses. This warm form of yoga is not just a way of keeping fit but has therapeutic qualities too, she says, claiming it can reverse diabetes and correct high blood pressure. Her classes are suitable for everyone from beginners to seasoned practitioners. Enthusiasts of all shapes, sizes and ages are welcome.
I am not really a morning person so I get up around nine and eat something healthy; probably something like a green juice with cucumber, pineapple and ginseng. I look at everything from a nutritionist’s point of view. I then go to a yoga class that starts at 10.30am – not to teach but to participate. The room is at 43°C and at 40 per cent humidity so it’s 90 minutes of hard work. It’s not just about flexibility; it’s about endurance and strength; and you can burn up to 800 calories per class, so it is intense. There are 26 postures with the same sequence performed in every class, so beginners and experts can work out together. The heat makes your body extremely flexible, which prevents injury.
We have two full-time yoga teachers and five part-time so there is always something to manage with the studio and that usually takes up a couple of hours. I may then meet friends for lunch, which will be chicken or fish and vegetables. I avoid bread and white rice but I am a real snacker: I love protein bars and berries, not cookies or crisps. My afternoons are never the same because I also sell real estate. I speak Russian and a lot of Russians want to live on the Palm, which is also where I live so it makes business sense to use the two. There is a big Russian community on the Palm so I have a lot of clients there. I also have another project in the health arena which will be starting in a couple of months to help people detoxify their bodies. It will allow people to heal themselves with the foods they eat. I hate my day not being full. The real estate business has been really busy for the past few months but this month it slowed down because of Cityscape.
I teach two sessions of bikram yoga back-to-back but sometimes I take the later class which begins at 8.30pm and that means I don’t finish until 10pm. My day is a whirl of multitasking, which is helped by the control that yoga teaches you. I can take different classes or arrange real estate meetings to suit the yoga. I have been working seven days a week until last month; since then I have been able to take a day off. Of course, if I am teaching I am not practising yoga; it is more about talking to the students and encouraging them – although it is still in the same heat.
I return home with my day done but there will still be emails to follow up and some business development for the yoga and real estate. I am a real foodie. I love food, wine, and cheese but 80 per cent of my intake is healthy. I usually eat late, which may be a protein shake with protein powder mixed in, blended with mango or banana and seeds; nothing heavy like steak in the evening. If I am teaching yoga late I will be starving, but the protein shake will fill me up in a healthy way. Bikram yoga becomes a way of life. It is not for everyone: 60 per cent of people who try it once don’t return as it feels too intense. But for those who come again they will see and feel the benefits and become dedicated to it.