Best for: experience
Sore spot after: surprisingly, our upper back
Process: Starting with a Tai Chi warm-up, this class is more strongly based in Pilates and pays attention to stability, but has a few key yoga salutations thrown in to improve flexibility. Our legs got a good workout, and we imagine when we get better at the moves our core will get a good grinding. Interestingly, our upper back felt very tender straight afterwards from all the moves that involved stretching our arms behind our backs, but the next day we felt limber again.
Verdict: It will take a few sessions to learn the moves before you get a good workout from this class. But hands down the best thing about it is its beach location. Hearing the waves lapping and seeing the sun set on the water while working out – it doesn’t get more Zen than that.
Core Yogilates runs at Al Sufouh Beah on Sundays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 5.30pm, Dhs500 for 10 sessions, visit www.coredirection.com for more
Best for: precision
Sore spot after: inner ab muscles
Process: At The Hundred studio they encourage newcomers to go through an assessment. Our super knowledgeable instructor started by analysing the state of our spine and discovered that our left hip and shoulders sit higher than the right. She did this because they want to know exactly how much each muscle needs to be worked. We started by focusing on breathing, and then did some pelvic tilts that involved minimal movement. We then got onto the reformer machine to do crunches (which burned!) and some hamstring and quad stretches. We rounded off by doing upper back stretches that involved lying back on a cylindrical object and felt absolutely amazing.
Verdict: The workout felt slow, with a lot of focus on breathing and precise tilts and crunches, but afterwards we felt strain deep in our ab muscles, which suggests that it really works. It would be perfect for people who have issues with particular muscles.
The Hundred Studio is based in Dubai Healthcare City and runs classes of maximum 5 people for Dhs90 per session, as well as private sessions for Dhs290. The initial consultation costs Dhs250. For more visit www.thehundred.ae
Best for: punishment
Sore spot after: nowhere, maybe because our muscles were heated
Process: Imagine doing yoga in a carpark in August and you’ve got Bikram sussed. But, damning sarcasm aside, Bikram is an interesting workout that converts strong followers. We arrived early, as recommended, to acclimatise to the 44C room. The yoga postures weren’t technically as hard as in some other disciplines, but our heartbeat was racing and we still found them challenging. There was a lot of focus on stretching and balance and the postures are said to lead to compression on organs and a release of toxins.
Verdict: We felt nauseous in our first lesson, so had to sit back and observe a lot of the class, but on our second try, with more focus on breathing, it was less traumatic and we felt incredibly clear-headed afterwards.
Club Stretch is based in Satwa near the Capitol Hotel. Bikram classes run continuously, a single class costs Dhs70, or an introductory package, which gives unlimited access to classes for 10 days costs Dhs100.
Best for: flexibility
Sore spot after: abs, thighs and arms
Process: In addition to doing several gruelling sun salutations, we also did a series of hip openers and ended with a headstand (beginners start with a shoulder stand, but even that’s a little nerve-wracking for the neck) and some meditation. During the full moon, the class stretches to two hours and incorporates more meditation.
Verdict: This class is great because the yoga instructor at the Aviation Club is the real deal, but the focus on chanting and meditation and other more mystical features might turn some off. Our chronically sore back seems to get less and less painful after each class.
The Aviation Club (04 283 4122). Monday, 7pm. Thu and Sat 10am. Dhs50 per session. Group rates are available.
Best for: muscle-toning
Sore spot after: ab muscles, gluteals (i.e. backside), biceps – although they only hurt after a day or so
Process: After grabbing a mat and a couple of towels in the candlelit, calming studio, we picked up some other intriguing exercise aids: squishy heavy balls, a work-out ring and an elasticated piece of plastic. After warm-up stretches we moved on to more tricky moves: bicep curls while holding the balls and balancing on one foot; tying our feet together with stretchy plastic then attempting to separate them; placing the circus-like ring between our legs and squeezing it with all our might. This is Stott Pilates, a Canadian technique which works on the whole body, rather than just the core muscles.
Verdict: We were extremely impressed with how Michelle, our Australian instructor immediately guessed we regularly suffered a sore lower back and identified that it was probably down to our desk job causing lazy glutes. We shall be returning to fix this!
Real Pilates, first floor of Palm Strip Mall, opposite Jumeirah Mosque, Beach Road. Pilates classes run every day apart from Friday mornings. Single group session Dhs65; five-session pack Dhs500, valid for three months. They also offer teacher training. For more, see www.real-pilates.com