7 Questions for 7 Experts, #2 Connecting through YOGA

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Yesterday we found out how to address mental helath and overall well-being. Today it’s about maintaining a healthy body and mind.  While we have seen some incredibly inspiring stories of people running marathons on their balconies and creating obstacle courses in their living rooms, many of us, (me included) are probably not feeling quite so energised.

Welcome to ‘7 Questions for 7 Experts’, Goumbook’s guide to navigating your way through the challenges of life in lock-down, dedicated to bringing positive and supportive information during these difficult times.

As we settle into this new rhythm of remote work and isolation, we ask one expert every day to help us address specific questions we might need help with.

The world has plunged into uncertainty due to the Coronavirus and the constant news about the pandemic can feel relentless. Self-isolation as well as working from home whilst attempting the precarious daily challenge of home-schooling kids can take its toll on our mental and emotional well-being.


Yesterday we found out how to address mental health and overall well-being. Today it’s about maintaining a healthy body and mind.  While we have seen some incredibly inspiring stories of people running marathons on their balconies and creating obstacle courses in their living rooms, many of us, (me included) are probably not feeling quite so energised.

Certified yoga instructor Danica Al Kharfan, shares practical and simple ideas to get us moving again. Even though yoga is not something I have ever practiced regularly, I love how she makes yoga sound like something anyone can try, even those absolute beginners and kids. I have now resolved to start my mornings with some stretches and gentle breathing exercises. By just taking a few moments for myself before starting work and the school day I have more mental space to manage the stresses of these challenging times. As always please do comment and share your thoughts and ideas with us, we love to hear from you.

As always please do comment and share your thoughts and ideas with us, we love to hear from you: we are in social isolation, but we need not feel alone. Reach out to us if you have questions you’d like experts to answer and we’ll do our best to support!

Stay safe and healthy!


1/As the gyms and yoga studios are closed people are looking at alternative ways and places to exercise and stay fit, how important is it to keep moving? 

Movement is essential to our wellbeing, both physical and mental. On a physical level we all know the benefits of movement be it walking, running or yoga. However, the benefits to our mental health and a positive state of mind are of even greater importance during these challenging times. Being confined to our homes and out of our regular routines ( gym, yoga studios, personal training, etc) we are all trying to adjust to this new way of life and put in place some sort of work-out routine that will keep our body moving daily and give us an opportunity to get out of our heads, (which is where we are currently living a lot) and into our bodies.

2/ Yoga comes in all shapes and sizes, for someone new to yoga what would you suggest? And why?

There is a misconception about yoga that you have to be flexible in order to practice. We see social media showing extremely flexible people doing circus style postures and that can be quite intimidating, especially to someone who has been thinking of starting yoga.  But here is the thing; Yoga was never meant to be about postures. They (postures or asanas as they are traditionally called) were put in place 2500 years ago to help sages of those times sit in meditation for longer periods of times (hours, days and even months at the time).  The most important purpose of yoga is to connect to oneself, to go inward, to be present here and now. The only two things that truly exist in a present moment are our breath and our physical body, and yoga is a tool to connect us to it. As we connect, we start to awaken our consciousness. Flexibility and strength come over time, and is really just a by-product of yoga.

For all new students to yoga, I suggest: 

–       do your research on yoga studios in Dubai or wherever you live. There are quite a few in Dubai ( Zen Yoga, Urban Yoga, Zoga, Nilaya House, to name a few) Once the situation is back to ‘normal’ connect with those studios. They all have “new student” starter packages at great price points.

–       ask the studio if they have Hatha Beginner class; this style of yoga will allow you to learn over time basic postures and proper alignment and how to incorporate the breath into your practice.

–       Inform the teacher of any injuries

–       If your budget allows for private yoga sessions, find an experienced yoga teacher.

During these extraordinary times when we are confined to our homes, here are a few ways to start:

–       There are many online portals that offer yoga classes. Here are a few reputable ones: YogaGlo, Alo Yoga, OmStars. They all offer a free trial (14 months to 30 days) so easy to get started

–       Youtube hosts countless number of yoga classes and tutorials. Be careful as you will find both certified and knowledgeable teachers, but also the questionable ones

And lastly:

–       Show up for your practice as you are and just start.  Even if it is just 15 minutes a day, it will help create a routine and you will see that even a short practice does make a big difference in your day.

–       Be present, breath, practice regularly, as often as you can.

–       Enjoy the process and results will come over time (you will become more flexible and stronger).

3/How can yoga relieve stress and assist in keeping us calm and preventing panic?

