What I tried I had a sneak preview of the "reformer" classes that will be offered at the Soma Pilates studio in Abu Dhabi from the end of February. It will become the first studio to offer such classes, although some fitness clubs do them. I didn't even know what a reformer was until I mentioned it to a friend who is mad about Pilates. Her whole face lit up. She couldn't have looked more chuffed if I'd told her George Clooney was on the phone asking to take her to Oman for the weekend. The reason is that apparently a reformer is the best way to get in shape, which is good news after indulging over the holiday season. Even better than George Clooney.
What I found The class consisted of two teachers and me. When it is up and running, there will be a maximum of five students on five reformer machines. When I was introduced to the machine, it reminded me more of a torture instrument, all straps and metal. But my teachers, Nadia Sehweil and Karoline Solem, assured me I was in safe hands. Pilates is one of those things I have always thought I should do, but never got around to, but looking at the two of them I understood what the fuss was about. Nadia is almost seven months pregnant but in better shape than most women I meet. They're both toned, with defined muscles - not a bingo wing in sight, except for mine. The two talked me through a series of exercises starting with a warm-up where I was introduced to the neutral pelvis - the buzzword in Pilates. Once you have worked out how to get your pelvis into neutral you can achieve almost anything, including a flat stomach - which, of course, is what we all want, without giving up full-fat lattes. Then we moved on to leg and arm exercises, all of them isolating particular muscles, many I had never felt before. Nadia, who is Palestinian but has lived in Abu Dhabi all her life, corrected my posture, breathing and neutral pelvis throughout. I think after an hour I finally got the hang of it.
The verdict Pilates was a revelation. The movements are tiny and controlled but incredibly effective. After just five bicep curls my arms were aching. And this whole "core" thing makes such sense to me now. The reason I don't have a flat stomach is because I don't use my stomach muscles (or core muscles) as much as I should. We all rely on other muscles to lift and pull when we should be engaging our core, thus protecting our back and strengthening from the inside. All that has changed now. I, too, am in love with the reformer. Sorry, George.
Helena Frith Powell
SOMA Pilates Studio, Abu Dhabi, 02 667 6579, www.soma.ae. Group Reformer classes start at the end of February and cost between Dh90 and Dh100 per person, per hour.
There's still plenty of time to enter the 2010 M magazine and Kitab short story competition which we announced last weekend. The story must be entitled "Moving Messages" but can be on any theme or subject and be 2,000 words or less, written in English. The closing date is midday on Friday, February 19. The winner will have their short story published in the magazine and win a Toshiba laptop courtesy of Kitab, the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair. The runner-up will also have their story published and win Dh1,000 worth of book tokens supplied by Jashanmal Bookstores. E-mail entries to firstname.lastname@example.org or post entries with your name, address and mobile number clearly marked to: Helena Frith Powell, M magazine, The National, Abu Dhabi Media Company, PO Box 111434, Abu Dhabi. Or deliver to Abu Dhabi Media Company on 15th street, marked clearly for the attention of Helena Frith Powell, M magazine, The National, and call 02 414 5319.*
Nadia El Dasher combs the honey shops of Abu Dhabi and finds there's more in those jars than you think
Sidir This light-coloured honey, sourced in Yemen, Oman, the UAE and Pakistan (in descending order of nutritional value) has a high vitamin content and is used to treat ailments such as stomach ulcers, colon diseases and digestive problems. It's also been used in the treatment of kidney infections and even cancer. Abdul Aziz Bamadhaf, at Bees Kingdom on Zayed the First Street, recommends dissolving one tablespoon in water and drinking the mixture three times a day for 40 days. You can also buy special blends of sidir honey, including one mixed with royal jelly and ginseng that's said to increase fertility, and another containing bee propolis, which supports the immune system.
From Dh150/kg at Shaiba Honey & Dates Co, Al Sidr Natural Honey.
Samar Darker and with fewer vitamins than sidir, this honey contains enzymes that allow the body to absorb it quickly, and can boost the body's energy levels. Yemeni, Omani and Emirati versions are available. Dh150/kg at Shaiba Honey & Dates Co, Al Sidr Natural Honey and Bees Kingdom.
Manuka New Zealand is the exclusive home of this super honey, which has great antibacterial and antiviral properties in the varieties that have a Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) of 10 or more. It can be taken internally, or applied directly to a wound, where it forms a thick barrier that destroys bacteria, allowing rapid healing. As such, it has been successfully trialled in the treatment of eczema and other skin conditions.
From around Dh75 (for UMF10+) at Eat Smart and Nutrition Zone.
SHOP LOCATIONS Al Sidr Natural Honey, behind Siddiq Gifts near Al Mariah Cinema, Hamdan Street, 02 677 3223 Bees Kingdom, Zayed the First Street, 02 666 8988 Eat Smart, Fotouh Al Khair Mall (Marks & Spencer building), 02 634 6657 Shaiba Honey & Dates Co, Behind Al Muhairy Centre, Zayed the First Street 02 6333 623 Nutrition Zone, Marina Mall, 02 681 7463