As the famous yoga guru Krishnamacharya states: “If you can breathe, you can do yoga.”
And there is no doubt that Qatari entrepreneur Jawaher Al Fardan realized this when she created Niya Yoga. This brand new, state-of-the-art yoga studio and holistic healing center is currently making a major contribution to the health and fitness revolution currently evident in Qatar. It has created a communal focal point where people can engage in, practice and witness for themselves the latent power of yoga and realize the benefits of this ancient technique to improve both body and soul.
Niya Yoga began its journey in June 2016, and is the first Qatari-owned yoga studio. Situated alongside Evergreen Organics, Qatar’s first fully vegan cafe, it heralds an exciting moment in the sphere of physical wellness in Doha, signifying the welcome fact that such ideas of self-improvement are beginning to permeate the popular consciousness.
Al Fardan is pioneering this positive vision, realizing that yoga can benefit everyone – the elderly, the young, the middle-aged, teens and children. It is even safe to practice if you are pregnant, cultivating as it does the highest levels of human awareness in the realms of the physical and the spiritual. You are sure of a great welcome at Niya Yoga, where you can meet like-minded people and enjoy a green juice or a nourishing meal after your session and leave refreshed, energized and inspired from the inside out. In an interview with BQ, Jawaher shares her journey into this world of wellness.
BQ: Please provide a brief overview of your background and experience.
Jawaher: I am a yoga teacher, holistic health practitioner and wellness entrepreneur, and have recently founded two new businesses in Qatar: Niya Yoga, the first Qatari-owned yoga studio, and Evergreen Organics, Qatar’s first vegan cafe.
BQ: Briefly, what is the story behind Niya Yoga, and how did you come up with the idea of opening the center?
Jawaher: I come from a family of entrepreneurs and have always been encouraged to be business-minded when it comes to pursuing my ideas and passions. I love all forms of movement, fitness and health and have spent the last 10 years exploring well-being around the world and observing the effect these holistic therapies can have on your body and mind. In my opinion, practicing yoga and meditation is key to the development of health and happiness. Niya means ‘intention’ in Arabic, and my intention in setting up the studio is to create a peaceful space where everyone is able to explore the power of yoga.
BQ: We all experience ups and down in our daily lives. Has yoga helped you through any difficult times, and if so, how?
Jawaher: Developing my yoga and meditation practice has made me more able to cope and stay present with different experiences – the inevitable highs and lows that we all endure – and has kept me grounded and centered when times get tough. No matter what happens, I always know I can return to my breathing, and that is extremely comforting.
BQ: Do you think people in Qatar are becoming interested in Yoga training? How quickly is the field growing in Qatar?
Jawaher: Yoga is already gaining popularity in Qatar and this is only the start. In the past, there hasn’t been much access to these ideas and forms of movement; my dream with Niya Yoga is to change all this! Our students are of all ages, levels and nationalities and it is incredibly inspiring to see how far they have grown since we opened. I can confidently state that yoga has a bright future in Qatar.
BQ: What are some common, incorrect assumptions about yoga?
Jawaher: People often think they’re too inflexible to go to yoga, when actually this is the case for all of us when we start out – it’s yoga that makes us flexible! Ultimately, yoga is for everyone. There are so many different lineages to explore – slower and softer classes, more dynamic challenging classes – whatever your temperament, age or ability, there’s a style that will work for you.
BQ: Is it difficult to attract qualified yoga teachers to Qatar?
Jawaher: Surprisingly, there are more yoga teachers than you think in Qatar! Our two full-time teachers have joined us from Europe, but we also have various part time teachers that are already based in Doha.
BQ: What kind of certification and basic requirements do one need to work as a yoga instructor in Qatar?
Jawaher: You have to undertake a 200 hours training course to become a yoga teacher – this is standard across the globe. This is then followed up with more advanced training or expertise in different lineages of yoga.
BQ: Do you think people are interested in spending money on yoga coaching given the amount of instructional videos freely available on the Internet?
Jawaher: There are so many different options with yoga – that’s part of the beauty of the practice. You can do yoga at home, you can do a class online, you can join a group class or have a private session with an instructor, all of which have very different energies. However, I would argue that there’s something very special about a group class, where you are all moving and breathing as one, under the care and guidance of an experienced instructor. In my eyes, this will never get old.
BQ: How do you advertise your yoga teaching business? And who are you trying to reach and why?
Jawaher: A lot of our clients come to us by word-of-mouth recommendation – students come to class, and then recommend us to their friends. Yoga is all-inclusive, and our space is open to everyone, regardless of age, gender or fitness level.
BQ: What do you like most about working in this industry, and what do you dislike the most?
Jawaher: I feel fortunate to work in an area I really believe in. I truly believe in the healing power of yoga, the beauty of the breathing techniques, the movements, which connect the mind and body as one. The true meaning of the word yoga is ‘union’, and I firmly believe that is what occurs when a person practises it correctly – a union of the mind and body. I suppose the most difficult element also emerges from this – I feel very attached to and passionate about what I do.
BQ: What kind of business challenges are you experiencing, and how are you overcoming them?
Jawaher: I think our main challenge has been access to supplies – it has been difficult to get hold of many of the goods that we need to equip our practice in Doha, but we have succeeded through perseverance, effective management and faith!
BQ: What is the best advice you’d give to someone interested in a similar career path?
Jawaher: Take a moment to meditate on why you’re doing this, consciously set an intention, and whenever things get stressful or tough, always bring yourself back to this intention. And just do it! Setting up my two businesses, Niya Yoga and Evergreen Organics was the best life decision I have ever made.
BQ: Finally, what are your plans for the future?
Jawaher: I want to keep sharing health, wellness and conscious living with the people of Doha. I firmly believe that yoga offers a myriad of benefits physically, mentally and emotionally to help us live our lives to the fullest. And please keep your eye on House of Jade, my holding company, to see what we launch next!
This article is from BQ Magazine’s Issue 44 – May 2017.
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