Doha’s Yoga Guide for Beginners (and Cynics)
Yoga has become an increasingly popular activity in the 21st century due to its remarkable physical fitness and health benefits. But, some are still resistant to its charms, thinking the practice too spiritual or not athletic enough, just for the insanely flexible or even an exercise for girls and women only. However, we are here to debunk those myths and provide you with a guide to Doha’s plethora of yoga classes and establishments where you can try out a downward dog, warrior, or tree pose for yourself.
Yoga For Modern Times
Yoga originated in India several thousand years ago. For much of its existence, it was predominantly the practice of spiritual meditation, designed to control the body and mind to pursue higher consciousness and release from worldly attachments. Introduced to the West in the mid-19th century and burgeoning in popularity in the 20th century, yoga practices were still, in the main, spiritual in their teachings and practice. However, fast forward to today, and while still based on meditative practice, modern yoga is more focused on physical and mental well-being.
Traditional yoga has been adapted to suit today’s fast and furious environment that incorporates new stresses and common health issues like lower back pain. Yoga has been modified to include new postures and poses to strengthen the body and increase physical fitness. New styles of practice have been incorporated to suit all ages, abilities and desired outcomes. And breathing techniques, designed to relieve stress and promote relaxation, have become an essential part of the practice.
Due to the numerous health and well-being benefits associated with its practice, modern yoga has become an active pursuit of many, and it’s not just the spiritually inclined or the bizarrely flexible who are taking it up. From young to old, from physically fit to physically constrained, spiritual to non-spiritual, women and men are joining an ever-growing number of yoga followers. So, why should you give it a go?
What Are The Benefits?
There are multiple benefits to practising posture-based exercises such as yoga. Benefits such as increased flexibility, balance, and inner peace are well known, but there are many more advantages, both physical and mental…
With regular yoga practice, and depending on the type of yoga you choose, you can benefit from:
- Increased muscle strength and tone;
- Better fitness levels and athletic performance;
- Excess weight loss;
- A more balanced metabolism;
- Improved bone health;
- Improvements in chronic medical conditions such as lower back pain and arthritis;
- Improved posture;
- Better protection against injury;
- Better cardio and circulatory health;
- Increased immunity;
- Increased energy levels and vitality;
- Regulated breathing patterns;
- Better quality sleep;
- Reduced stress and anxiety and improved mental health;
- Improved self-esteem;
- Enhanced quality of life.
With so many benefits available, it is essential to choose the right type of yoga for you…
What Types of Yoga Are There?
There are numerous types and branches of yoga. Some are more traditional, and others have been adapted for more modern requirements. While all types of yoga are designed to achieve varying forms of physical, mental and spiritual well-being, the differing styles suit different wants, needs and abilities.
Before starting your yoga journey, you need to work out which type of yoga will suit you best - gentle, relaxing, meditative, physically demanding - your choice can always be updated as you progress. The following list provides some of the main types of yoga available:
Ashtanga - a more vigorous and challenging style of yoga and probably not for beginners, consists of a series of poses performed one after the other, linking breathing to the flow of movement. Mysore, a branch of Ashtanga, also consists of a series of specifically sequenced yoga poses performed in the same order every time. However, rather than following a teacher's instructions in a group setting, each student flows through their poses observed by a teacher who will offer assistance as required. Mysore is definitely for students who are more confident in their practice.
Bikram - designed in the early 1970s, Bikram (or Hot) yoga consists of 26 poses (as opposed to Ashtanga's six) with two specific breathing exercises and is performed in a heated room. The poses in Bikram yoga are devised to stretch and strengthen the muscles and the heat to facilitate the release of resultant toxins. The vigorous movements and heat can make the class feel pretty gruelling, but the heat is great for alleviating joint stiffness and pain. Beginners can contemplate this style of yoga but should take the lessons easy and remember to drink water.
Hatha - a more gentle style of yoga, perfect for beginners and suitable for all ages and abilities; Hatha involves the slower practice of foundation yoga poses, with longer holds defined by breathing exercises. This style of yoga focuses on correct posture and alignment, as well as building strength and stability within poses, improving flexibility, and calming the mind to reduce stress and anxiety.
Iyengar - from the same lineage as Ashtanga and with many of the same poses but with a differing approach, Iyengar yoga uses props such as belts, blocks, bolsters, blankets and ropes to help create poses and ensure the correct alignment. Iyengar is a slower-paced yoga style where postures are held for longer, and the proper technique is paramount. A beginners class is a great place to start learning the correct way to perform yoga poses and is useful for those with specific injuries where supporting props can help performance. The use of props is designed to build strength and teach positioning until you can achieve the poses without them. Anusara yoga is a more modern form of Iyengar.
