yogalife – july 2013 – giving 100 percent

Nathalie Hodgson catches up with Asma Hilal Lootah, owner of The Hundred, Dubai’s first Pilates studio owned by a female UAE national

At what point did you know you wanted to open a studio?

I returned to the UAE in 2000 as a fresh graduate from the United States. I came home confused about my next step. I dreamed of starting my own business, however I did not yet have a clear idea about the type of business I wanted to start. I was working at Etisalat to gain experience, but also keeping an eye out for opportunities and ideas for a new business.

Being a sports enthusiast, I tried different sports, from aerobics to scuba diving, all of which I enjoyed. In 2002 I tried what was back then a strange-sounding system of exercises called ‘Pilates’. For two years, I practised Pilates devotedly and the results I got were unprecedented. I realised that Pilates was what I was looking for. Besides becoming physically fit, I developed better posture and became more mentally focused than ever before.

Sadly, the studio where I practiced shut down and all the places I found at that time either had male instructors or mixed [female and male] classes. Even the ladies-only classes did not respect the local or Muslim women’s privacy since the facilities were open to onlookers.

That was when the idea of starting my own Pilates studio sparked. I wanted women to enjoy Pilates in a comfortable environment where their privacy is respected.

 What is the story behind the name?

The name comes from the most basic Pilates exercises, The Hundred, which I learned from my first teacher. This evokes wonderful memories of my original Pilates group and my path to friendship in this circle.

 What has been your greatest challenge to date?

There have not been any major challenges, but every day brings its own challenges. I believe in keeping a positive outlook in tackling them. Life will always throw you a curve ball now and then and you need to keep hitting it back.

What do you love the most about Pilates?

Pilates changed my life for the better. It made me physically and mentally stronger and happier.

The Hundred is currently ranked 45 on the list of Dubai’s top 100 small and medium enterprises. In 2012 Asma won an Emirates Woman of the Year Award in the achievers category. In March 2013 The Hundred was named the best health and fitness facility in the UAE by the sports industry awards. Now Asma is pursuing her teacher training Pilates Center in Boulder, Colorado.

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