JEDDAH: A Saudi trapeze artist achieved rapid business success just a few months after starting the kingdom’s first aerial yoga studio.
Roa’a Al-Sahhaf, the country’s first female circus performer, said her modern yoga classes had proven so popular with Saudis that she was already trying to expand across the kingdom.
The 42-year-old mother of three opened Saudi Arabia’s first certified aerial photography studio in the coastal city of Jeddah in March this year, offering yoga, pole dance, Pilates, family dance classes and boxing.
Aerial yoga uses a hammock to support all or part of the student’s weight while they work on traditional yoga postures. Not only does it allow them to perform advanced yoga movements that would normally take years to learn, but hanging upside down can also be good for the spine and instill confidence.
Al-Sahhaf graduated from the Prince’s Foundation School of Traditional Arts in London and has been practicing aerial silk, as it is called, since childhood. However, she didn’t start making a career out of it until 2009.
“I was the first Saudi circus artist. Actually, it was my childhood dream to perform in a circus and thanks to the typhoon season it came true at Circo Americano, ”she said.
I started loving aerial arts as a kid, but we didn’t have gymnastics here. When I first saw this studio, I was following it.
Mawaddah Mahboob, Saudi lawyer
During the recent Taif festival season of activity, Al-Sahhaf performed in flying trapeze and air shows with the famous circus.
“I tried to join Circo Americano a year ago, but women were not allowed,” she added. “But when things changed, I took the opportunity to shine.”
In 2012, Al-Sahhaf learned the discipline of pole dance and other air movements in the Parisian studio Pole Spirit. Today she is a certified trainer at a number of leading US and European institutes.
Armed with her qualifications, she decided to introduce Jeddah to her passion for aerial arts. “I’ve had times when I couldn’t travel, so I wanted to practice here in my city. I decided to open a studio in my house and it worked. It started with family and friends of friends, and gradually gyms and studios called and asked me to give a class, ”she added.
Al-Sahhaf now offers workshops and classes in more than six gyms and studios across Jeddah, and also runs workshop tours of the Kingdom and other GCC countries.
Al-Sahhaf grew up in Paris and said she had always had a passion for gymnastics. “When I was in Paris a few years ago, I saw a pneumatic tire on a show and I loved it. My parents lived there, and if there was an opportunity to learn gymnastics or aerial silks, I signed up, ”she said.
Her studio in the Al-Khalidiyah district of Jeddah offers workshops and training programs for fitness trainers who want to teach aerial art.
In the future, Al-Sahhaf wants to build a Saudi community of pilots. “I would like to contact the Saudi General Entertainment Authority for further performances and shows from the studio team. I would love to work with gyms and studio owners across Saudi Arabia to include these types of arts and sports in their fitness plans, ”she added.
Al-Sahhaf said Aerial Yoga has many mental and physical health benefits and most people can participate.
Mawaddah Mahboob, a 23-year-old Saudi attorney who takes classes at Al-Sahhaf’s studio, told Arab News, “I started loving aerial art as a kid, but we didn’t have gymnastics here, so this is my first time to have this studio seen. I’ve been following it.
“It helped me a lot to adjust to my body more and to realize that you don’t have to be thin to be fit. It certainly brings positivity to your life, ”she added.
Samia Abushosha, Assistant Professor of Physics at King Abdul Aziz University, said, “I am 44 years old and it is a great achievement to do so at my age. I only started nine months ago and I can feel the positive vibe that it gives me in every class. “
Afnan Al-Zain is one of Al-Sahhaf’s coaching assistants and assistant professor in the Faculty of Dentistry at King Abdul Aziz University. She started aerial yoga in the USA in 2017. “For me, this is like my part-time job as it relaxes my mind, helps me reduce stress and encourages creativity so that my mind becomes clearer to give more in my career.”