Entrepreneur yogi in Dubai makes time for family and friends
Joumana Saber is the founder and managing director of the Ashtanga-focused yoga school, The Yoga Room Dubai, which she opened in January 2013. She began teaching yoga while working full time in the FMCG industry, dedicating weekends and after-work hours to yoga practitioners across the city. Greek-Lebanese by nationality, but born and raised in the UAE, Ms Saber opened her traditional yoga studio to make it accessible to people from all walks of life. The 28-year-old is expecting her first child next month.
How do you spend your weekend?
On Friday, the first thing I do after waking and finishing my morning routines is get on my yoga mat for practice. I then head to Fraiche Cafe & Bistro in JLT for my breakfast before teaching a 90-minute yoga class. Friday afternoons are spent with family, either lunch at my parents’ home or with my husband’s family. My husband and I are parents to a beautiful rescue dog named Eddie, so we walk him three times a day. Most of the afternoon is spent cuddling with Eddie, or playing fetch in our apartment. At night, we get together with our friends for a home-cooked meal, or a quiet night watching movies or playing games. We take turns hosting each other. Saturdays are my no-work days, as that is the only day of the week I don’t teach. I also take it as my rest day from physical yoga practice, so I’ll sleep in. I have one important Saturday ritual though, going out for breakfast with my husband. At night, we usually go to the cinema. I’m also doing a lot of research in preparation for our baby’s arrival next month.
How did you become a managing director?
In 2010, I had been teaching yoga in Dubai for almost two years as a freelancer. Many of my students were not able to practice on a daily basis; sometimes, the location was not ideal or the timings were not convenient. There weren’t that many yoga studios or teachers in Dubai when I first started teaching. This motivated me to open a yoga studio and teach full-time. In 2012, my husband and I decided to get the wheels rolling on a studio that only focused on teaching Ashtanga yoga. The dream was not to own a business, but to make it possible for people to learn Ashtanga when many facilities in Dubai were not enthusiastic about limiting the classes they offer.
What is your go-to gadget?
My iPhone. I spend most of my phone-time on Instagram posting on both my personal and studio accounts, as well as discovering other accounts from all over the world that promote yoga, plant-based lifestyles, music and art. I also know when not to use my phone – meal times, while walking in public spaces, in the cinema, before going to bed or when I am out with friends.
What was the lowest point of your career?
It is often easier to be consumed by the hardships of owning a business, something that distracts from enjoying all the beautiful achievements. I have had moments as both a yoga teacher and a business owner where I doubted myself, and consider those moments the lowest points of my career. However, I am lucky to be surrounded by so many people that had faith in me when I did not.
What advice would you offer others starting out in your business?
You are, and always will be, a student. Acknowledge that you will never stop learning, and teaching is simply a way for you to share your experience with others. It is very exciting to own a studio and be a teacher, but do not lose sight of the fact that it is a business, so make sure you find a way to balance it all out.
What is your most indulgent habit?
French fries. And homemade vegan ice cream. The only main ingredient is frozen bananas, so it’s very good for you.
What do you have on your desk at work?
One of my favourite things about what I do is that I don’t sit behind a desk. My hips and lower back have benefited from not sitting down all the time.
How do you achieve a work-life balance?
I always make time for everyone, including myself. My husband and I schedule date night once a week; I indulge in a spa treatment every now and then; I meet my best friends over lunch at least once a week; I visit my parents on weekends; I arrange play dates for my dog, Eddie and I travel to Mysore, India, once a year.
If you could swap jobs with anyone who would it be?
Growing up, I wanted to be a musician in a band. During my university years, I was working towards becoming a travelling documentary artist. Recently, I decided I want to study midwifery. I believe I can work in as many fields as possible if I manage my time properly. That being said, I will never stop doing what I currently do. I never dreamt of being a yoga teacher, but this is definitely a dream job.
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Updated: December 22, 2016 04:00 AM