Jivamukti - founded in the 1980s, Jivamukti yoga is more spiritually based and incorporates chanting, music and scripture readings, and encourages students to apply spiritual philosophy to their daily lives. However, it is a highly physical and vigorous style of yoga that takes its foundation moves from traditional Hatha yoga. Those new to yoga can take beginner classes, which ease students into the more energetic levels of practice.
Kundalini - another of the more spiritual yogas, Kundalini is said to improve energy flow through the body. Practice focuses on various powerful breathing techniques and spiritual energy. The class also involves an amount of chanting, singing and meditation. However, the physical side of these classes isn't neglected, with poses that concentrate on the core muscles giving you a satisfying workout. Kundalini is an intense practice but is suitable for beginners, especially if you wish to combine physicality with spirituality.
Restorative - a slow style of yoga truly focused on the art of relaxation; classes are ideal for anyone wishing to unwind, reduce stress levels and calm the body and mind. Restorative yoga practice involves just a few simple poses held for much longer (up to 20 minutes each) and uses a variety of props, including blankets, bolsters and yoga blocks, to fully support the body in each pose. Restorative rather than physical, this yoga practice is perfect for everyone, beginners through to the most accomplished, and is an ideal workout for recovery days.
Vinyasa - also known as Dynamic or Flow, Vinyasa yoga stems from Ashtanga and is one of the more active styles of yoga. Multiple poses flow one into the other, held just for a few breaths, making the practice much quicker and more dynamic, and raising the heart rate much more than many other styles. Vinyasa is great for general toning and strengthening, cardio fitness, stamina and endurance. Though, if you are a beginner, you may want to take a few slower-paced classes first and learn some of the standard yoga poses before taking on Vinyasa style of practice.
Yin - focusing on flexibility and mobility, Yin yoga uses passive poses (usually seated), held for up to 10 minutes each. It also uses props to support the body rather than actively engaging the muscles. The desired result is to stretch and lengthen the muscles' connective tissues to improve joint mobility and overall flexibility. Aside from improving flexibility, Vinyasa yoga helps you relax, is a perfect way to combat sleep issues, and is an excellent workout for recovery days. Yin yoga is ideal for beginners, though less so if you want to get a toning workout.
Prenatal - created explicitly for pregnant people; prenatal yoga is designed to support you during pregnancy. Prenatal yoga practices involve gentle, prop-supported poses, focusing on breathing techniques and relaxation. It is ideal for expectant mothers as practice involves pelvic floor and breathing exercises and increases strength, flexibility and muscle endurance, all useful during labour. Practice can also help with lower back pain, nausea, stress and anxiety.
Yoga in Doha
So, now that the benefits of yoga practice and the available yoga types have been outlined, where can you take yoga classes in Doha?
There is a veritable myriad of yoga classes available in Doha. Yoga is offered at specific yoga studios to classes in gyms, hotels and malls. Classes can be taught on a one to one basis or in groups - mixed, ladies only, etc. Practice can either be indoor or outdoor (including those conducted in parks, on beaches, and even helipads for the very adventurous) or, since the covid outbreak, online. Daytime and evening classes are available, as are classes during the full moon - whatever your needs, there is something for everyone. However, we have picked our six favourites to incorporate a little of all of the above:
Evolve Mind, Body and Soul is a wellness company based in Doha that offers a range of services, including fitness classes, swimming classes, personal training, physiotherapy and physical rehabilitation, nutritional advice and, of course, yoga practice.
Evolve’s yoga sessions are delivered in various locations across Qatar’s capital city, including at several gyms, five-star hotel fitness centres, and malls. The wellness group offers a long-term schedule for specific yoga classes in specific locations; however, the locations and offers change from time to time.
Staff at Evolve offer a variety of yoga styles - Aerial, Ashtanga, Detox, Hatha, HIIT, Power, Prenatal, Restorative, Slow, Vinyasa and Yin. Current classes include:
- Mixed group Power Vinyasa at the Four Seasons Hotel Doha in West Bay on Sunday evenings;
- Mixed group Daycation Yoga classes at the Marriott Marquis City Centre Hotel on Friday and Saturday mornings, and the Marsa Malaz Kempinski Hotel at The Pearl on Saturday mornings. The yoga classes (for all levels) last for one hour but offer customers breakfast and pool and gym access for the day.
- Mixed group Full Moon Daycation Yoga on the beach at the Salwa Beach and Resort at Abu Samra. Aside from the mixed level evening yoga class, customers also have access to the resort's beach, gym and pool.
- Mixed group Full Moon Yoga on the beach at various locations over the weekend evenings.
Note: keep an eye out for changes to the yoga schedule - helipad yoga often runs at the Rabban Suites, as well as the Marriot Marquis.
