‘Many of the people today associate Yoga only as a physical form of the exercise (asana) or they believe it is only the physical benefits that they reap; this is just the tip of the iceberg. The whole yoga tradition through the combinations of yoga postures, meditation, science and philosophy all provide powerful guidance in unlocking the potentials of our body, mind and spirit to help us live happier, richer lives’.

Like in most beautifully written entrepreneurial stories with unexpected and admirable twists, Payal Khanwani left her Biomedical Corporate career in Europe to return to her hometown of Dubai and make her yoga passion a business reality. To realize this passion, her first port of call was the Impact Hub Dubai where she claims her HQ. Here, she will be running specially designed yoga workshops that help participants relieve stress and think with more clarity. Applying her science background to her teaching, Payal is paving the way for more holistic involvement with yoga, one that is not just a physical practice but is a way of living life that we can all use to realize our ultimate aspirations. Payal took time out from her busy schedule of teaching, practicing yoga, and building a business to discuss what yoga exactly is, the science behind how yoga relieves stress, and how Dubai is embracing the yoga movement.


1.     What are the yoga workshops you are running with ‘Create Congress’ at the Impact Hub and what inspired them?

The classes I will be running at Impact Hub Dubai are called ‘Hatha Prana Yoga’ and ‘Yoga Nidra’. ‘Hatha Prana Yoga’ is a combination of postures (asanas) and pranayama (breathing techniques), which are the starting point of reaping the all benefits of Yoga.

Despite all that you may have heard from some motivational speakers, only one out of every five persons achieve the things we set out to achieve. ‘Yoga Nidra’ is a deep relation technique that helps us to access a state of deep rest (delta waves) in our brain, which gives us the potential of reducing the unconscious resistance that often stands in the way of us fulfilling our intentions.

I think Impact Hub Dubai is a place where we all are working towards achieving our deepest desires and intentions, so it all goes hand in hand. We can learn to carry the lessons on the mat and off the mat!

2.     How did your yoga journey begin?

I started off with Yoga 8 years ago in Bangalore without an awareness of how widespread it was in the world outside India. As a teenager, I didn’t think a lot about why I loved it or what it brought to my life in particular. I kept coming back to it over and again. But now I know the depth at which the physical practice was working. I’m personally drawn to the philosophy and science behind it. And I feel the journey has just started.

Academically, I focused my engineering Bachelor research thesis and publication on the effects of alpha meditation on our brain. As I moved to Germany for my Masters, I was already learning the physical, mental, and spiritual aspects of Yoga. The day I finished my Masters in Germany, I took a flight to India and went for my intensive 200 hours certified yoga training.

3.     How is practicing yoga different from teaching it? As a yoga teacher, do you find it enhances your yoga practice? What do you do to keep your yoga practice going?

Teaching gives me the satisfaction of sharing my passion and knowledge of Yoga given to me by my teachers. It is rewarding because it is a human- to-human connection. And I believe every individual is unique, and hence not every teacher may be suitable for every student.

I cannot stress enough that it’s important to practice. If you are looking to get the benefits of mind, body, and spiritual health, then we need to practice. Practice is everything. My practice is what keeps me centered and connected to my best version of self. As a practitioner of Yoga, it has helped me each day to learn from life, embrace change, and never give up!

As we speak, I’m heading to India just to retreat for a few days and get back to my mat.

4.     The benefits of yoga have to be felt, not told. In your own personal and professional experience what do you think are the benefits of yoga and what small changes can people make to their daily lives to feel the benefits of yoga?

Yes, the benefits of yoga have to be felt. Most people start doing yoga for physical benefits and slowly start to realize how it uplifts their mindset and general sense of being. You always walk out of class feeling better than when you walked in. Why? Because it works! One of the many reasons ‘asana’ and right breathing leaves you feeling good is because it works on the parasympathetic system, which is responsible for counteracting our stressful and fast-paced lives.

The benefits of asana are endless. It improves the quality of our lives. It has several health benefits since we work on physical musculature, internal organs, and right breathing practices. It works on subtle energetic levels, which enhance our state of mind, balance our emotions, and create focus and overall balance in our lives. Today, Yoga therapy is practiced for medicinal purposes for practically all kinds of health issues.

The small habits that I would recommend for anyone apart from a physical asana practice is to be mindful about your breathing patterns and eating habits. These are keys to feeling good and keeping your body and mind healthy.

5.     If people come to your class and love it, what do you suggest they do to keep up the practice? Are there books they can read or further workshops/ classes they can attend?

Practice. No matter where you are and how little time you have, something is better than nothing. A five minute meditation or a 2 minute shoulder stand can make a difference. There are several books you can read to enhance your knowledge. I am a Yoga books junkie so my list is endless but for some one just starting off with yoga here is a list of few:

1) Light on Yoga by BKS Iyengar

2) The Heart of Yoga: Developing A Personal Practice by T.K.V Desikachar

2) Living Your Yoga: Finding the Spiritual in Everyday Life  by Judith Lasaster

3) Yoga Mind Body and Spirit by Donna Farhi

There are several online resources as well for the interested, and many workshops around town. However, to be sure you’re practicing yoga safely and effectively, I would recommend to always start with a good teacher whom you connect with.

6.     How do you think Dubai is embracing yoga?

The yoga community is Dubai is growing and I do see a lot of people embracing yoga now, which is really positive. However there is a big gap and a lot of misconceptions about what yoga really is. There is still a need for more awareness about the potential of this practice. You have the extremes of those who consider it as a religion, to those who think it’s merely a form of physical exercise. I think a right combination of the Western and the Eastern perspective on Yoga together is needed in a language that can resonate to the over 200 nationalities in Dubai.

Join Payal for ‘Candle Light Hatha Yoga & Yoga Nidra’ on Thursday 11th December 2014 at 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm and  ‘Hatha Prana Yoga’ on the Sunday 7th December 2014 at 10.30am – 11.30am and  Wednesday 3rd December 2014 at 4:30 – 5.30 pm at the Impact Hub Dubai. To book your session contact Payal at info@payalkhanwani.com.


Guest blogger, Mia Jafari is a British/Iranian fashion print designer www.miajafari.com