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Outside the studio, yoga amidst nature

- Bandana Shah

Dubai residents practice yoga under water, on a cruise ship and among fragrant flowers before the onset of summer

The delayed start of summer provided Dubai yogis with the perfect opportunity to practise outdoors amidst picturesque flowers, wildlife and the sea. Yoga & Wellness explores some of the unique spots that attracted the yogis.

Underwater Yoga

As part of the World Wildlife Day celebrations, Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo hosted a one-off yoga event in its 270-degree acrylic walkthrough tunnel.

Dedicated to raising awareness of the importance of marine conservation, the Aquarium conducted two sessions, with a capacity of 40 each, to showcase the beauty of the marine world. The participants got an opportunity to practice yoga amidst sharks, rather expressive stingrays and several other aquatic creatures.

Participants Audrey and Gwendoline describe their experience as “unique”. “I could barely concentrate on what the instructor said as I was fascinated looking at the beautiful fishes swimming around and landing on the glass,” shares Gwendoline. Audrey adds, “Looking at the water had a calming effect.”

The classes were facilitated by Nicky Rinks from The Platform Studios. Says Nicky, “The theme of my class is balancing the elements. Water is connected to the sacral chakra. A setting like this helps you focus on the flow and breathing while you learn to appreciate the surroundings. It also helps you bring yourself into the body, in the present and the now.”

Nicky, who has been teaching yoga in Dubai for five years, adds, “I love teaching yoga in nature. I have taught yoga on the beach during sunrise with flocks of birds flying above.”

This wasn’t the first time that the Aquarium hosted a wellbeing event. A member of the organizing team noted, “Last year’s theme focused on senses. Every year, we partner with a different studio in tune with our theme.”

Disney Yoga

Families and yoga enthusiasts gathered in Dubai Miracle Garden’s Disney Avenue early on a Saturday to participate in an hour-long session. Surrounded by the classic characters from the Mickey Mouse cartoon, the participants were led by instructors from Dubai-based Yoga Ashram.

The 18-metre floral structure of the world’s most famous mouse and his friends including Minnie Mouse, Pluto, Donald Duck and his nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie, Daisy Duck and Goofy provided the perfect backdrop for the session.

The event, hosted by the world’s largest natural flower garden, was inspired by Disney’s ‘Healthy Living’ commitment, which uses Disney characters and stories to promote a healthy lifestyle in fun and simple ways.

While some children did yoga alongside their parents, others enjoyed a number of fun activities including face painting, a ball pit and colouring station.

Yoga Ashram instructor Vibin stressed that the freshness of the Garden enhanced the outcome of practicing yoga.

Similarly, participants Melaine and Zoe, who had never done yoga outside dedicated studios, added that the natural setting was more relaxing. They wished there were more such yoga events in Dubai.

Emirati Mayassa Al Tajir, however, has practised yoga in quite a few unique settings including the Burj Khalifa and GuGu boat in Dubai Marina. Says Mayassa: “I loved the concept of Disney Yoga as the peaceful Miracle Garden has a calming effect. You can smell the flowers and the vibrant colours engage all your senses. This helps promote the peace aspect of practicing yoga including breathing and focus.”

Royal retreat

Excited yogis gathered on the boat deck of the Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2) to indulge in ‘A Royal Retreat’ – Yin Yang yoga – perhaps the last outdoor event before the killer summer set in. The 90-minute complimentary yoga session, presented by XYoga and powered by Inspire yoga and fitness studio, saw around 200 participants.

Inspired by the Year of Tolerance, the class was designed to improve self-awareness, acceptance and empathy towards self as well as others. The event was divided into two 45-minute sessions facilitated by yoga experts from Inspire – Vanessa Kim Roux and Sarah White – who were joined by fitness enthusiast Mayassa Al Tajir.

Both the instructors shared that they had earlier taught outdoor yoga on beaches and resorts. “This setting is unique with a beautiful surrounding and the podium provides a picturesque background.”

Participants Preeti and her husband Ketan try to catch yoga events around the city. “It was the idea of practising yoga on a ship that got us excited about the event,” says Preeti.

Acie, a yoga teacher at Gold’s Gym, says, “This event is a new experience for me as a teacher. It is also interesting to attend sessions being conducted by others.”

A transatlantic liner and a cruise ship from 1969 to 2008, QE2 is now a floating hotel in Dubai. It has circumnavigated the globe 25 times ferrying around 2.5 million passengers.

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