Located just behind Beano’s in Zamalek is a small, inconspicuous first-floor yoga studio that this reviewer has been hearing about for years. Mira Shihadeh has often been cited as an effective, tough and hands-on certified Ashtanga yoga instructor; so it was only natural for Cairo 360 to check out her class to see if she lived up to her reputation.

The studio for Ashtanga Yoga Cairo is snug and intimate; you feel like you’re entering someone’s home in the way it’s casually laid out. The front room is decorated with yoga posters, prayer flags and other items brought back from Shihadeh’s trips to India. A rack is provided for your shoes, a hanger for your jacket, and a large basket carries extra yoga mats if you need one. A table in the centre of the room is full of pamphlets, books and other reading material on Ashtanga yoga or meditation.

The wooden floored studio space could probably fit up to fourteen people comfortably. Thin yoga mats were already laid out for this reviewer’s class. Small towels, cushions and blocks are provided for when you need support.

Mira will begin by asking if you have any injuries; even if you don’t, a few moves into the session are enough for her to determine your weaknesses, such as poor back muscles or weak knees in this reviewer’s case. She begins her session with a few easy sun salutations; her pace is relaxed and she’ll talk you through the moves conversationally. The informal and relaxed environment of the class made it easier for this reviewer to let go and focus more on breathing and posture.

 Mira’s teaching method is called the Mysore style of yoga asana, where the instructor doesn’t lead the class but focuses instead on one-on-one instruction, and students are left to practice their yoga sequences at their own pace. So if you ever feel like you’re being rushed into a certain yoga pose or you’d like to take your time with your sun salutations, Mira is an excellent option. She gives you your space but will come to fix your posture or give pointers. She’s more hands-on with beginners and will demonstrate positions and sequences once, after which you have to remember and practice the moves with her verbal guidance.

Mira will remind you to breathe as she fixes your posture and deftly pushes you into a deeper stretch. If you like challenging yourself, then this class is highly recommended. Ashtanga yoga should be practiced every day except for Saturdays, and Mira keeps her studio open from 7:30AM to 10AM five days a week with two 7PM classes on Sundays and Tuesdays.

By the end of the yoga session, a simple repetition of several positions left this reviewer shaking, sweating and breathing better and more openly than before. The session is ended with a corpse pose, where you lie on your back with palms open to the ceiling, as Mira covers your eyes with a patch infused with sweet-smelling oils that open your nostrils and chest. Your body is covered with a light blanket as you focus on your breathing and relax. It will be difficult not to fall asleep right there and then, but Mira’s class should definitely inspire you to sign up and come back for more.