Contact Evolve for further information on dates, times, costs and locations:
Tel: +974 5040 3234
Email: [email protected]
Social Media: @evolvemindbodysoul
Swasthi Yoga Studio at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in West Bay offers daily (morning, afternoon and evening) group yoga sessions based on a monthly schedule. Ladies only and online classes are also available.
Yoga practitioners at the studio offer Detox, Hatha, and Power yoga, as well as Swasthi yoga - developed by Swasthi Yoga founder and one of the Middle East's leading well-being consultants Vishnu Prasad.
General Hatha and Detox classes (for beginners to intermediate, or those looking for slower, gentler sessions) run for one hour. More intense classes (Hatha Transformation, Detox Purification and Power Yoga) run for an additional twenty minutes. Swasthi Yoga - a powerful yoga practice for quicker results - can be organised separately with Vishnu himself.
Monthly mixed and ladies-only group Full Moon Yoga is also offered in the hotel's beautiful beachside resort garden area during the winter months.
Contact the Swasthi Yoga Studio for further information on dates, times and costs:
Tel/Whatsapp: +974 3320 2331
Email: [email protected]
Social Media: @vishnuswasthiyoga
Warrior Fit is a health and well-being company offering studio training for cardio, strength and flexibility. Not for the faint-hearted, the majority of Warrior Fit classes are designed to make you sweat. Yoga classes, such as core yoga and morning booster yoga, are based on Power Vinyasa for fitness rather than the spiritual elements of the practice. However, the fitness group do offer classes that cater for beginners through to prenatal clients - so regardless of your level, they still offer something for everyone. And, you can combine it with other fitness classes or as part of a specific term training programme. Ladies only classes are also available.
Contact Warrior Fit, who are based in Lagoona Mall in the West Bay region of Doha, for further information on dates, times and costs:
Tel: +974 6655 8308
Email: [email protected]
Social Media: @realwarriorfit
Qatari owned Niya Yoga has two studios in Doha, one at the Mercato Plazzo in the Qanat Quartier at The Pearl and one at the Ox Fitness Centre at the Gate Mall in West Bay. Both studios offer an array of yoga sessions for all ages, levels and abilities. Beginners to intermediates can join classes such as Yoga Basics, Slow Flow, and Slow and Strong; advanced practitioners can try Advanced Vinyasa, Yoga for Athletes, or Strength and Conditioning Yoga. For more spiritual classes, Niya Yoga offers classes in meditation and sound-healing. Classes are also available for women only and prenatal clients. And, should you wish, you can choose from group sessions, private sessions, and even private classes at home.
Aside from yoga classes, the studio also offers workshops and teacher training in yoga and holistic healing.
Classes at both Doha locations are held throughout the week, morning, afternoon and evening, including yoga by candlelight sessions.
Contact Niya Yoga for more information on dates, timings, costs and locations:
Tel: +974 4468 2562
Email: [email protected] / [email protected]
Social Media: @niyayogaqatar
Qatari owned Mandala Yoga studio is located at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in West Bay’s diplomatic area. The studio offers many of the well-known yoga styles, including Hatha, Vinyasa and Yin, and their offshoots, as well as other modern yogas such as Buti (yoga incorporating cardio-dance), Yogalates (a mixture of yoga and pilates), Inversion Yoga (using props to perform yoga positions upside down) and Chair Yoga (yoga from a chair - perfect for seniors of those with physical restraints or injuries).
Classes are offered for all levels, abilities and age ranges and include sessions for ladies only and pre and postnatal clients. Group sessions make up most of the classes available, but private sessions can also be booked.
Contact Mandala Yoga for more information on dates, timings, costs and locations:
Tel: +974 5990 1100
Email: [email protected]
Social Media: @mandala.qa
Yoga Hi, opened in 2018, is located in the Bin Dirham Plaza Business Centre on the B-Ring Road. The studio caters for all levels of yoga students from beginners to advanced, and offers numerous yoga styles including traditional Ashtanga, Hatha and Vinyasa to more modern Aerial Yoga and Acro Yoga (where two yoga practitioners work together to create poses). Yoga for specific body areas or particular results is also available - yoga for flexibility, core muscle strength, back pain relief, weight loss, etc. Ladies-only classes for prenatal clients and spiritual classes also run regularly.
In addition to yoga classes, Yoga Hi also offers Body Composition Analysis as part of a weight management programme.
Contact Yoga Hi for more information on dates, timings, costs and locations:
Tel: +974 5564 2000
Email: [email protected]
Social Media: @yogahi.doha
Main image: Fizkes/Shutterstock.com
Main image: Fizkes/Shutterstock.com