x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Wide spectrum of lifestyle workshops gaining popularity in UAE

A variety of well-being related topics are increasingly popping up across the UAE, as health and fitness companies reach out to a growing market of residents eager to sign up.

Acro yoga, which combines acrobatics, yoga and Thai massage, is gaining popularity in the UAE. Dolores Johnson / The National
Acro yoga, which combines acrobatics, yoga and Thai massage, is gaining popularity in the UAE. Dolores Johnson / The National
Full-day, weekend and even week-long courses on a variety of well-being related topics are increasingly popping up across the UAE, as health and fitness companies reach out to a growing market of residents eager to sign up.
Real Pilates in Dubai, which has 60 courses and workshops on deck this year, runs physical anatomy courses for people who wish to prepare for teacher training or certification to become a fitness professional - or for those simply interested in learning more about anatomy and their bodies.
"It's great if you want to understand your own body better and improve your Pilates or yoga practice through greater awareness and a solid theoretical grounding," explains Bita Riahi, the co-founder of Real Pilates.
In Abu Dhabi, the yoga and Pilates studio Bodytree has become a hub for a variety of workshops - some of them entirely unrelated - on physical fitness.
"We have had many visiting instructors who are in Abu Dhabi for a short time and it is a great way for people to learn from their expertise while they are here," says Natasha Clarke, the studio's co-ordinator. "We realised it was an opportunity to provide a session that was of interest to people yet there probably wasn't the demand for it every week. For example, Sufi mediation and poetry writing have proved extremely popular. However, if we ran them every week we might not be able to gain the same interest."
Most of the events are run on weekends, giving people the chance to explore a new or already favoured hobby and also come together outside of normally rushed weekdays, she says. Since the workshops are both interactive and in-depth, it gives students the chance to ask questions, gain guidance and correction - something that is not available in the regular group classes.
This is particularly important in yoga workshops, where form is key for using the correct muscle groups and preventing injury. It is also vital in the centre's popular prenatal partner workshops.
"This provides the woman's partner with the opportunity to come and learn ways he may be able to help in the lead-up to the birth, with different poses and breathing techniques, and it is a valuable bonding time for parents to be," says Clarke.
Coming up at Bodytree and also in Dubai are workshops on acro yoga and Thai massage, hosted by Phoenix Rising.
Acro yoga is a more acrobatic form of yoga involving two people, while Thai massage involves stretching, yoga techniques and breathing.
Attending workshops can lead to even bigger things than learning a new skill. It was after attending a workshop in Dubai that Sandy Joy Rubin, already a Pilates teacher, was inspired to become certified in Thai massage.
"It's not something people know much about here," she says, "but it's growing."
Her first workshop attracted 25 people and led her to offer a five-day certification course earlier this month in Dubai.
"What I love about workshops is that you're not limited to your 90-minute class. With acro yoga, it's really nice to have time to introduce the three disciplines - acrobatics, yoga and Thai massage."
While many people have to go away to deepen their practice or knowledge of a particular interest, she says the growing number of courses and workshops here in the UAE is a wonderful development. The acro-immersion course, for example, is six hours a day for five days, led by Pau Castellsagué from Spain and Julia Weis from Germany.
"You do get to escape," says Rubin, "as well as getting much deeper into the practice on a physical and an emotional level."
TRIED AND TESTED: Thai yoga massage
I had not heard of Thai yoga massage until recently among the local yoga community. The ancient practice based on Indian and Thai tradition involves the practitioner carrying out their own therapeutic yoga practice through the receiver.
Each massage will vary according to the receiver's flexibility, body type and energy levels and is based on the Buddhist philosophy of loving kindness known as metta. For me, so much about a massage's pleasure depends on there being a high level of trust in the person giving it.
This is where Sandy comes into her own. She has gone through 950 hours of pilates training through The Pilates Centre of Colorado at their affiliate in Dubai: Club Stretch. This is no easy feat. Training is tough and their emphasis on anatomy and physiology is enormous.
In addition, Sandy has a wealth of yoga training, including the impressive art of acro-yoga and Thai yoga massage certification, making her body awareness extremely high. With me, she focused more on my energy lines.
In yoga, the idea is really to "let go", often referred to as "surrender", and this was the first time I honestly think I have done this, after all the years I have practised yoga. The massage takes place on the floor while Sandy gently but confidently works on my body from my feet to my head. Blending elements of reflexology, yoga and massage, the treatment really is blissful, including deep twists and hip openers.
Mixing deep static and rhythmic stretches and pressure points around the body, I genuinely felt energised. I even felt a level of mental refreshment when usually I come away from a massage feeling drained. Like yoga, breathing is a big part of the practice, especially when it comes to bigger limbs or deeper stretches.
Sandy has this down to a tee, consistent all the way through in a state of almost moving meditation. When you can get in sync with that, you truly feel the benefits.
For more information, contact Sandy Joy Rubin on 050 735 9683 or sandy@phoenix-rising.me
The next physical anatomy training takes place at Real Pilates' JLT studios on February 1. Acro yoga, therapeutic flying yoga and Thai massage workshops will be held at Bodytree on February 8. For more information go to www.phoenix-rising.me, www.bodytreestudio.comwww.real-pilates.com