As many of you know I have been creating a special niche with my music and yoga practice in Toronto with one-of-a-kind events like Sacred Space, the first ever such performance in Canada.
Beneath the neo-Gothic arches and in the soft stained glass glow of a downtown cathedral, I launched my first powerful mix of intense yoga, guided meditation and improvised New Age piano in July 2017. Created in collaboration with my talented team of yoga instructors and meditation coaches, this unique undertaking led to Journey Within, a series of yoga events in church settings.
Since then I’ve introduced my intuitively improvised piano yoga for occasions as diverse as the Bali Spirit Festival which attracts world renown yoga instructors, and the Nowruz Yoga Festival which celebrates the arrival of spring and the Persian New Year.
Committed to furthering the powerful interplay of yoga and improvised piano in innovative and exciting new directions, I was particularly thrilled to be a part of the dawn to dusk XYoga Dubai Festival in early February when more than 13,000 yogis gathered at Kite Beach in the United Arab Emirates for a weekend of sea, sand, and sun salutations.
In its third year and still growing, the massive yoga celebration is the largest and most holistic yoga festival ever to take place in Dubai. It’s part of the XDubai sporting events where action sports fanatics, world class athletes, adventure hunters and thrill seekers looking to defy their own limits and break Guinness World records, gather for a weekend of extreme events showcasing the best and the fastest.
XDubai aims to be a leading destination not just for challengers from around the globe but for all types of yoga events in the region.
Globally-recognized yogis lead classes in a wide range of yoga styles from hatha yoga to acro yoga and hula-hoop yoga, along with traditional meditation and workshops designed for everyone from complete beginners to yoga instructors, and from children and pregnant women to athletes.
It was thrilling for me to play at one session each day for such a huge gathering, reaching deep inside to synchronize my breathing and my heartbeat with every move, translating my responses through my improvisation. I could never have imagined yoga on such a grand scale yet I felt a connection to each and every soul on that beach – a strong palpable collective energy that inspired my playing, as I in turn, put my heart into inspiring them.
My first session was with local instructor, Dubai based Dina Cassir who trained in India and teaches everything from acro to aerial swing yoga, in different parts of the world.
On the second day I joined Janet Stone, a San Francisco based celebrity yoga instructor who leads immersions, retreats and workshops. She is one of the key people behind the Bali Spirit Festival in which I have also participated. Through a yoga retreat centre in Bali headed by my friend Noura El-Iman, I was introduced to yoga instructor Sarah Fakhouri, who is also a certified Feng Shui and Reiki practitioner. She too was instrumental in creating XYoga Dubai.
Accompanying Dina Cassir on Day 1 and Janet Stone on Day 2, I introduced their sessions with my hang drum, played with a light tap of the hands, producing an ethereal, mellow sound that is at the same time, rich and melodic, perfect for establishing a reflective, calming mood.
During the last 10 minutes of her class, Janet invited participants to the stage as she shared her life story with them. Word by word and note by note, I synchronized my playing to her heart to heart connection with the audience, ending on a gentle one note Namaste.
Over two days, Dubai’s yoga fans stretched, breathed and meditated, guided by a glamorous line-up of international star yoga instructors headlined by Bollywood actress, TV host and personal trainer to Bollywood celebrities, Nargis Fakhri, who hosted the opening session of the XYoga Dubai Festival.
Portuguese football legend Luis Figo, regarded as one of the greatest players of his generation and once named Fifa World Player of the Year, joined one of the instructors onstage. He impressed upon participants the impact of yoga on his life.
In a nod to Dubai’s large Indian population, Mumbai based Bollywood star Deepika Metha, TV trainer and yoga instructor to the famous and the powerful in India, inspired participants with her story of how yoga changed her life. Paralyzed after a fall from a 40 foot cliff face while rock climbing, her doctors said she would never walk again. Today she is one of the most sought after Ashtanga teachers in the world, headlining retreats, fitness campaigns and festivals such as XYoga Dubai.
I was truly humbled to work with such an inspiring group of world class instructors and I look forward to continue to collaborate with XYoga Dubai as well as other yoga festivals around the world.