From chanting in Arabic to classes for men, there are more than 100 yoga and natural healing classes packed into this year’s two-day Yoga Fest Middle East.
The festival, which begins on Friday at Dubai Internet City Amphitheatre, was launched by Dubai yogi Elaine Kelly in 2010. It has grown from a one-day event attended by about 300 people to a gathering of 4,000 people eager to try out a variety of yoga styles.
Kelly says she wanted to create a space for like-minded people to network, while introducing them to new healthy-living options for free.
“I started Yoga Fest because people were mostly doing Bikram Yoga, which was really popular back then,” says the 52-year-old, who is a vinyasa flow and body balance teacher.
“In my opinion, it is not the best style for someone who is a beginner because you are in an overheated room holding poses for a long period of time, which can make you extremely tired.”
She says the festival has plenty of options to suit all ability levels. “Think of yoga as flavours of ice cream,” she says.
“There are different styles and people have the chance to find one that they enjoy and want to do more. Qualifications are one thing, but if you feel at the end of the session that you are rejuvenated and have no pain in your body, that’s a good indication that it is for you.”
The arena will have five large tents hosting meditation classes, yoga, Pilates, talks and family sessions.
Yoga Fest goes bilingual this year with the introduction of Arabic sessions. There will also be events for women only.
Dubai yoga teacher George Stanbouleh will lead the Arabic Ya Noor chanting session in the meditation tent on Friday from 4.30pm. Ya Noor is the call for light in Arabic. Participants will hum this and use Tibetan singing bowls to tap into a mindful and calming mood.
On Saturday, there will be Sukoun Hatha Flow for women, with Shada Aldahash from Saudi Arabia. She will address basic alignment and poses to strengthen the core, flexibility and balance, while focusing on breathing.
The festival is all about moving out of your comfort zone. Men can comfortably test their flexibility by trying the Broga brand of workouts, tailored to help them improve functional fitness. Give it a go in the family tent on Friday, with instructor Sundara Kasinath.
Meditators Harinam & Laura Farrier will gather participants for a musical chanting that will also involve dance in the yoga tent, while yogi Chandni Kaurani will lead the squat bend and twist flow class to improve poster and strengthen the lower body and back.
Hayley Cutler will show participants how to build physical vitality and increase consciousness in the Kundalini Yoga class on Friday.
Anna Maharani will bring the art of Qigong, an ancient Chinese system that emphasises physical postures and energy flow for good health, to the meditation tent on Saturday.
Move and improve
Pilates offers a range of potential benefits, from helping with back issues to building lean muscle. Beginners to this fitness style can sign up for Susanna Foustok’s Joe’s Mat Pilates, named after the form’s founder, Joseph Pilates, on Friday.
Allison Hunter will teach participants how to use resistant elastic bands to build lean muscle on the same day. On Saturday, Hiba Abdelgawad will shift the focus to the mind, and how NeuroPilates can enhance the brain and nervous system.
Knowledge is power
The Learning Tent is not only for people curious about improving their overall well-being, but also for yogis who want to learn the best teaching practices.
Neha Jamani will talk about digestion and probiotics in How to Improve your Gut Health on Friday. Peewee Sanchez will discuss how yoga teachers can tweak their practice to respect the privacy and sensitivities of students on the same day. Social-media influencer and yogi Abbey Bates will offer tips on using Instagram to boost a business, while in a panel discussion on Saturday, Madelaine Franklin, Mariann George and Kris K Rai will talk about common yoga injuries and how to avoid them.
There will also be a demonstration of plant-based cooking techniques by Ivana Silva on the second day.
Young at heart
Parents do not need to leave their children home. Enrol the tiny tots in one of the events in the family tent.
There are special yoga sessions for children between the ages of 5 and 12 on both days, and Carla Julian will lead a family yoga session as a bonding exercise on Saturday as well.
New mothers can try out the mother-and-baby yoga class with Camilla Way on the second day, while expectant mothers can join a partner prenatal yoga session with Sasha Quince to learn breathing techniques.
Food for thought
Food and sports-apparel vendors at the event will be promoting an environmentally friendly ethos.
Wild and The Moon will offer cold-pressed juices and vegan snacks at the venue, and coffee will be served by Spill The Bean Cafe. Start-up Mr Fox will have its natural essential oils for sale, while Yapparel will be selling yoga apparel by Canadian brand Inner Fire, which makes leggings out of recycled water bottles.