As Real Pilates launches classes, Elisha Elliott us what to expect
‘If you’ve done yoga before, you’re going to love it,’ exclaims Elisha Elliott, a certified Stott Pilates instructor trainer and Xtend Barre instructor, who leads Real Pilates’ new Zen-Ga classes, which despite the hyphen is pronounced to rhyme with Jenga. And it has more in common with the game of wooden blocks than you might think. Both require a combination of physical and mental focus, which is why, she says, Zen-Ga is termed by its creators as a ‘mindful movement’.
‘It’s the same with Pilates, yoga and tai chi – there’s a mindfulness to it. You’re not going for a run and completely forgetting about what you’re doing, or doing bicep curls in the gym and thinking about your day at work or whatever. With mindful movement, the only way to get the best out of it is to connect your body to the exercise, channelling the energy from your brain,’ Elisha explains.
In essence, Zen-Ga is a fusion of Stott Pilates, yoga and dance, and is the newest exercise class franchise from Merrithew Health & Fitness. ‘There’s Zen-Ga on the mat, which involves more breathing workouts and is mind-body focused; then there’s reformer, which is what we teach – that’s Vinyasa-style yoga on the equipment.’ She says that the class is ideal for people who prefer a slower style of yoga.
‘If you like fast-paced, quick movements, this isn’t going to be for you. It’s much slower and deeper, and we move more with your breath rather than using fast repetitions.’ You can also expect a lot of holding poses, which can be a challenge if you’re used to swifter styles of yoga.
If you’ve never taken a reformer Pilates class before, Elisha describes the equipment itself as a carriage or bed, with a foot bar at one end, and spring-loaded resistance. ‘Some people call it the torture machine,’ she smiles. But before you get too concerned about other people’s reactions to the equipment, she’s quick to explain that the machine also has the capacity to be supportive and can assist with weight bearing when it comes to positions such as the plank or moving from downward- to upward-facing dog.
The key throughout is awareness. ‘You’re working the whole body, because you need to work through your core to stabilise your waist and your shoulders and things like that. It makes your whole body that little bit more active and more responsive,’ Elisha adds. ‘You’ve also got to remain aware that you’re balancing on a moving carriage, so you have to remain mindful or you’re going to fall on your face,’ she laughs.
Much like Jenga, it takes a lot of getting used to. Unlike the game, however, Zen-Ga is likely to leave you feeling de-stressed, with a sense of achievement and – most importantly – in better shape. That sounds like a pretty good deal to us. Dhs90 per class, Dhs425 for five classes, Dhs800 for ten classes. Real Pilates, Palm Strip Mall, Jumeirah Beach Road (04 345 3228); JLT (04 458 5399).
Three more quirky classes to try
Booty Barre Despite the cutesy name, this class offers a surprisingly tough workout, and yes, it’s also open to men. There are lots of squats involved, and exercises that burn your glutes and make your thighs feel like they’re on fire. On the upside, the hour will be up before you know it, and if you keep going back your legs should be impressively toned in no time. Dhs80. Zen Yoga, Jumeirah Town Centre, Jumeirah Beach Road (04 349 2933).
Swing yoga If you think you’ve tried everything yoga has to offer, there may still be one stone left unturned. Swing yoga is conducted using canopies suspended from the ceiling, allowing you to move through a variety of positions, a number of which involve hanging upside-down. Dhs40, members only. Membership from Dhs459. Fitness First, MotorCity and Beach Park Plaza branches (800 348 6377).
African dance While most dance fitness classes will have you leaping around to the latest hits with a high-speed beat, this one will see you doing a choreographed workshop shaking every single muscle to the sounds of energetic drum beats (perfect if you’re less than partial to a slice of Katy Perry). Dhs75. Ladies only. Exhale Dubai, www.exhaledubai.com JBR (04 424 3777); MotorCity (04 447 4220).