Yoga fest by the beach

A huge wave of energy swept Kite Beach as hundreds of yogis and learners from UAE and abroad assembled to pose, dance, workout, meditate and connect on the first weekend of February. The two-day yoga extravaganza ‘XYoga Dubai’, presented by Dubai Holding and organized by XDubai, kicked off with Indian yogi Deepika Mehta’s session. Leading along with her and cheering the participants were Portuguese football legend Luís Figo and model and actress Nargis Fakhri.

Talking about how the footballer focuses on the field in times of stress, Luis said: “First of all, you have to stay positive in that moment. Whenever I realize that I could miss the chance to score, I automatically focus on the spot that I think I am going to shoot the ball. However, you have to concentrate positively on what you are doing always, only then will you have a much higher chance to succeed under pressure.”

Deepika emphasizes that yoga is not just about looking fit or skinny. “Eventually, it is about finding peace. Even if you are doing amazing yoga poses but you are insensitive and unkind, the process is useless. You should be able to be happy and give happiness to others. The ultimate yoga is to be good everyone is your life,” she says.   

With more than 60 free classes taking place at various spots across the beach, the event saw some popup stalls varying from organic fruits and veggies to vegan protein shakes and free hair braiding. While most enthusiastic yogis tried to catch as many sessions as possible, many were also found lounging at the Zen zone or having heartfelt conversations with newly-made friends in the goodness area.

Local yoga studios and teachers, too, hosted some unique sessions like ‘Iyengar yoga’, ‘TRX yoga’, ‘hula hoop yoga’, Bollywood dancing, Tai Chi and ‘acroyoga’ during the festival.

Also present at the event was Issam Kazim, who is the CEO of Dubai Tourism. When asked how yoga could attract tourists to Dubai, he said: “A festival like this is a great opportunity (to promote tourism) because Dubai is a beautiful place and the setting (at Kite Beach) is great. So, it is a perfect location with good a mix of both health and yoga.”

Issam further added that each of the residents has a role to play in Sheikh Hamdan’s mission of making Dubai the world’s most active city.

Regarding the third edition of XYoga, Dubai Holding CEO Amit Kaushal said: “We firmly believe in championing health and wellness not only amongst our employees, but also the community. The overwhelming support for festivals like XYoga Dubai underscores the appetite and passion for events that bring people together to encourage them to lead healthy and active lifestyles.”

Yoga & Wellness caught up with some international yogis including Laura Sykora, Janet Stone, Garth Hewitt and Davidji. Here’s what they have to say:




Garth Hewitt on men in yoga

A lot of men are just discovering yoga. It is ironic because originally the practitioners were only men. But now, women yogis are in the majority. Men accepting yoga also depends on how popular yoga is in their area.

When I started practicing yoga in Los Angeles 17 years ago, very few men were involved in yoga. I would not say that the gender ratio is equal now, but male participation has gone up considerably.

There is a misconception that yoga requires mostly stretching and women tend to be flexible. Thus, men feel they would not be good at it. They do not realize how challenging yoga can be and its benefits towards enhanced concentration and for people in athletics. More men embrace yoga when they see their favourite sports celebrities promoting it. Some clients, however, call me for private sessions. This could be because they are intimidated of going to a class and failing or their male ego would get hurt if they see their wives or girlfriends doing better.

Having more male yoga teachers to share a different perspective and share their own journey could encourage more men to be a part of the culture.

Based in Los Angeles, Garth specializes in Shiva meditation.


Shiva meditation is a power class with lots of movements and intensity flowing. It includes breath work, seated pranayama and yoga nidra, which is to put oneself in the state that occurs just before falling asleep. This helps you go deep into meditation and conjure lucid dreams as your subconscious mind is active. The idea is to not fall asleep and stay present to observe the dreams.

Laura Skyora explains acrovinyasa

Laura from New Jersey teaches acrovinyasa. “It is a form of acroyoga. The basic is taking up the earth postures onto your partner’s feet. It is an ‘L-faced’ plank.”

Nervously giggling Laura adds, “I love to teach beginners. I am horrified of public speaking. But I force myself to do it during my classes because the reward, that is my students start to regress and love yoga the way I do, is worth it.”

Davidji gives quick tips for corporate employees

Says Davidji: “People have adopted lifestyles where nobody has enough time to breathe!”

  1. 16 seconds
  • Think of something that has been bothering you this week or maybe you had a stressful morning or someone did not complete a task they promised they would do
  • Close your eyes. Breathe in through your nostrils, let it fill your stomach and hold it. Observe it for a while
  • Now release it slowly. Watch it pass through your chest, out through your nostrils. Allow it to flow out, keep exhaling
  • Breathe comfortably, and gradually open your eyes

“During this short process, you are not in the past; neither in the future; you are not even thinking about that thing bothering you. It is impossible to be anywhere else when you are right here (in the present),” says Davidji, adding that people should give themselves at least 16 seconds. “This is the easiest technique which everyone can do. No matter how busy you are or how crazy your life is, everyone has 16 seconds.”

  1. Witness and accept

“Imagine your boss comes in and points out that you are late or have done things wrongly,” Davidji gives as a common office scenario. “Breathe in and silently repeat, witness and accept. Science has proven that we can neurologically change the workings of our brain if we chant this mantra for 56 straight days. Whatever that pain point is, think about it and repeat witness and accept. It only takes a few seconds.

  1. Time in

“Whenever it starts to get intense call a time in, not a time out. You can insert just a

little space between what is going on in the moment and yourself. Do quiet continuous breathing. Stay where you are; you could be in a board room or the meeting room. Take a slow, deep breath. It could take about eight seconds. Exhale in the same way; quiet, continuous and seamless. This just slows you down,” explains Davidji.

Janet Stone teaching agni

Janet from San Francisco, California says, “Fire is used in yoga to discern, clear and purify. I use those principles and teach movements connected to our own internal fire. And also take in the heat of all things; it is powerful. I infuse my passion for hip hop with the heart through yoga postures and creative movements. It is about connecting through all traditions. The rhythm and beat connect us to our own heartbeat. We use those beats to remember the centre of us and what inspires our lives.”

Roudha Al Marri on connecting body, mind and soul

“Vinyasa connects the body, mind and soul. I love to teach because it is fulfilling to see how we are capable of transferring energy to others. Most of my classes are in the late evening and my clients come tired from work or taking care of their children. Yoga helps them relax,” says Roudha, who is an Emirati.

Roudha did her masters in fine arts, found yoga by coincidence and never looked back. She is also the co-author of a book on Emirati culture called ‘UAE 101’.

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