Fitness First launches alternative exercise in the city
‘Do you feel alright?’ asks Peewee Sanchez, as I find myself hanging upside down, the blood rapidly emptying from my toes in its rush to my head. ‘Yes, I feel great!’ I respond, and it’s no lie.
Peewee Sanchez is the Filipino instructor leading brand new swing yoga classes at the Motor City branch of Fitness First, one of only two locations in the country where you can try this exciting new strand of the discipline, which has already taken both the US and the UK by storm. She explains that where conventional yoga focuses on stretching and strengthening your body’s larger muscle groups, swing yoga is about making adjustments to smaller areas in order to fine tune and make every pose as effective as possible.
To the uninitiated, swing yoga is best described as a combination of aerial silks and yoga, with poses designed to address a variety of health concerns, from spinal and digestion problems to circulation. But it’s also gentle, making it less taxing than other forms of yoga, and more suitable to those with joint problems.
In my first session (a short, taster version) Peewee walks me through a handful of poses. We start off with a sitting stretch, before moving into a warm-up that involves a swing-assisted downward-facing dog, where she places foam blocks under my heels and helps me make small adjustments to my position to ensure the finest stretch. This involves simultaneously dropping my chin, opening up my shoulders (every bit as awkward as it sounds) and turning my elbows in while keeping my fingers spread out in front of me. The bright blue canvas of the swing (it feels like the lightweight fabric they use for parachutes) appears to be positioned slightly too low, cutting into the top of my thighs, and the result is a gradual pins and needles feeling in my toes. Fortunately, we move out of the position quite quickly, and into the ‘main event’ as Peewee calls it. Hooking our swings into a higher setting, we hop on as you would a normal swing, with our feet resting around 10-20cm off the ground. Tucking the remaining fabric at the back around my hips, I’m instructed to take hold of the handles either side of the swing, and lean back so I’m parallel to the floor. I bring my legs up into a position that resembles straddling a horse, before hooking them around the sides of the swing, and let my shoulders and head drop towards the floor. Peewee instructs me to place my hands at the back of my head, and I’ve got it – achieving a position known as the bat pose. Despite what they’re calling this workout, it couldn’t feel less like yoga, and as I find myself suspended upside down from the ceiling, I burst out laughing. Though after a few moments I can feel the blood all but abandon my toes completely, I’m already convinced this is the best group class I’ve tried in a long time. Either that, or it’s all gone to my head. Classes are Dhs40 and available to Fitness First members only. Membership starts at Dhs459 per person per month. Motor City and Beach Park Plaza branches only (800 348 6377).
Alternative yoga: two more to try
Bikram yoga Often referred to as ‘hot’ yoga, bikram involves practicing regular hatha yoga poses in a heated room. The idea of raising the temperature is to warm the muscles, and allow a deeper, safer workout in the various poses. Heat can also take the trauma out of stretching and help prevent injury, and of course promotes sweating (like you’ve never seen before) which helps get rid of toxins. Dhs70 per class. Daily classes. Club Stretch, Dubai Marina, www.clubstretch.ae (04 345 2131).
Flying yoga A combination of acrobatics, yoga and Thai massage (and no actual flying, alas), you may also have heard flying yoga referred to as acroyoga. Work is done in pairs and groups, though you don’t need to bring a partner with you to this class. Dhs60. Tue 11am-12.30pm. Exhale Dubai, JBR (04 424 3777).