Understanding how mental health correlates with yoga, Al Janahi encourages people to firstly let go of their preconceived notions. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Maryam Al Janahi, 20 years old has been practising yoga since she was a teenager, a passion passed down by her sisters and father.

In 2019, Al Janahi decided to take her interests further by completing her certification in yoga studies where she completed 200 hours of yoga training. Al Janahi would often train for eight hours a day for many weeks.

Al Janahi, a student at Zayed University Dubai, is a fourth-year student getting her bachelors in psychology. She understands that yoga comes hand in hand with psychology and mental health, which is the main message she wishes to spread with her yoga classes. Al Janahi is also a part-time research assistance working on a positive psychology and mindfulness project.

“I’ve always wanted to bring in yoga within psychology because it’s a big part of mindfulness. There’s a lot of research that proves it helps people with mental health and improving their mental well-being. That’s why I always planned to get my yoga degree but I didn’t expect that at 20 I’d have received my certification, I thought it would be later,” Al Janahi told Gulf News.

Abundance of clients

Throughout the summer, the young Emirati began teaching yoga sessions to friends and family. This eventually opened doors to an abundance of clients who told Al Janahi about their shared passion and eagerness to learn yoga. Having taught over 20 yoga classes throughout the summer, often multiple sessions a day, Al Janahi reflects on the experience.

“Many clients have never experienced yoga and I enjoyed watching the passion grow within them,” she says, “The first impression they always tell me is that they thought yoga had some religious boundaries. It’s very misunderstood within our community. There is a religious aspect but there are different schools of yoga.”

Power yoga

The type of yoga that Al Janahi teaches is called power yoga. She describes it as an active experience that allows a person to move mindfully while also sweating and working out. This combination of mind and body wellness is what Al Janahi strives to promote.

“Through my sessions I promote an increase in self-compassion. People become more tuned in to their body, they feel a sense of calmness and peace. We live in such a busy city, we’re constantly moving, that’s why yoga is a moment to get settle and step back. Especially young people who have a lot of stress at university and school, it helps them remember that they’re young and healthy,” says Al Janahi.

Mental health and Yoga

Understanding how mental health correlates with yoga, Al Janahi encourages people to firstly let go of their preconceived notions. “People often assume they won’t sweat during yoga. They thought they’ll just sit and meditate. While yoga is surely a mediative workout but it is not just about crossing your legs and closing your eyes. It’s a mental workout as much as a physical one.”

She explains, “Yoga comes from positive psychology. A person should be mindful and while they’re moving, they’re observing their thoughts, their suppressed emotions and letting go of them. When you’re in class, it’s not about perfecting the post or how fast you can go, it’s more about how you feel on the inside and the sensation of unconditional love.”

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Once people realise how real mental health is through meditative workouts such as yoga, it helps them understanding how important it is to promote and support mental health education, Al Janahi suggests. She shares that yoga has helped many of her clients how to release negativity and learn how to destress, which ultimately improves mental health. “In the future, I aim to open a centre where wellness and health is being promoted simultaneously,” Al Janahi said. “I hope that it would not only focus on yoga but also include support groups and talks. I want to help people cope with stress or anxiety and teach them to be more mindful. I hope through this we can help people on an individual level.”