Put on a show for the marine creatures at Atlantis The Palm as the region’s first underwater yoga class launches in Dubai.
Set against the backdrop of the Ambassador Lagoon in The Lost Chambers Aquarium (with 65,000 sea creatures as audience), this weekly Hatha yoga session is aimed to calm the mind and body.
Open to yogis of all levels, it follows the format of poses that help improve flexibility, balance and ease stress.
Why in the dim-lit vicinity of the aquatic life, you ask? A study released by researchers at National Marine Aquarium from Plymouth University and University of Exeter has shown that contemplating fish in an aquarium has an effect in reducing levels of stress and anxiety and provides health benefits including lowering blood pressure.
This hour-long morning class will run every Friday morning, and includes a yoga mat, valet parking and bottle of water on arrival.
I’m not entirely sure what to expect from a Kangoo Jumps Power class. Sessions are offered at Kangoo Club DXB in JLT and Mirdif, however, I’ve been invited to try out my session while in Doha, at Anytime Fitness gym. A quick Google search shows me that Kangoo Jumps are rebound shoes used for reducing the impact of various exercises (such as running) to the joints. The shoes, which are more like boots, have an elliptical shaped, springy, hollow platform underneath.
I’m met by Claudia, Anytime Fitness’ marketing manager, who is so enthused by Kangoo Jumps that she already has the shoes on when I arrive. As she shows me to the locker room, she babbles about how she was hooked after her first class and bought herself a pair. I’m still sceptical at this stage, she’s the marketing manager after all. But her scooting about in her own pair of pink and white Kangoos does suggest a genuine enthusiasm that’s infectious.
I was picturing myself as an ungainly, un-coordinated human Tigger, ricocheting off walls in my attempts to negotiate the bouncy boots, but they aren’t anywhere near springy enough for this to be the case, and they’re actually fairly easy to get the hang of. Instructor Georgiana gathers us around to demonstrate proper posture (knees bent, behind out) and warns us to keep an eye on our foot placement to avoid tripping over our feet and falling. Then, the class begins with a bright smile from Georgiana. “Let’s get ready to sweat a lot,” she announces. Yay.
It starts out mildly. A bit of marching on the spot. A bit of arm work. I feel encouraged. I seem to be neither unfit nor finding the shoes difficult so I get into things with a bit more vigour. Things pick up when jumping jacks are introduced and I start to feel my heart rate rise. Significantly.
We begin to go through a routine with repeated movements and the faster it gets the less I manage to keep up. I’m sweating buckets at this stage, and my jumping jacks are getting feebler by the second. Georgiana is still smiling and her moves are graceful and ballet-like. I try to imitate her poise and grace without success. I’m less prima ballerina, more Elmo on a pogo stick. I’m no longer in time to the music and my jumping bears almost no resemblance to everyone else’s. So much so that Georgiana comes over to hold my hands and give me a bit of one-on-one coaching.
Around the halfway point we take a three-minute break. Thankfully, I’m not the only one who needs it. I realise at this stage how heavy the boots are, an unexpected additional workout element. The reduced impact, though, is tangible and I have no discomfort in my knees, which I tend to get when attempting amateur HIIT routines amid piles of laundry in my room. In what feels like five seconds, we’re being whipped into action again. If my jumping jacks were feeble before, they are now bordering on non-existent as I struggle to keep my feet moving. Unable to locate a clock on the wall, I frantically mouth “how much longer?!” to our photographer, Valantis. He’s clearly amused by my discomfort – all I get is a grin.
I struggle to maintain my balance through the squats, but ten minutes later it’s all over. My legs feel like jelly and without the boots I feel like a lead weight stomping around.
Now, I know I’ve made this workout class sound inordinately difficult, and I wish it wasn’t just because I’m unfit. I actually enjoyed the class (honest!). Plus, a workout should be hard if you want to get anything out of it.
In this case, what you’ll get is a full-body cardio workout that strengthens your core and does what it says on the tin: reduces the impact on your joints. But my favourite thing about it? The sheer novelty of rebound shoes.
If you ignore the fact that you most probably look ridiculous, this is likely to be one of the most enjoyable classes you’ll try. Whatever your level, this is one exercise bandwagon worth jumping on. Kangoo Jump classes are available at Kangoo Club DXB from Dhs150 per class (including boots). Cluster T, JLT; Dubai Tennis Academy, Mirdif, www.kangooclubdxb.com (056 259 7981).
Four to try Alternative exercises Belly dancing A great way to tone up, these classes are geared to challenge bodies of any age, gender or fitness level. The class is low-impact and a great cardiovascular workout that helps to strengthen muscles. Dhs75 per class. Mantra Fitness Club, Ontario Tower, Business Bay, www.mantrafitnessclub.com.
Sh'bam Increase your flexibility and sense of balance with this light-hearted cardiovascular, dance-based workout, typically done to pop music and chart hits. First class free, membership packages available. Ladies only. Vivafit, i-Rise Building, Barsha Heights, www.vivafit.ae (04 421 3762).
Tai chi UAE Tai Chi is run by Masters Hang and Gang, Chinese Martial Art International 6th and 5th Dan Black Belts respectively. Master the art of the movements and focus on connecting you mind, body and spirit. From Dhs1,200 (three months, once a week). Icon Tower, Barsha Heights, www.uaetaichi.com.
