BANKER. RISK TAKER. WAVE RIDER. YOGI.
Name: Omar Sultani
Yoga Practice Style: Vinyasa
What city/country are you reppin’? Dubai, UAE
What do most people think about your hometown/country? Camels, Ferraris, Skyscrapers and Beaches
What are the stereotypes? That everyone is rich in Dubai and that it’s dangerous in the Middle East
What are you most proud of about your country? How much the country has accomplished in the past 20 years. Its openness to different cultures and the societal safety. I have no issues with my wife walking alone at night or leaving my car unlocked with my wallet open on the passenger seat.
What is your story? Gosh I’ll try and keep this short. I was born in Libya. Moved to Beirut as a kid, but due to political instability in both countries my Dad moved us to London in the UK. I spent my childhood and teenage years in London. Graduated from an American School (ASL represent!) and went to college in Boston. I got my first job working as an analyst for a Bank. After that I moved to Japan and was a teacher for a few years. Moved back to the West Coast and made Portland Oregon my home before relocating back to the Middle East. I love traveling and learning new things. I’m a perpetual student of life.
How would you describe yourself? Enthusiastic - highly extroverted.
How would your mother describe you? She’d call me a pain in the Ass… no we’re cool I think she’d say I’m kind but with a selfish side
What did you want to be growing up? I didn’t have a specific profession in mind - I just wanted to be someone who could do a lot of things well. I also always loved teaching my friends things.
What do characteristic do you value most in others? Loyalty and Integrity. I’m a pretty gullible person and don’t spend too much time playing games. I like it when people are who they say they are.
When did you last cry? I was on a business trip in Doha, Qatar - getting ready for a meeting. The sun was out, I had a stellar view of the beach, had music playing and felt great! All of a sudden I felt something welling up inside of me… Rather than burry it I thought I’d embrace this feeling and let whatever it was go. Next thing I knew I was sobbing like a baby in this beautiful space with great music. I’m not sure what it was all about, but it was cathartic. It may have had something to do with a hip workshop that I’d attended the day before. Letting go of some old baggage maybe.
Is there anything you preach but don’t practice, or practice but don’t preach? I really aspire to practice what I preach - it doesn’t mean I’ll be successful 100% of the time but it’s something I think is important to do
We’ve all done a few things we’re not proud of, care to share one? Show us you’re not perfect. When I look back at the volumes of things that I’ve not been proud of , they all share one thing - when I’ve not been true to myself. When i’ve done something that didn’t hold true to my genuine self. Stories that you hold on to from your childhood that made you think you’re a terrible person really aren’t as dramatic or serious as you think.
Breakfast lunch or dinner? Breakfast … for dinner (Breakfast anytime really)
Favorite book? Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
Sport/activity to play? Board sports - snowboarding, wake boarding, kite boarding
Sport/activity to watch? Not too big on watching sports
Favourite place you’ve been too? Sapporo Japan
Favourite drink? Carrot, Orange Ginger juice
Favourite drink at the pub? Don Julio neet
Tea or Coffee? Tea
Boxers or briefs? Boxer briefs
Dad’s son or Momma’s boy? Grew up as Momma’s boy but have morphed into Dad’s son as I’ve gotten older
Heartbreaker or hopeless romantic? Hopeless Romantic
Favourite Song? 80’s ballads….
Favourite Movie? Memento
Best dance Move? The wiggle
What does a male yogi look like? In my mind a male yogi is someone who challenges conventional wisdom - the practice can make you physically and mentally strong and flexible.
