Hanging Out with Noura El-Imam

hanging out with Noura El-Imam

In a bid to bring you some serious climbing ‘zen’, girlcrushrock recently spent time hanging out with the super-cool Noura El-Imam, a Yoga & Pilates teacher, a rock climbing adventurist, outdoor enthusiast, a food fanatic, a travel-addict and entrepreneur at heart.

WHOOSH – how does she fit all of that in???

In between various seemingly impossible poses and balances, here’s what she had to say…

Q.  We’ve heard of Yoga, and we’ve heard of Pilates, but ‘Yogalates’ is new – please explain?

Yogalates is a type of class that combines yoga and Pilates and focuses on strengthening the core muscles (abdominals and back) while offering the flexibility benefits of yoga. The fusion allows you to retain the benefits of yoga and improve overall endurance and posture with added core strengthening moves which usually is a strong factor and weakness to those who sit behind the desk or car all day. These people will enjoy the yoga fusion of yoga and pilates because they can work on other parts of their body as well as the core to build stamina, endurance and strong middle section while aiding in flexibility and vitality of the spine for an all-over balanced workout. Yogalates is a great option for people who enjoy both yoga and Pilates but don’t have the time to take both classes a week.

Q. Tell us about your involvement with rock climbing?

I first started off climbing at The World Trade Center wall in Dubai, and fell in love with the mental power needed to keep going to the ‘top’ while feeling stronger with every climb. After a couple of sessions at the wall, I checked out Snake Canyon in Muscat for an 8hr traverse and via ferrata before heading to the base of the canyon for some ‘canyoning’ action. Loved it even more. I now climb with Dominic of The Vertical Tourist occasionally during the weekends in Ras Al Khaimah and Hatta.

Q. What has been your most memorable experience to date ‘crushing rock?’ 

Ironically and on a lighter note, the most memorable moment was during a team building day out introducing local women to climb up a short wall. For local women of the UAE, that was definitely stepping out of their comfort zone and the look of liberation on their faces was enough to give me a high, even though we were training out in the desert in 45 + degrees! And on a personal experience, heading out to Muscat for Via Ferrata action and traversing for 8 hours felt like an eternity but very liberating. Every step was an adventure, every climb was different and the via ferratas as well as the very last surprise slack line, gave me a massive adrenaline buzz. I just kept going and pushing through every time my mind said  ‘no’ , I challenged myself to keep going. And it all seemed like a piece of cake at the end of the ‘finish line’!

Q. Climbing is a sport that challenges people both mentally and physically.  How can Yoga/Pilates or Yogalates help improve climbing performance?

I host my classes outdoors and stick with the concept to offer my clients a break away from stuffy AC’s in cars and offices. The fact that they stare at a sunset or stars , the ocean or pool , birds or clouds, calms their nervous system down and releases tension across the body as well as the mind. Just being outdoors offers a huge positive impact on my clients and is a great practice for climbers when they clear their mind during a climb.Yogalates focuses on building innovative core-strengthening work and isometric yoga poses to engage rather than relax the muscles, for endurance and stamina. Balance poses are also added in halfway through the session which is a great practice for climbers to maintain tiny holds with the feet while reaching the arms for a new hold.

Towards the end of the session, flexibility and cool down are perfect for the upper body which is used a lot in climbing. One pose such as the eagle arms, is a great way to release tightness across the shoulder blades. I implement a lot of hip openers to release any last tension built into the lower back. I then wrap up with a short and sweet relaxation (svasana) as they lay on their back watching the stars above them and letting gravity weigh them down and destress.

Q. In your classes, would you say the majority of your customers were men or women?

I would say 70% female and 30% male.

Q. And why do you think that is?

Yoga is still seen as a ‘female activity’ and I hope one day that changes. I have fantastic male clients though ranging from skydivers to cyclists, runners to your everyday Joe!

Q. You look in super-fit shape for rock climbing.  Tell us what you eat!

Thank you! I definitely watch what I eat, but eat what I crave too. So I’m not super strict on what goes in my mouth but I wouldn’t touch fried foods. For breakfast, I love to peel two kiwis (my obsession!) and papaya with a small toast of sharp vintage hard cheese. Protein is always a great option for lunch/dinner over a carb-loaded dish, although a thin-crust pizza is one of my weakness as long as it doesn’t come out shining in oil!

Q. How do you recommend people get started with Yoga/Pilates/Yogalates to improve their climbing?

One good place to start is to join into a yoga and pilates session on the same day or, a Yogalates session if they have one nearby. If based in Dubai, they can hop onto my sessions and find out more by visiting my website: www.yogalatesblissindubai.com

Q. Where’s your next planned rock climbing adventure? 

Aiming for a 350 meter all-day climb in Ras Al Khaimah soon with friends! Colorado has been sitting in the back of my head for a while now as well…..

Noura is a Yoga & Pilates teacher, outdoor enthusiast, a food fanatic, a rock climbing adventurist, a travel-addict and an entrepreneur at heart, constantly dreaming, visualizing and planning! After a solid career in Marketing & Business Administration, she started up Yogalates Bliss in Dubai to empower corporates to break out of the concrete jungle and those who are stuck in the 24/7 work week trap to join in on healthy outdoor Yogalates sessions at Fraser Suites tower in Media City. She also hosts diverse and dynamic Yoga Teacher Trainings and Workshops several times in the year offering clients the opportunity to become certified in Yoga and make a turn-over in their career path, as well as Adventure & Yoga Retreats to international destinations taking clients away from their usual routine and into a complete new healthy surrounding.


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