When it comes to health and fitness, we’re of the “we’ll try anything once” school of thought. Zumba, SoulCycle, barre, altitude spinning, HIIT, and skateboarding pilates are examples of the lengths we’ll go through to find something new and exciting to incorporate into our daily fitness routines. Okay, maybe not skateboarding pilates – that just sounds dangerous. However, there is an emerging fitness trend called qoya that aims to synthesize the mind and the body in a way that promotes mental and physical health. When we first heard about the mind-body connection, our first thought was, “Where do we sign up?”
Qoya was founded by Rochelle Schieck and is a female-only fitness and health movement with a rather powerful motto: movement is medicine. As the Quechan word for “queen”, qoya draws upon the traditions of yoga and interpretative, creative dance. In a nutshell, it urges women to “learn to enjoy and revel in their feminine bodies” through movement. The best part is that qoya is easy for women of all shapes, sizes, and levels of ability. It’s totally inclusive, and virtually impossible to do incorrectly. Furthermore, qoya offers self-love at a whole new level.
If qoya sounds a little vague, that’s because there isn’t an exact set of rules for participation, except maybe “dance like nobody’s watching”. It asks you to abandon yourself to joy, to dance wildly and freely, to embrace your sensual side. It also acknowledges that these things can look different for every individual. And yes, you will sweat and burn calories, but you won’t feel drained or worn down like you would after a more traditional workout.
At a qoya class, you might be shaking your booty to a Beyoncé song, while another woman may interpret the beat creatively with ballet movements. Some classes are led by instructors who demonstrate specific movements, while others are less constructive and more receptive to an “anything goes” mentality. Surrounded by a community of women freely expressing themselves through movement is quite a beautiful thing to witness, but it is even more beautiful to participate in.
In the above TED Talk, Schieck argues that the process is transformational because it treats the body as sacred and then connects you back to your own sacred essence. She also refuses to hide that feminism and a belief in the equality and majesty of women is at the core of qoya.
So what does a qoya class look like? It begins with an instructor who will walk you through breathing and relaxation exercises, much the same as you would find at yoga. After a heart ceremony and a few rounds of sun salutations, there is a “Shadow Dance” that “honors the challenges in our lives and dances with them rather than pretending that they are not there”.
Following that are choreographed dance moves, a segment of free dance, and then a session of community connection during which you engage with your classmates. Qoya is essentially yoga, meditation, group therapy, expressive dance routines, and interpretative dance all rolled into one holistic hour of self-exploration and self-love. For those suffering from low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, self-doubt, and any number of modern mental ailments, qoya could be the missing link that connects you back to yourself and guides you towards self-nourishment.
If it sounds a little New Age-y, that’s because it is, but qoya’s spiritual component is perhaps its biggest draw. Participants report a tremendous increase in self-esteem, healthier thinking, increased physical flexibility, and feelings of overall joy and euphoria. Furthermore, it can be combined with any kind of daily physical practice, from CrossFit to crunches. If you are interested in trying qoya, Moon Yoga offers classes at Soul Art Center in Downtown Dubai. Classes are also available at The Third Eye Dubai.