Yama yoga in Doha

Frazzled mum Victoria Scott goes in search of inner peace Discuss this article

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I’ve had a few aborted attempts at yoga. I’m always gripped with enthusiasm initially, but then find myself defeated by over-excitable downward dogs which leave me aching for days. Still, part of me can’t quite help but pick myself up again and keep on trying, so it’s this that drove me to the Yama Yoga website to check out their classes.

The studio, at Garvey’s, just off Salwa Road, offers a whole range of options, from energetic Astanga to the more appealing-sounding beginners’ class. But my eyes were also drawn to ‘self healing’. It’s described as a programme that ‘combines breathing, gentle exercises, relaxation and the stimulation of energy points to help improve physical, emotional and psychological well-being.’

It’s the use of the words ‘gentle’ and ‘relaxation’ that have me hooked. With an energetic one-year-old to run around after at home, who needs to risk muscle collapse in an exercise class? I decided to book myself in.

Arriving at Garvey’s, I’m suddenly rather nervous. Partly because I have no idea where the studios are (they’re not obviously signed, particularly in the dark), and partly because I realise I have no idea what I’m letting myself in for.

Once I’ve got over the initial obstacle of finding the place, though, I begin to relax. I’m directed to a cosy studio and greeted by the class teacher, Cedo Zovko. A Croatian professional viola player turned Shiatsu master, he has that aura of complete calm about him. He finds me a yoga mat and ushers me to take my place amongst the other students.

We’re all told to lie down on our backs on our mats, with our heads facing the middle of the room. Cedo smiles and says this is so he can see if we’ve fallen asleep.

We begin a series of rhythmical breaths, all inhaling and exhaling together, culminating in holding each for a short while. Then there’s a pause, Cedo checks we’re all okay and comfortable, and then we start again. He encourages us not to fight any thoughts that come our way, but instead to watch them like a bystander, acknowledging them but not getting involved.

I find worries and images from the day’s events coming to mind, and I do my best to do as he says. It’s hard. I’ve always found the conscious breathing practised in yoga very difficult to take seriously. Still, despite myself, I begin to relax. The room gets warmer, Cedo’s voice is low and calming, and I fall into the early stages of sleep. And then suddenly, he tells us to sit up. It’s hard to tell how long it’s been, but I’m guessing it’s about 45 minutes.

Next, we stand in a circle, and Cedo explains that we’re now going to tap our bodies around the meridians identified by Chinese medicine. This involves first tapping our heads in long sweeping movements, before gradually moving down our bodies, focussing on our eyes, cheeks, neck, back, arms, stomach and legs.

Once we’re finished with tapping, we move on to slapping. Yes, quite literally; at one point we’re all asked to slap our thighs. The woman next to me is grinning. I’m glad I’m not the only one who can’t keep a straight face. Next, we’re encouraged to loosen our knee joints and just bounce. Although we’ve all got our eyes closed, I still feel self-conscious. I must look like a puppet on a string.

Eventually we sit back down on our mats and rub our limbs, which Cedo explains will help to re-energise us. We also lean over and breathe deeply whilst pressing the bottom of our rib cages – a move which apparently is very beneficial for asthmatics, or perhaps people like me who wheeze in the Doha dust.

This done, Cedo asks us to stand up again. He explains that we’re going to do a series of moves to wake us up, so that we’re ready to do battle once again with the Doha traffic. I find it easy to copy him, and soon I’m throwing shapes, having a stretch and really enjoying myself. For me, this was the best part of the class. Which begs the question, perhaps I should be trying yoga after all? Although I’ve enjoyed the experience, I find it very hard to stay still for such long periods, but perhaps that’s the point. If I persisted, it might become easier.

Those around me certainly think so. The class regulars are almost evangelical, saying that attending often has filled them with energy and peace. And that, of course, is exactly what mums like me are lacking. Two whole hours sans toddler tantrums? Gold dust. I’m in.

Yama Yoga (4458 2466). Self healing classes are held every Wednesday from 7.15pm-9.15pm for QR60 per class. Also see www.yamayogastudios.com

By Time Out Doha staff
Time Out Doha,

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