Given the city’s love for fitness, I don’t think it’s possible for Abu Dhabi to have too many yoga studios.
However, in order to sway my loyalty away from my usual favorite gyms, or indeed my much-loved YouTube yoga instructors, they have to offer something special.
Sacral Grounds, the new yogi hotspot at Mina Souq by Zayed Port, is certainly unique. With a capacity of just eight people per class, it’s definitely the smallest yoga studio I have ever been to. But the thing that most obviously sets it apart from every other venue is the huge mural that covers the entire length of one wall. I honestly couldn’t keep my eyes off it.
Depicting a person with a tree growing out of them, I found it a little bit creepy at first. However, by the end of the class, I had started to appreciate its ethereal beauty.
“The mural symbolizes what we are all about,” says Natalie Abushakra, founder of Sacral Grounds. “It’s a figure of no identifiable gender that’s opening up their heart and soul. That’s exactly what I want people to do here. Sacral Grounds is a safe space where people can be present, work on themselves both physically and spiritually, and fill themselves with light. We welcome absolutely everybody as their authentic selves. You don’t have to look or dress a certain way, and the branches of the tree reflect how people can flourish here.”
Opened in December 2022, the studio offers an eclectic mix of classes. Alongside the usual power, restorative, vinyasa and gentle flow yoga, there’s the more unusual Face Flow (a mix of face yoga, exercise, massage and acupressure) and the largely meditation-based Sacred Yoga’ Private yoga sessions, sports massages and alternative therapies such as reiki, mind and body coaching and intuitive guidance sessions can be arranged as well, while some of the morning classes are held outside, just steps from the blue waters and moored ships of the port.
I tried the Monday evening Sound Bath, a purposefully therapeutic session that featured a 50-50 split between yoga and sound healing.
From previous experience I know that I find it hard to switch off for a whole hour of meditation, so I liked that it included a combination of the two.
Designed to be accessible to all levels, the yoga wasn’t exactly advanced. But, it still upped my energy levels and got my blood flowing.
We all received plenty of one-on-one attention (something that doesn’t happen in larger studios), and it felt great to thoroughly stretch out all my muscles.
Sakshi Rajiv Mathur, founder of Creative Leaf Holistic center, then led us through the sound healing part of the class. As the sounds of her bowls washed over me, I could feel distinct vibrations running from my head to my toes.
To my surprise, I found that I was able to totally pause all my thoughts, almost to the point where I was falling asleep. Plush pillows and soft blankets were provided along with mats, blocks and straps, and touches that made the whole experience that bit cozier.
“The studio is intentionally small because I wanted our teachers and students to form intimate and close relationships, and for everyone to feel comfortable asking questions,” explains Abushakra.
“Lots of the teachers in my community are women who have personally helped me. They have had a really positive impact on my life and the lives of so many others. Sacral Grounds brings the guidance I’ve received from them together with my own intuition and training in health, nutrition and the energetics of the mind all together in one place. Everything that we teach and preach actually does work, and that’s why I’m so passionate about it.”
Perhaps most of all, I loved the welcoming and friendly vibe of the place. After we had finished, everyone in the session headed to the coffee shop next door for a drink and a chat, something that I have never ever seen happen before after a fitness class.
I departed feeling so much happier and lighter. Which, as we all know, is the sign of a truly brilliant yoga class.
• Prices start from Dh115 per class. Memberships are also available. Visit @sacralgrounds or call 026217268 to find out more.
Harriet Shephard is an Abu Dhabi-based copywriter and freelance journalist with a particular focus on fitness, travel and lifestyle, which, along with good food, also happen to be her main passions when she's not typing away at her laptop.