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Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt.
Ashtanga Yoga Cairo: Thorough Yoga with Mira Shihadeh
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.
The benefits of yoga cover a range of physical, emotional and wellness issues in adults – but what it could do for babies? Most mothers strive to foster a happy, healthy home, however finding the right balance can be a little tricky.
For all mothers and mothers-to-be, the new Mother and Children Movement and Wellness Center, FLOW, has just opened up in Heliopolis, welcoming all women to a soothing and comfortable environment. Founded by three successful young mothers, Jamie El Helw, Mariam Kamel, and Rania El Masry, these inspiring women are all certified as Infant Massage Instructor's and Mom-Baby Yoga teachers, and have set out to create a relaxed space for mothers and children to engage in balanced activities.
Baby Yoga affords mothers and babies an hour each day in a carefree environment, allowing the time to bond, interact and relax.
Guided by certified instructors, Baby Yoga encourages mothers to understand the importance of spending time with their own bundles of joy, by practicing a positive form of activity together, helping to develop a connection with their child, along with encouraging their wellbeing. Mothers get to support and massage their babies as they perform basic yoga movements that enhance their physical, rational and emotional development. With that said, baby yoga becomes a beneficial aspect to both mothers and their toddlers, by increasing their strength, flexibility and coordination, as well as stimulating their sleeping patterns, boosting their immune system and take the edge off of common physical ailments.
Offering several different classes, including baby massage & yoga, family classes and women’s yoga sessions, sessions are held from Sundays to Thursdays between 8AM until 2PM at FLOW in Heliopolis, as well as other classes at the Nun Center in Zamalek and Kattemeya Heights Compound.
With baby massage & yoga, the classes vary with age. 'Infant Massage' classes are designed for mothers with babies from 4 weeks to 6 months old; mothers gently massage their babies and move them harmoniously as they hold them, as well as practice post-birth recovery techniques and relaxation methods. The class aims to promote positive, quality time spent between mothers and their babies.
Offering two stages of baby yoga, ‘Baby Yoga 1' is designed for ages 3-12 months old, where babies are exposed to basic yoga stretches and movements on their stomach’s, backs and in their mothers arms, joined with rhythmic songs for a more enjoyable and interactive experience. In 'Baby Yoga 2', the little ones are between 12 and 18 months and are able to move around unaided. These classes combine a more active playtime, balancing physical contact with their mothers and free movement, ending the class with mother-baby relaxation time.
For ages 18months to 4 years old, the center offers 'Toddler Yoga', promoting a more advanced exercise program called 'SMART', where mothers and children engage in stretching, moving, and relaxing together, in more energetic ways that stimulate the child’s self-awareness, contributing to their language and listening skills.
At family yoga, FLOW offers a variety of creative classes including 'FitTods' for ages 3-5 years, 'Music & Moves' for 6 months to 3 years old, 'ART' for 18 months to 4 years old, and 'Story Time' where all ages are welcomed. The classes tend to explore new activities that encourage the children’s sense of imagination and self-expression.
Because FLOW also supports women wanting to get in shape, as well as to improve the quality of their health, the center offers 'Women’s Yoga' consisting of three different classes, varying in the participant’s goals. 'Prenatal Yoga' helps pregnant women stay in shape and strengthen their muscles in preparation for delivery. The second class, 'Postnatal Yoga', focuses on recovery for new mothers by strengthening their abdominal, pelvic and back muscles, while relieving tension in their necks, shoulders and upper backs. Lastly, 'Power Yoga' is for women to enjoy basic yoga postures, renewing their energy in a relaxed and undisturbed environment.
With yoga being a popular practice to create harmony between mind and body, credit is due to FLOW for applying this philosophy and offering a positive form of exercise for both mothers and their children. While at times all mothers do need their own personal space, most will agree that spending an hour of quality time with their children creates the bond of a lifetime.
To find out more about FLOW and their yoga programs, click here.