In a nutshell: Yoga while floating on a stand-up paddle board. For real.
What is it: Yin yang yoga is different from other types of yoga in that it involves holding a single yoga pose for between three and five minutes at a time. In this way, it stretches out, not just the bones and muscles, but the connective soft tissues between the muscles and bones and massages them into a healthy state. The steady extension of the poses in yin yang yoga makes it the perfect type of yoga to practice on the stand-up paddle board (SUP) as there is not that much movement to topple you over. The added benefits of doing yoga on the SUP include the fact that the balancing on the board stabilises your core, and also that you really feel immersed in nature while you are doing it.
Watch video: New yoga on the block
What’s it like: After a 15-minute paddle on the SUPs to get the heart rate going and the muscles warmed up, we settled into doing the yoga poses. The water up at Watercooled, at Jebel Ali Golf Resort and Spa was as flat as my morning latte and just as warm – but that didn’t detract from the beauty and serenity of being out on the water, practicing yoga. We did traditional yoga poses, such as the swan, standing forwards bends, seated forwards bends and others, with breaks of child’s pose (a resting yoga posture) in between. It was incredibly calming and peaceful and you could really feel the long poses doing some good to your body. Jules Lewis, founder of Mountain High (an expeditions company for women) and yin yoga instructor, says, “Yin yoga – also known as Taoist or passive yoga – is a quiet practice which works the yin tissue in the body, the connective tissue, which binds bone to bone. Yin yoga gently stretches and rehabilitates the connective tissue that forms our joints. SUP tones muscle tissue, which is yang... In this way, yin yoga and SUP balance each other well. Yin yoga is not intended to replace active yoga, rather to complement it.” After 45 minutes of yin yoga, we paddled to the beach for a 20-minute sound meditation. Jules says, “The meditation is based on chanting ‘ah’, which is the sound of creation. Focusing on creating a channel of energy from the root chakra to the third eye chakra will enable you to focus on affirmations, and your goals for that day.”
Difficulty rating: Easy enough for my six-year-old to join in. Although, granted, she’s pretty good on an SUP.
Need to know: Bring sunscreen and a hat.
Details: Yoga SUP sessions are kicking off at Watercooled in September and will cost Dh175 for a 90-minute session. Visit their website (www.watercooleddubai.com) or call 04-8876771 for details.
In a nutshell: Hanging upside down from the ceiling on silk ropes. While doing yoga.
What is it: Swing yoga involves two bands hanging from the ceiling, a little wider than shoulder-width apart. On the bottom of the bands, you hang a wide piece of silk material, which becomes your swing. You can adjust how high or low the swing hangs on the bands, so it can be skimming the floor, or level with your chest (and anywhere in between). You use the swing as a versatile support to help you get the most out of your yoga poses, as it enables you to stretch further and deeper into the movement. The swing also enables you to do full inversions (meaning postures which require you to be upside down),
What’s it like: On arrival, the ropes and silk swing looked pretty intricate. I would never have thought that 15 minutes later I would be hanging upside down, by my legs, dangling a foot from the floor with my palms pressed together in front of me like a bona fide yogi. Nor would I have thought that I would have enjoyed it. However, focusing on the new techniques keeps your mind busy so the time absolutely flashes past and, at the end of the session, I found I was quite disappointed to be finished – I was really enjoying it. In addition to the hanging upside down bits, we used the swings to do other poses, such as downward facing dog (the swing goes under your hips pulling them up high, so you get a really good stretch down your limbs and spine). At the end, we wrapped ourselves in the swings like we were in little personal hammock cocoons for a short meditation.
After the session, I could feel the intensity of the stretches in my muscles – there’s no doubt it’s a good workout. Helene Cooper, a personal trainer and swing yoga instructor at Fitness First says, “I first tried swing yoga here in Dubai and it has not only completely changed my yoga practice, but also what it has taught me about my body has completely changed my approach to my personal practice and to my teaching. It’s so effective because the swing allows us to really get deep into a pose. This can allow those already advanced in yoga to further develop their practice, but also can help beginners by directing their bodies into finding the correct alignment. You get into the pose more effectively and, as a result, improve your flexibility within this correct alignment rather than simply hanging from your ligaments, or sitting on your bones, as many tend to do in other types of yoga.”
Difficulty rating: It’s not that difficult to do, but you need to have some faith in yourself,
Need to know: Not good for people with high blood pressure, but fine for pregnant mothers.
Details: Swing yoga is held at two Fitness First locations: Jumeirah Beach Park (Mondays at 7pm; Tuesdays at 4.30pm; Thursdays at 10.30am; and Friday at 9.30am) and at Motor City (Sundays at 8.15am and 7pm; Tuesdays at 6pm; and Wednesdays at 9.30am). Sessions cost Fitness First members Dh40 for one class, Dh175 for five, or Dh300 for ten. Visit www.fitnessfirstme.com.
In a nutshell: Acrobatics involving yoga poses and trust. A lot of trust.
What is it: Acro yoga, also known as flying yoga, has two branches: one that combines acrobatics, yoga and the performing arts; and one that combines acrobatics, yoga and Thai massage. It involves three people: the base (who lies down on their back on the floor and supports someone else on their feet); the flyer (who balances on the upturned feet of the base and does yoga poses); and the spotter (who makes sure the other two don’t end up in a crumpled heap on the floor).
What’s it like: It’s quite intimidating to watch the experts at work as the moves look pretty intense and like you need an enormous amount of strength, flexibility and grace. However, the classes start slowly and edge you into it with some simple trust-building exercises, such as two people facing each other, holding hands and leaning backwards. Once you get into the actual poses and there are three of you, it’s more about being able to balance and get a good stretch out of the poses than about standing on your head. Sandy Edwards, acro yoga instructor, says, “About two years ago I attended an acro yoga class here in Dubai with a visiting teacher. At the end of the class she ‘flew’ me and that was it – I was totally hooked! I love this practice so much... It’s strengthening and relaxing, exhilarating and calming, and always fun. And while the poses look spectacular, they are mostly very easy. We work with bone-stacking and, therefore, the weight of another person’s entire body is really not heavy. When the alignment is correct, the postures are easy and enjoyable.” You only have to look at acro yoga-ists to see how beneficial it is to your physique – they are all taut, toned, flexible machines. Being the base is great weight-bearing exercise, which nourishes the bones, and flying is excellent all-over body conditioning.
Additionally, not only is it good for bonding, team-building, communication and trust, but the inverted postures are like a massage. Sandy, who is also a trained Thai massage therapist says, “The Thai massage element comes in as the nectar of the practice. When the flyer is inverted, they are in a state of complete relaxation on the base’s feet. This allows for wonderful traction of the spine as the flyer enjoys a feeling of zero gravity. To end the practice and bring the body and the energy system back into balance, we practice a short traditional Thai Massage sequence which is very healing for both parties. People love it – it’s so empowering. It takes you right out of your comfort zone and brings you back to a child-like state where you just want to play, have fun and dream big.”
Difficulty rating: Definitely more difficult than riding a bike, but not as difficult as it looks.
Need to know: If you’re a control-freak, you may have issues with this class – but it will probably be good for helping you let go.
Details: Sandy and her partner Amanda Duncan are co-teaching acro yoga classes together on Tuesdays – 11am at Exhale JBR (Dh65), and 7.45pm at Zen Yoga Jumeirah Town Centre (Dh75). They have plans to start more classes after the summer and to resume their Friday morning Safa Park sessions (proceeds of which go to charity). For more information, find them on Facebook under their company name, Phoenix Rising, or email them at either firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.