Yoga in a Dubai art gallery

We try out the new classes mixing yoga and art at DIFC's XVA Gallery Discuss this article

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Jenny Hewett trials yoga in an art space and speaks to the organisers about why it can be so beneficial.

Yoga is not necessarily always the best cure for a short attention span. It’s known to increase your concentration and help focus the mind, but there are just those days when your practice is interrupted by thoughts on work, what’s for dinner, or the offensively transparent leggings being modelled by the person in front. But this is where art comes in. Dubai-based Urban Yoga’s morning and evening sessions offer yoga in an art gallery setting, taking the entire experience to the next level. For anyone fed up with stale studio rooms and parquetry floors, Yogallery in DIFC’s XVA Gallery offers up something unique: somewhere inspiring to avert your gaze and ponder over while you salute the sun.

When I enter the art space bright-eyed on a Saturday morning I’m immediately taken by the atmosphere; the concrete floors, glass windows and of course, unusual artworks hanging on the walls. Kimberley Stokes, the co-founder and owner of Urban Yoga, says that yoga and art naturally go hand in hand. ‘Art is something that affects people on a personal level – a level of feeling and emotion. Whether you have good knowledge of art or not, you can look at a piece and be touched by it,’ she says. ‘Yoga has a similar effect. You don’t need to be an expert yogi to feel the effect that yoga has on your life,’ she says.

Once our mats are laid out and we’re in position, our Aussie instructor Sasha leads us into a lot of downward facing dogs, planks and chaturangas. The only downfall to the space is the dividing wall down the centre, which cuts off half of the class. Though, you’ll hardly notice as you focus your gaze on the works around the room and the instructor. As you move from one pose to the next, you’ll find yourself subconsciously staring at the artworks around you. Next time I attend I’m almost certain it’ll be like locking eyes with a long-lost friend.

While this is the first yoga company to hold classes in an art gallery in Dubai, Urban Yoga is not alone in their pursuit for unusual workout locations. Fitness First recently held yoga sessions on the observation deck at the Burj Khalifa, while full moon yoga classes take place monthly facing the Burj Al Arab on the beach and there is now yoga on the lawn in JLT and rooftops in Dubai Marina. But what exactly has driven the trend for yoga in unusual places?

‘I think people in Dubai are so exposed to new ideas every day, that as a result, they are constantly seeking new experiences and interesting ways to spice up their routine,’ says Yasmine Saade, marketer and co-founder of Urban Yoga. ‘Holding yoga in an art space brings a sense of dynamism to a very old practice. Taking a yoga class out of a studio and into an unexpected space allows you to see the city from a new perspective and also reflect on your own practice from a completely different vantage point,’ she says. Plus, they also make great photos.’

The Yogallery classes will be ongoing and Stokes says she hopes to expand on the idea to introduce more unexpected venues in the future. What would top her list? ‘On the metro watching the city go by, inside The Dubai Mall Aquarium, or in the desert at sunrise,’ she says.

By Jenny Hewett
Time Out Dubai,

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