Free This Thursday 8th March for
International Women's Day
Zara, tell us a little about Ummah Yoga - what is it and what led you to start the class?
Ummah Yoga is a women’s only class on Thursday afternoons at East of Eden (a yoga and pilates studio in Walthamstow). I created Ummah Yoga because I live in Waltham Forest where nearly a quarter of the population is Muslim, however I noticed that Muslim women were notably absent from the yoga studios I was attending. I thought this may be because a lot of classes tend to be unisex so I felt that there was a need for a women’s only class that sensitively accommodates women of the Islamic faith. I approached East of Eden who had been thinking of adding a women’s class after having requests from women in the muslim community, so Ummah yoga was born.
What can people expect from an Ummah Yoga class?
Ummah is the Arabic word for community (Arabic: أمة). In this case the Ummah is a collective of women practicing yoga together. My classes fuse Islam and Yoga. For example, I interchangeably greet people with “namaste” which means that "the divine in me bows to the divine in you," and "as-salaam-alaikum," the Arabic greeting meaning "peace be unto you." This is a safe space where women are free to take off their headscarves (should they wish to do so) and to practice the exercise of yoga together without any judgment. With all this in mind, anyone should be able to come to my class and feel welcomed regardless of faith and religion. I try to use a dialogue that promotes inclusivity and the commonlities in the many different views, faiths and practices people have.
My classes are slow, steady and meditative. We practice sabr (صَبْرٌ), the Arabic word for patience; by holding each pose for longer we exercise the virtue of patience and endurance. This gives your body the chance to relax and open into the stretch, as well as giving me time to provide students with individual attention. I offer options for beginners and more advanced students so anyone can drop into the class and have a go.
What might be some of the benefits people will experience from attending ummah yoga?
Yoga is beneficial to your wellbeing both physically and mentally. The physical strengthening, balancing, stretching and cardio side of things will be beneficial to your body in terms of muscle toning, improved circulation, bigger lung capacity, better bone health, stronger joints and a better quality of sleep. But in addition to this, learning how to channel your energy using breathing and meditation techniques can be useful in de-stressing yourself and reducing anxiety. This will lift your mood and in turn it will improve other cognitive functions such as self-regulation of emotions, focus and memory. It’s also a great opportunity to get out the house and socialise with likeminded people.
Tell us a little about your yoga journey, what brought you to the practise and what keeps you coming back?
I stumbled across yoga in my office gym when I used to work in the city and from then on I was hooked. I fell in love with the sense of calmness I felt after attending each session. I had a busy job and with that I developed a busy mind so when I’d take my shoes off and come to sit on my mat I was giving myself some much needed me-time. To sit down and observe my thought patterns, to quiet the noise in my mind and to listen to my body is something that I had previously neglected. That’s the beauty of yoga; it unites the mind with the body through meditation and exercise. Something that the treadmill can’t do!
I didn’t realise how much tension I was holding in my shoulders, how weak my stomach had become from sitting at a desk all day and in turn how I was developing a hunched figure from poor posture. When I started to feel and see the difference in my body I wanted to keep going so I could keep myself in that fit and healthy state. Despite this, yoga is a never ending journey. At first it’s the feel-good factor that I went for, then I started having these mini accomplishments like finally being able to touch the ground with my fingertips, and after a consistent and dedicated practise I started to enjoy getting into some of the crazy up-side-down pretzel poses that I never thought I’d be able to do - practice and all is coming!
What do you enjoy about teaching at East of Eden?
I really love the community vibe about East of Eden. There are people from all walks of life that come along to the studio and there’s something really authentic about them. The staff are all friendly and I’ve made some really good friends with the other students that I used to go to classes with. The studio in itself is a clean, open space and it’s a peaceful environment to practice in without any distractions. Why not come along and check it out for yourself?
Join Zara every Thursday at 1:45pm for Ummah Yoga.
Book Online Here or drop in and pay on the day at reception