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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 June 2018

Emirati's yoga studio offers a calm space away from the hustle of commercialised gyms

Mariam Al Sayegh learned the true value of yoga when working in a hospital 

Mariam Al Sayegh, founder of The Studio on the Corniche, with her swing yoga equipment. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Mariam Al Sayegh, founder of The Studio on the Corniche, with her swing yoga equipment. Chris Whiteoak / The National

When Mariam Al Sayegh struggled to find a women only yoga and pilates studio, she decided to open her own.

After two years of preparation, designing and hard work, The Studio is a place that she and others can unwind and connect with one another.

It offers a wide range of specialised yoga, including swing yoga, and pilates classes in an environment she says mixes tranquility, art and fitness.

Put off by commercial studios with "25 people to a class", her goal is to create a calm, community space, and an empowering community for women.

“We are planning to open a juice bar and café, I want the place ultimately to be somewhere where you can come have coffee and connect," says the 23-year-old owner of the Corniche studio.

"I want to build a community not just a place where you come in and out, a place where there are people to support you."

Mariam, a recent graduate, first discovered yoga and pilates at university in the United States.

She tried to find a regular class when she returned to Abu Dhabi but couldn't settle on anywhere.

“They were too commercial, big classes trying to fit as many people as you can," she says.

"I got hurt in one of them because there were 5 people in the class and the instructor didn’t have time to adjust all of them.”

The Studio offers pre-natal yoga and will start offering post-natal yoga next month.

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This will not only help expecting and new mothers physically, she says, but also builds a support network for them.

“A community where you know someone who is pregnant is empowering, because you might not know someone who went through the experience recently, so building a community is the basis of it all," she said.

She says although other studios do offer pre-natal classes, she struggled to find any post-natal yoga sessions after she gave birth herself.

“After you give birth you want to be back in shape, but not necessarily run on a treadmill. Rather to get a good stretch and get to get your muscle strength back," Mariam says.

Stepping inside the calming studio, visitors and members are greeted by inspiring quotes on the walls.

“Our strength is by lifting other”, reads one.

“In this studio we respect one another we dream big, we don’t give up," states another.

The main goal, Mariam says, is to create a safe homely environment, not a commercial space with the focus on filling as may spaces as possible.

So she got her own certification in yoga to teach, and be able to practice by herself.

At the time she was working in Cleveland Clinic in a healthcare role.

“And that really inspired me because I saw that yoga and pilates can really help in recovery," she says.

She opened The Studio in April after spending two years on the project.

Mariam not only makes sure that the instructors are certified and specialised in the type of class that they teach, but she tests them herself, whether as a recruiter or posing as a student in one of their classes.

She also hopes to provide a platform that supports local businesses. Across her studio one can see beautiful paintings of horses and nature.

“Those paintings are on loan from a Saudi artist, the friend of a friend who wanted somewhere to showcase her work and I want to make a habit of it, to find other artists," she says.

On the other side of the reception, a selection of sportswear and items by the local business Court 9 were also on display.

“They are all Emirati businesses, also the juices we have here are too, and they don’t have to pay for displaying, we only take a small commission,” she says.

The biog

Age: 23

Occupation: Founder of the Studio, formerly an analyst at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi

Education: Bachelor of science in industrial engineering

Favourite hobby: playing the piano

Favourite quote: "There is a key to every door and a dawn to every dark night"

Family: Married and with a daughter