What are the biggest stereotypes about guys who do yoga? There are a bunch but it depends on who’s thinking them - they can be positive or negative
What was the biggest challenge when you started the practice? My first class was a group class at my gym. The biggest challenge was feeling out of place, unsure of the posture names and a belief that I was too inflexible to practice yoga
Why do you keep coming back? The inner peace that comes from the moving mediation. The experience of letting go of tension. The presence that the practice brings. The incremental increases in flexibility and strength. All these keep me coming back
What was the biggest challenge when you started teaching? Candidly it was finding the time. Working full time in finance made it initially difficult to commit to a regular class. The thing is the time is there, you just have to commit to it. I’m so glad I did as it has really made a huge difference in my quality of life
What is your best advice for a guy who wants to try yoga for the first time? Just come to class. Leave any expectations of how flexible you “should” be or “I’ll become flexible and then come to yoga” the beauty of the practice is that it will bring flexibility. The more inflexible you are at the onset the better. You’ll really see the improvement after a few weeks.
Tell us a story when your Yoga practice came into play off the mat? My yoga practice started as a purely physical endeavor (I wanted strength and flexibility). I didn’t expect that the flexibility would manifest itself mentally. I learned to look at my yoga practice as a journey. I learned to care less about the final expression of a posture, and more about how I got into it. The journey. This has definitely come into play in my life off the mat. I now live my life enjoying the journey and not worrying to much about the end goal .
What challenges have you experienced being a guy who teaches yoga? Very little in challenges if you can believe it. It’s been outstanding. As a middle eastern male who works in finance you might expect some adverse reactions. To date they have all been positive
What does the next 5 years of yoga look like for you? If I’m lucky It’ll be gradual and challenging. I’ll push my preconceived notions of what I am physically able to do and I’ll surprise myself with further depth and flexibility.
Things seem to be changing, what does the future of yoga look like in the western world? If you asked me this when I started practicing 8 years ago I would’ve said yoga will grow and more people with begin to practice. Today I’m very concerned with functional movement and poor instruction. I worry that many of the poses from the ashtanga series create injury and are not functional. The future of yoga will likely morph with modern physiology and functional movement to create systems that are healthy for the body
Other than yoga, what else keeps you busy? My wife likes to say that I am always on the go. Living a present life means you always have time for things. I travel a bunch, hike, snowboard, play music, watch movies, learn new skills. My days are pretty much filled to the brim but I rarely feel stressed by all the activity.
In your own words, what is BOYS OF YOGA? It’s a community of guys who figured out that the practice of yoga can complement and improve your life. They’re not afraid of stereotypes or stigma. They’re just doing what feels right
And what does the project mean to you? The project is another avenue to overcome conventional wisdom and fear. Guys may want to try this but are not sure if it’s something they can do. The name itself hopefully helps more guys give it a try.
What does it mean in your city/country? At this stage it’s still new. I think we may have some old entrenched gender roles int he Middle East. However having said that you’d be surprised how many guys are starting to show up to yoga class
Why do you want to share your story? I think there are a lot of people out there who would identify with my story. Yoga has really helped me chill out, accept people and not take life so seriously. If it can do the same for others then sharing the story is worth it
What is your go to yoga pose? Love Childs pose. I don’t think I’ve ever practiced yoga and not gotten into it. Love how it feels on the hips. I like how it turns your attention inwards and allows you to ground yourself. It’s a beautiful way to close out the external stimuli and become present.
What pose do you f*cking hate? The poses I hate are the ones that I really enjoy doing (does that even make sense). I have very tight IT bands and TFL’s - so certain poses are excruciating…(Revolved half moon, revolved triangle) I struggle in them, but they are the ones that I really want to embrace and feel great when I’ve held for a few breaths. Nothing great comes easily.
Yoga is a system that can be as basic or advanced as you’d like to take it. It’s not just about the physical (asana) practice. Breath work combines with the poses to start opening up areas of your mind that you didn’t even know existed. It’s a philosophy and a way of life that begins with the corporeal and can grow to the metaphysical.
What is your favourite quote, or personal mantra?
Be like the ocean.
A falling stone doesn’t the trouble the ocean.
A mystic who’s offended is still a shallow puddle.
If you are slighted, the bear it with patience.
Through forgiveness your soul will be pure.
At some point you’ll be nothing but dust;
in humility become dust today
Interviewed: May, 2016
Photos by @michaeljameswong and property of BOYS OF YOGA LLC