Over the last few years, a new definition of what it means to live healthy has slowly crept into Cairo's collective consciousness; treadmills have been replaced with yoga mats and workout gear equates to comfy, and often colourful, leggings. In short, Cairo has come to understand that there is more to healthy living than dieting and jogging – we've come to accept a more holistic approach to something that is notoriously hard to achieve in Egypt.
This culture has been perpetuated by the increasing number of wellness centres, the latest of which has been causing quite a storm in Maadi.
Under the direction of Steve Double, Neena Serag and Sumaya Holdijk, Osana Wellness Centre has quickly emerged as a haven that is doing more than latching onto a fad and proving that wellbeing practices are not instant 'feel good' magic potions, but rather about one's willingness and commitment to improving his/her lifestyle.
Tucked away in an almost picturesque Sarayat Al Maadi area, the minute you step foot through Osana's purple door, you can't help but be captivated by the serenity of the space and the welcoming green atmosphere.
Boasting a variety of mind and body practices, classes and workshops for all the family, Osana offers a large variety of wellbeing practices and barefoot classes including yoga classes –hatha flow, acroyoga, vinyasa, prenatal- pilates, tai chi, rhythm and dance and many others.
It all started when celebrated photographer, Steve Double, his wife Neena Serag and Sumaya Holdjik dreamed of creating a wellness hub for all the family.
"Osana is an oasis in the middle of the crazy Cairo that we choose to live in," Double told us. "Somewhere where you can feel calm and grounded, meet some friends and chill out; a place where you can be with family and take time for yourself and time for those that matter to you where you can find everything from food, treatments, yoga and pilates."
The centre is surrounded by a beautiful garden equipped with a large playground for kids, a seating area and an exquisite flower pond. Perhaps what we loved the most about Osana's outdoors area is the wood-built Earth Studio, where yoga classes are held.
Osana's three-storey villa is separated into different departments where classes and holistic therapies take place. Right by the reception, there's a large kids' room equipped with books and a smaller playground serving as a day-care area and a space for kids' workshops as well.
"As a yogi, coming out of class, there's nowhere where you can sit and socialise. There is also a lack of places where kids can just go and play in Cairo, whereas in Europe, there are parks everywhere," Double says of his ambitions for Osana.
Osana's wholefood café is located at the ground floor; it's where we were treated to a tasty macchiato and the café lunch specialties of the day, which were lentil salad with roasted pepper and feta cheese, vegetables soup and sprouting broccoli with sweet tehina sauce during the time of our visit.
"Our café concept is very simple," Double explained. "It's what you find in any small town in Europe – what I would call a hippy wholefood café using minimum oil, minimum processed food, seasonal and organic cooking. It's a healthier way of eating and part of a holistic wellbeing. You look after your mind, your soul and what you put in your body," Double continued.
Complementary to their 'Mind, Body and Play' motto, Osana offers a wide array of holistic therapies from bodywork practices like craniosacral therapy, reflexology, osteopathy, acupuncture, to energy healing including crystal healing, numerology, reiki and different types of body massages including aromatherapy, shiatsu and chi nei tsang while pre and post natal services are also available, which is where Holdjik's expertise comes into play.
"We're trying to create a wellness community where you can have families and people of all ages; a community where we can have support groups, like cancer support groups, infertility support groups and more," Holdjik told us.
Once a month, Osana offers concession clinics as well as free sessions and treatments for people who might not otherwise be able to afford sessions. The team's long term integrate these people into a more consistent approach to their health.
"What we found in the wellness world is that wellness is considered a luxury when it's actually a necessity. It's a way of living and a way of being healthy," Holdjik explained.
Osana's standard barefoot classes, including tai chi and chi kong, cost 100LE whereas yoga and pilates cost 120LE. For the 100LE classes, the centre offers a package of 10 for 850LE (valid for 6 months) or one month of unlimited classes for 1,100LE, where people can come and try out different barefoot sessions and figure out what's best for them.
"We ask our participants what they're looking for in the classes or if they have physical or health issues so we can address them. If you have back issues, for example, we recommend acupuncture, osteopathy, craniosacral or physiotherapy, while yoga is actually amazing for digestive issues. At the end of the day, it's really about holistic health," Holdjik said.
When asked about the health craze trending, Double said that while it's great that more and more people want to get fit, these people only build strength rather than flexibility and need a lot more than physical strength to sustain their health and wellbeing.
Holdjik, on the other hand, believes that for an issue like obesity for instance, it's not about the food; there's an emotional issue which must be dealt with first and that once those who suffer from obesity start facing their emotional problems and following a healthier lifestyle, they're naturally going to lose the weight.
"I think a lot of people don't understand that the process takes time, especially if you have a chronic issue that you had for years. It's not a magic pill," argued Holdjik. "It takes time, maybe even years. It's about committing to wanting to be better and understanding that true health is an inclusive process bringing different aspects of wellbeing together."
Aiming to spread the culture of positivity and wellbeing all over Cairo, Osana wants to collaborate with local wellness centers for a Cairo Yoga Day, where all yoga studios provide one day of yoga for free.
Throughout the month of Ramadan, Osana offers a multitude of activities including forgiveness meditation sessions every Tuesday and Wednesday and a special Yoga and Iftar series that includes pre-iftar Vinyasa Flow, followed by a wholesome fetar and an hour of restorative yoga.
But there's still more to come from Osana; the team plan to create a serene zen garden surrounding the Earth Studio, an organic vegetables garden, establish weekly community events including movie nights in the garden, camping and picnic trips, not to mention integrate more classes including parkour and more dance classes.
"From a parent's perspective, Osana has been very well received. The idea literally started when we didn't have a safe place for our children to play in. I've had mums coming to me to say thank you," Serag concluded.