Ashtanga is a long-lasting Dubai wellness craze - here's where you can do it
One of the most structured styles of yoga, Jenny Hewett compares three top spots to try a session at in Dubai.
From hatha to vinyasa, flow to restorative, yoga lingo can often be confusing for anyone who hasn’t studied it full-time under tutelage. In addition, classes vary according to the instructor’s own personal style, which can make it hard to pinpoint what suits you best. For those who like routine, you always know what you’re getting with ashtanga, a fast-paced and challenging 90-minute class, which involves a pre-defined code of asanas, or poses, with an emphasis on breath. Created by late Indian yogi K Pattabhi Jois, ashtanga has the ability to both open the body and quieten the mind unlike any other style we’ve tried. Here, we compare sessions in some of the city’s top spots for this particular discipline.
Eco Yoga Sanctuary
The instructor: Petite Finnish instructor Jatta Tjurin earned her qualifications in Rishikesh, India, and studies Sanskrit (an integral part of the ashtanga sequence). She has a focused, more serious style.
The atmosphere: Somewhat lacking. Only three of us attend the Friday morning class. The energy is often more palpable practising in a packed class, but this leaves more time for one-on-one adjustments.
The class: Following the set series of sun salutations, Jatta leads us through the standing sequence, at times joining in herself, a trait not typical of many ashtanga classes, which are often led rather than demonstrated. Her style is to make frequent adjustments, often pushing you further to help you reach maximum flexibility, sometimes to the point of pain. If you don’t like being pushed, this might not be the one for you.
Pros: Jatta makes frequent adjustments and will push you further.
Cons: Mirrors cover the venue, which can be distracting, plus it’s not the most atmospheric venue.
Rating: 3/5 Dhs90 for 90 minutes. The Village Mall, Jumeirah Beach Road, Jumeirah 1, eys.ae (04 385 6633).
The instructor: Flame-haired Brit Emma Carbery leads this Saturday morning class inside the light and airy loft-style studio. She has a polite, yet forthright way about her and is extremely knowledgeable. You’ll come away feeling like you’ve learned something other than just how to pose correctly.
The atmosphere: The tightly packed class is alive with the whooshing sound of ujyayi breathing. Each pose is held for five equal breaths which, when done properly, are used to cool the body down.
The class: Emma leads the class in a chant, before the primary sequence gets underway. Having seen her in action elsewhere, we’re hoping she shows off some of the more body-bending techniques, but in true ashtanga tradition, she leads rather than demonstrates.
Pros: The class has great energy and the equipment is high quality, providing blocks and towels.
Cons: It’s popular, so you’ll be fighting with 15 or so others for corrections or adjustments to your pose. The studio follows strict ashtanga methods in that there is no option to practice the next level of poses until you have mastered the first, which can be disappointing if you’re impatient like us.
Rating: 4/5 Dhs80 for 90 minute. Level 37, Aspect Tower, Business Bay (04 369 7882).
The Yoga Room
The instructor: Greek-Lebanese Joumana Saber both owns and instructs at this peaceful JLT venue, which is dedicated solely to ashtanga and offers all levels of practice.
The atmosphere: A small shrine dedicated to ashtanga founder Pattabhi Jois sits at the front of the room, which is filled with shaded natural light. It’s a popular class and a cosy fit on the Saturday morning we visit, but the energy is high.
The class: A call and response chant kicks off the class before we’re led into sun salutations. Each asana is held for five brisk breaths and Joumana is quick to demonstrate a pose directly opposite you if she notices adjustments are needed. We finish the session with a bridge and shoulder stand.
Pros: The temperature in the studio is warm, which lets you move into each posture more easily and the vibe is warm and friendly. The studio also regularly hosts visiting instructors from around the world.
Cons: Personal one-on-one adjustments are limited, but no doubt it’s hard to divide your time equally among 20 yogis.
Rating: 4.5/5 Dhs80 for 75 minutes, packages available. Swiss Tower, Cluster Y, JLT (050 518 9966).
More studios to practice ashtanga at
Ashtanga Yoga Dubai at Capella Club Aussie instructor Nea Ferrier holds Mysore classes here, which offer a more traditional approach of teaching ashtanga. They’re suitable for beginners with one-on-one personalised instruction, allowing you to progress at your own rate. Dhs80 per class. Capella Club, Dubai Marina, www.ashtangayogadubai.com (04 452 6000).
The Surf House Dubai Laura Farrier leads ashtanga classes every Sunday and Tuesday at this chilled venue, just around the corner from Sunset Beach. Dhs70 per class. Villa 110, Al Soon Street, Umm Suqeim 3 (04 321 1309).