FITNESS: Movers and Shakers

Juthoor al Haya is more than just a dance fitness studio. It is a space where women get to connect with the roots of life, says co-founder Asya al Lamki

Asya al Lamki is a woman on a mission. Being the first Omani woman to become an active certified Zumba trainer, Asya has been in the forefront of popularising the dance fitness routine in Muscat. As a health professional working for the Ministry of Health, Asya also found ways to contribute to those ailing with diseases through the medium of her passion by organising two Zumbathons in 2015, for diabetes charity, and 2016, for Oman Cancer Association. With her passion towards dance and women's health, Asya has now entered a new phase in her career as a fitness trainer. She is now the proud co-owner of a dance fitness studio, Juthoor Al haya – Roots of Life – the first of its kind in Muscat.

“Since the time I started giving Zumba classes, I had this dream of starting my own studio one day, where women of all ages and ethnicities can come together to celebrate life. Juthoor al Haya is the fruit of that dream,” says Asya.

The road to starting the new venture wasn't easy. Asya had a full time job and family commitments too. So she wouldn't have been abel to handle the responsibilities of a centre all alone. She needed a partner and found the perfect one in Natalia Costa. Natalia, a Zumba fitness instructor herself and Asya's partner in hosting the Zumbathons, was the person who gave her the backing she required to make the move.

“Natalia and I have a great camaraderie. Though I was cherishing the dream of starting my own space, I was still hesitant because I had a full time job. But one day Natalia approached me and asked if I would be interested in starting a dance studio. It was serendipitous. I couldn't have asked for a better partner than Natalia as we wanted to bring our passion and love for dance and fitness under one umbrella.”

The duo worked hard on developing a business plan and completing company registration formalities. They are equal partners with Natalia handling duties of the managing director and sharing different fitness classes with Asya.

Juthoor al Haya offers a variety of classes for woman and children. It includes Afro-Jazz, Bollywood, African dance, Latin line, Contemporary, Salsation fitness, Belly dance, Zumba fitness, Strong by Zumba, Zumba kids, Ballet, Hip Hop and women in motion – a low intensity dance routine for the elderly. The centre is open six days a week from 8.30-12.30 and 3pm-8pm and on Saturday 9am-1pm. Children from the age of four – both boys and girls – can join. Girls from 16 and above can join adult classes. There are walk in classes and different types of bundles.

Step by step

Though the plan was in motion, Asya and Natalia were struggling to find a suitable location which was at the centre of the city and affordable too. And it was by pure chance that they found the space in Azaiba Gardens building near the new NBO headquarters.

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NATALIA COSTA , Partner, Juthoor al Haya fitness studio

Asya says, “It was by chance that both me and my business partner found this place. I drove past this building one day and noticed it, but didn't make any enquiries. Later Natalia too saw this place and she mentioned about it. I thought it was a sign and we approached the owners who were more than happy to offer us this space, that too on the ground floor.”

The women put in their own money in setting up the place. They invested mainly on a proper dance floor, the only one of its kind in Oman, according to the partners. Natalia says, “After getting the company registration done, we focused on designing and developing the place. It's a small cosy space with a reception, waiting hall, changing rooms, shower facility and the dance studio with a proper dance floor that nobody has in Oman. As we are the only exclusive dance fitness studio in Oman we wanted it to be proper in every way. That's why we invested in a proper wooden dance floor, which was imported.”

Juthoor had its soft opening couple of months back and it has attracted quite a good patronage without much publicity. Asya's and Natalia's reputation as professional  Zumba trainers helped a lot here. Asya says, “We focused on social media marketing and word of mouth publicity and we are pleasantly surprised by the response.”

The classes are handled by Asya, Natalia and other professional trainers. Some of Asya's students, whom she had trained at Champs in Al Khuwayr, have become Zumba trainers on their own right. And when she opened Juthoor, they volunteered to become trainers here

Asya says, “We offer classes that no one else does in Oman.  To name a few styles, Salsation fitness, Afro Jazz and Contemporary dance. A very few places offer Strong by Zumba. I am also a pound fitness instructor. I trained in Mumbai. It is high intensity training programme. I will be offering this class from the beginning of next year.“

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Salsation fitness  

As a passionate dancer, Asya was never one to settle for what she had achieved. She always made it a point to update her skills in Zumba and have been attending training sessions regularly. Now she has found a new passion – Salsation fitness, a fun and addictive dance fitness programme based on functional training with a very strong focus on musicality and lyrical expression. It all started after she attended a training session in Dubai.

She says, “Early 2016, I attended a Salsation master class and a workshop in Dubai and I fell in love with it instantly, like the way I did with Zumba. After coming back, I watched more videos of Salsation on YouTube and I was waiting to do a full course. After a long search I found about a training in Malaysia October 2016 and I went for it. I got trained by the Salsation founder himself Alejandra Angulo. I was with Champs that time and when I introduced it to my students, they went crazy. I have since been teaching this programme.”

“As of now I am the only one offering Salsation fitness in Oman and I want to popularise it. I travel abroad to attend master classes, workshops and Salsation Blasts to learn further from the founder himself and the Salastion Master Trainers. I’m further progressing myself, by getting coaching by a Salsation Master trainer. I would like to host Salsation training courses in Oman ”

One with the rhythm

In a short span, Juthoor Al Haya  has attracted quite a good response and the founders are elated by the patronage. Asya says, “Dancing is like therapy and Juthoor is more than just a dance fitness studio for our students. One of the women who attends our classes said, 'For the one hour that I am here, I forget, my work, my husband, my kids. It is just about me. It feels like connecting to the roots of life.'

“These words are our greatest reward.”

The partners also understand the fact that this is a business and so they have a practical roadmap for the venture. Natalia says, “We understand that it is a new venture and are not looking to make profits immediately. Quality is our primary concern. According to our business plan, we would be making profits after a year.

But with the kind of patronage that we are getting now, we think we will break even well within a year.”

Asya agrees, “We want to be known as a quality dance fitness centre. Not the cheapest. It doesn't matter if there are only three people in my classes. I will give them the same quality training as if I am teaching a group of 30.” 

The centre has online booking facilities and they are in the process of developing an app that will have payment windows too. With a focused approach to quality, the partners have a vision for Juthoor.

Asya says, “ We have plans for to open more centres in Muscat and later expand to different parts of the sultanate and have more diverse instructors. Inshallah, we even look towards opening centres in the GCC region too.” 

FITNESS: Movers and Shakers
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