Ultimate frisbee This non-contact team sport mixes elements of football, basketball, American football and netball. United Arabian Ultimate runs local and international tournaments and championships for those who want to take their skills from beach to pitch. Dhs100 (annual membership). www.unitedarabianultimate.com.
Amy Mathieson tests her strength – and head for heights – as she attempts the art of aerial hoop with as much grace as she can muster
Let’s start with a quick word association game: hoops. Shooting them. Hula-ing them. Jumping through them (for your partner/boss, probably not literally unless you’re training your dog for Crufts). Best of all: eating them (the crispy, crunchy, salty, snack variety).
It’s unlikely that hoisting yourself into one and dangling from the ceiling has made the list.
But who hasn’t been to a Cirque du Soleil show, or similar, and wished they could be as elegant as the performers who twirl athletically, and glide effortlessly through the air as if they’re flying (and who most certainly always avoid those aforementioned potato-based snacks).
Admittedly, maybe not everyone harbours my long-held ambition to spin majestically in a suspended, oversized onion ring. Pro performers make it look so easy, but the reality is clearly years of training. Casting the necessary months of dedication to the back of my mind, I jump at an invitation from Dubai Marina’s Pole Fit studio to try a session of aerial hoop for myself. I’m only attempting to master one of the many airborne acrobatic skills I’m in awe of. How hard can it be?
After one too many “don’t-fall-off-the-hoop-and-land-on-your-head” messages, I clearly need to have a word with my friends about their lack of trust in my balance and athleticism.
The studio’s aerial hoop experience is designed as a fitness class rather than a circus skills workshop, so it’s much more accessible to all. It’s also designed to work on your core strength – and as I’m generally better acquainted with potato circles than fitness ones, I’m under no illusions.
This is going to be tough.
The hour-long class consists of a 15-minute warm-up session ahead of taking to the skies/ceiling. As I puff my way through a series of sit ups with Vlada, my instructor, I inwardly chastise myself for skipping the gym this week (and possibly last week, and some other ones before that) and eye the looming hoop with rapidly depleting ambition.
A couple of lunges later and there’s no escaping it; my time has come. It turns out that just getting into the hoop is a challenge. Given my press-up record hovers somewhere between ten and, well, ten, I’m not optimistic about my chances of hauling myself up and in. But with just my upper body strength standing between me and my long-harboured girlhood dream, I muscle up and prepare to hoist myself in.
We start with the simple stuff, merely hanging from the hoop, like I’m back in the school playground. So far, so good. I’m happy just chilling here, thanks. Next it’s time to master getting into the hoop. I garner all the strength I can manage (c’mon, biceps) and I’m in. Sitting cross-legged in a hoop. It’s actually surprisingly comfortable, and despite my natural lack of balance, I feel relatively secure.
The rest of the class rushes by as I gather confidence and fling my limbs around, imagining I’m soaring through the air like an eagle (although sadly the only wings around here are of the bingo variety). As I dismount for the final time, I’m delighted, slightly stunned and relieved, not only that I actually enjoyed the experience, but that the crash mat didn’t have to fulfil it’s main purpose in life.
I know I’ll barely be able to open a door tomorrow without wincing (true, as it transpires) but whether it’s the endorphins from the exercise, adrenaline from the challenge or both, I’m buzzing.
It’s unlikely that you’ll be fulfilling any dreams of joining the circus after one session, but after a few, you’ll certainly be fitter and more toned.
The centre hosts group classes twice a week, and the studio is light and airy and overlooks the Marina. Not that you’ll notice the view once you’re up in the hoop, taking every ounce of concentration to stay airborne.
So why not gather your friends for support (literally) and hit the hoops while it’s too hot to exercise outside?
And maybe reward yourself with a bag of the potato version afterwards. Dhs100 (group classes), Dhs900 (for a package of ten. Pole Fit is also offering summer discounts of 15 percent off monthly packages. Marina Sail Tower, Dubai Marina (04 551 6911).
One of the longest-running shows in West End and Broadway history is coming to Dubai Opera in 2017.
CATS the Musical will be live at the stunning new venue for ten days, from Monday January 16 to Wednesday 25.
The production is an adaptation of T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, and it will make its Dubai debut in the new year, before embarking on an international tour.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the people of the UAE to see one of the most successful shows of all time, without having to travel to London or New York,” said Liz Koops, CEO of Broadway Entertainment Group. “We love the fact that this spectacular musical will play at Dubai Opera and is suitable for the entire family to enjoy.”
Composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber, the classic musical tells the story of the Jellicle cats and each cat’s individual quest to be selected as the lucky one who will ascend to “the Heaviside Layer”. The fantasy drama has one of the most popular musical scores in history, and has been seen by more than 73 million people worldwide.
CATS has bagged many accolades, including seven Tony Awards and two Grammys since its premiere at the New London Theatre in 1981, where it played for almost 9,000 shows. It then returned to the West End in 2014, reuniting the original creative team; director Trevor Nunn, choreographer Gillian Lynne and composer Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Dubai Opera will also play host to another popular musical in February 2017, when it welcomes the finger-snapping of the gangs from West Side Story. We’ll see you there.
Tickets on sale from 9am on September 29, priced from Dhs275