pilates style magazine logo

“Is there Pilates in Dubai?” “Do women wear their scarves when they work out?” I couldn’t answer these frequently asked questions before I traveled to Dubai last summer, to teach Pilates for two months. I can now.

There is Pilates in Dubai. Although it’s relatively new (there were one or two studios in 2003) it wasn’t until 2007, that Pilates really gained popularity. To date, there are approximately six fully equipped studios, as well as many health clubs and spas that offer Pilates. It is definitely a growing industry.

The Muslim women who wear abaya’s (a loose robe like dress) and niqab’s (the headscarf) do not wear these items while working out. They usually have their Lululemon’s on underneath.

I had the most wonderful experience teaching at Exhale Ladies Fitness Center. With two fully equipped studios, co-owner, Rama Al-Jayyousi, has seen an immense interest in Pilates, since they opened their first studio in 2007. She decided to make Exhale a ladies only studio because it, “Enables the clients to relax, let their hair down, and focus on the work, rather than what they’re wearing.”

Dubai consists of 90% expatriates, and 10% local Emirates. Exhale’s client base, which consists mainly of expats, are glad that they don’t have to give up their Pilates practice just because they’re living in Dubai. They are devoted and committed practitioners.

I taught women who had been studying Pilates for over ten years and couldn’t imagine their lives without it. Jehann, originally from Egypt, was such a client. “Ten years ago I lived in Toronto and a friend took me to a Pilates class and I was hooked. I’m addicted. I got the core connection, and it felt like I could move my ovaries… amazing.”

It was beautiful to see Pilates being practiced as passionately, and devoutly in Dubai, as it is in the studios where I teach in the states. The outside may look different but on the inside (at the core) where it counts, Pilates is Pilates.

“The clientele in Dubai is wonderfully mixed, and interesting,” says Sarah Noble, a Balanced Body certified instructor, who manages Zen Yoga, a Pilates and yoga studio. “Over the past four years, I have witnessed many people bettering their lives and their general well being. The dedication is amazing.”

I worked alongside instructor’s from Australia, Serbia and Columbia. Our diverse trainings and backgrounds differed but when we commiserated about tardy clients, or laughed over the variety of frustrations that come with being an instructor, we spoke the same language. The challenges were universal, just like the Pilates Reformer.

Laura Weston, who also teaches at Zen Yoga, has been teaching for over 10 years and is a certified and faculty teacher trainer for Balanced Body. “When I first came to Dubai in 2007, ZenYoga had three Reformers and not many teachers. They now have three studios and 15 instructors.”

One of the many things that I love about being a Pilates instructor, is the ability to teach anywhere in the world. I was blessed and fortunate to be able to combine my two loves; Pilates and travel.