Yoga in Doha

Time Out Doha takes a leaf out of Madonna's book and tries out yoga Discuss this article

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It’s an embarrassing moment, stretch-ing towards the floor, standing on one leg and trying desperately to maintain your balance. Especially when another yoga enthusiast across the room has perfected the pose with ease – and she’s heavily pregnant.

‘Remember to breathe,’ advises the teacher and co-owner Lauren O’Brien, but even that natural task seems like an impossibility in this position. After only seconds into the pose, our leg succumbs to the wobbles and we veer to one side, coming dangerously close to toppling onto the yoga classmate next to us.

Yoga isn’t supposed to be an extreme sport but, if you’ve never done it before, it can certainly seem like one. But practice makes perfect, and yoga actually isn’t all that difficult to master. After only a few classes, students can expect their limbs to loosen up and obey you (rather than refuse to cooperate, as seemed to be the case with ours).

It’s pretty clear yoga is the pastime de jour when we pay a visit to Pepka Yoga, housed in a pleasant villa on a quiet street in the Al Saad area; the main studio – an airy, light-filled ground floor room, is packed. So much so that two teachers take half a class each.

Though our class was entirely made up of women of all ages, shapes and nationalities, co-owner Valerie Jeremijenko (who has also penned a book about yoga) says that men frequently take classes too. ‘All of our classes are mixed and open to everyone,’ she says. ‘The morning class appeals to women with children but we have many professionals who come to evening and weekend classes.’

According to Valerie, anyone can learn – so you can forget about making excuses. ‘You shouldn’t stop yourself from starting yoga by saying, “I’m too fat” or, “I smoke” etc,’ she says. ‘You can start with just five minutes. The practice will develop from there.’

As for the style of yoga, pepka classes draw from a number of traditional forms, with a particular focus on astanga (the tougher one loved by svelte celebs Gwyneth Paltrow and Madonna). Astanga (sometimes called power yoga) is one of the oldest practised forms and it’s well known for building strength, stamina, flexibility and also cardiovascular fitness.

‘Yoga works on so many different levels and in so many different ways,’ Valerie says. ‘It can be a very strong physical practice and give you many physical benefits like, strength, flexibility and endurance. But because it is practised with breath and awareness and because it focuses on relaxing and letting go into the poses, it also works on a mental and spiritual level. It releases tensions and negative emotions and can put us back in touch with our core beliefs and goals.’

Aside from reaching emotional Zen, yoga makes you fit. It can be more exhausting than running several kilometres – or at least, that’s how we felt towards the end of the class. Some asanas (poses) had our muscles begging for mercy, and once the class was over; we gratefully stretched out, lying comatose on the floor and feeling a step or two closer to a svelte physique. Just like Madonna.
If you’re keen to try yoga at the Pepka Yoga studios (24 Humandi Street, behind Royal Plaza in Al Saad area) visit the website at or phone 582 6531/ 551 0913 for details and the latest timetable. A casual class costs QR50, or 10 sessions cost QR450.

By Michelle Wranik
Time Out Doha,

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