First thing we connect with in our yoga practice is our breath. The breath initiates the movement of our body as we start to move from posture to posture. Just by connecting with our breath and by breathing in for a count of 4 and breathing out on a count of 4 will, after just a few rounds, bring us from the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system. You will feel relaxed and whatever was weighing heavy on your mind, will feel lighter.


4/If we are practicing self-isolation or social distancing, how do we motivate ourselves to get up and do some yoga at home?

–       Have a corner in the house where you can set up as your yoga/meditation space. It can be corner of your bedroom even, if no other room is available.  This can be your “sacred” spot where you can make an offering with a few flowers from the garden each day, and photos of those that you love (your kids) or even holy figures if this resonate with you.

–       Retreat to this place whenever you can during the day. If you have kids, you will have to work around their schedules, home schooling, etc.  And that is okay. There are no rules to say that yoga and meditation has to be practiced in the morning only.

–       Don’t beat yourself up when you skip a day, or two. Just go back to your practice when you can. Keep it light.

5/How can we include kids in this?

 Practicing with kids can be fun, although expect a different kind of yoga. Depending on age, kids cannot stay still for a long time and postures are made to be fun and engaging for them. There are plenty of YouTube videos for kid’s yoga. I highly recommend Cosmic Kids Yoga Adventures on You tube. It’s excellent! I would still encourage parents to find time for themselves to practice and sit still so they can keep sanity during these challenging times.

6/What are some Asnanas or poses you can share with us we can do at home or at our office desk? When is the best time to do them and how often?

Forward Folds are calming and introspective – Practice them when you feel unbalanced and ungrounded. Or when you need to open the back of your body (legs, lengthening the spine). They also have a soothing effect.

Inversions are energizing. Since we are at home so much these days, our energy can get very dull and stuck, so we need a little “pick me up” yoga, handstands are excellent for that. You can use the wall for these and modify as needed, (providing you have basic knowledge on how to execute these postures).

Twists are very good for the health of our spine and detoxing. You can easily do them in your home/office. Sit upright in the chair, uncross your legs, place both feet on the ground. Place your right hand on your left knee and your left hand on the back of the chair and gently twist. Stay for 5 breaths, each breath perhaps going a bit deeper into the posture. Repeat on other side.

Generally, you will avoid practicing inversions and backbends at night as they are quite energizing. You will also not want to practice with a full belly.

You can start morning with some forward folds as you are waiting for your coffee or tea in the kitchen to be ready. Just hinging from your hips fold forward, bend your knees and let your chest rest against your ties as you lengthen the spine. Let the arms fold towards or on the floor and fully relax your head. When you are ready to come out of it, slowly unroll the spine vertebra by vertebra. Voila! Tea/Coffee is ready, no time was wasted and you just stretched back of your legs (the tightest part of the body in the morning) and lengthened your spine.

6/ What advice can you share to help us to stay positive during this challenging time?

We ALL are struggling to adjust to this normal. What is causing us even more suffering and stress is that we want things to be otherwise. And they are not. They are what they are. For now. So, learning to love what IS, is the key. The moment when we want things to be otherwise (our kids in school, we doing our own thing, beach time, office work, stock market glowing, world without Covid 19, and the list goes on and on) we create suffering.

Love and accept what is, because what is, is the reality. It is what we cannot change but we can use this time to go inward, to journal, to observe our emotions, thoughts, and to connect with our kids in more meaningful way.

As my coaching teacher said: “  Living in a perpetual  creative response to whatever is present.


7/ What is the one thing you each day that makes your life more sustainable?

ITS YOGA AND MEDITATION. IT HAS ALWAYS BEEN. It makes huge difference in my day. I am the best version of myself when I sit in silence daily and do even a little bit of yoga.  Also, gratitude and remembering how lucky I am to have my kids, my family and health always brings me back from any moments of self-doubt and negativity to the state of present moment and truly loving what is.

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Danica is a Yoga Alliance certified eRYT 550, Level II teacher, specializing in Vinyasa flow, Hatha and restorative yoga and teaching in Dubai (and for 3 years in Malaysia) since 2012 at Zen Yoga. A graduate of the renowned Australian yoga school “Yoga Arts”, she has studied and practiced under some of the world’s best teachers for over 15 years.

Today, a busy mother of two, she continues her studies on and off the mat deepening her knowledge in all aspects of yoga.   Above all, Danica aims to live her life with enthusiasm, passion and spiritual adventure, and hope that those practicing with her will connect with their own joyful potential.

For inspirational words and practice connect with her on Instagram @yogidanica or to book a private session email her at Danica.alkharfan@gmail.com

Disclaimer: the information shared on this website is for your general knowledge only. The website cannot, and is not intended, to replace the relationship you have with your health care professionals.