Embracing the Heat
By: Evan Upchurch
Upon the arrival of summer, the full force of AlUla’s ancient desert reminds us of the importance to endure. Our bodies and minds are put to the test with the unabashed sun and rising temperatures. It is a season that teaches us to embrace the elements and adapt in ways that we can connect to our inner strength. This shift in perspective and routine is a lesson in well-being, reminding us of our ability to be flexible in all types of situations.
Between the months of July and September 2022, our Home in AlUla hosted a calendar of three-day wellness workshops specially created to embrace the season’s dry heat. Led by visiting wellness practitioners, the experiences focused on the natural elements and high temperatures as a way to build endurance and reconnect with the self in the region’s otherworldly landscape.
From July 27th to August 28th, Asta Barry was one of our visiting practitioners, spending one month at our Home teaching yoga. Originally from France but an explorer at heart, Asta left a tech career in London to pursue a life of meaning and purpose in 2017, deciding to spend time deepening her yoga practice in India over several years. Today, Asta has reframed her life. As a yoga teacher, she shares her passion for her practice with international students while committing to a path of clarity, balance, and overall well-being in her day-to-day. Based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, she is a wellness consultant and teaches a unique style of vinyasa yoga that uses creative and dynamic sequencing.
No stranger to our Habitas family, Asta was one of the first to kick off our wellness journey upon opening our Home in AlUla in 2021. It was only natural to seek her out as a visiting practitioner when putting together our summer workshops. She tells us, “I believe that Habitas AlUla is a place for wellness, a space where people can come together to create and share. In conversation with the guests, I noticed that the environment encourages them to be vulnerable and authentic. AlUla is such a raw place that I feel that everyone can be nothing but raw.”
Ideal for adventurers focused on well-being, our unique summer programs provided specialty activities designed to test and evolve the body and mindset, ranging from power yoga to HIIT fitness training. Each weekend itinerary also invited participants to visit Manal AlDowayan’s trampoline installation “Now You See Me, Now You Don’t,” take a sunrise canyon trail hike across the monolithic sandstone rocks and relax into an evening of stargazing accompanied by a powerful sound healing session.
For four consecutive weekends, Asta focused on hot yoga, Ashtanga yoga, and inversion workshops. The common threads throughout the activities were building resilience and learning to trust oneself. Asta says, “Many practices were difficult, especially given the heat, but people surprised themselves with these challenges. After the weekend workshops, I saw faces change completely, and everyone was already speaking about coming back.”
In contrast to the rest of the year, summer is considered AlUla’s low season. However, this year the heat took a backseat to the transformative power of AlUla. Asta shares, “If you want to go to AlUla with a special intention and without distraction, summer is a great time for that. Sure, it’s hot, but we could still comfortably do sessions outside in the morning and evening while hiding away at midday. Even then, I saw so many people at the pool enjoying being outside, and to escape the heat, you can have massages or healing sessions at Thuraya wellness center.”
Fueled by authentic moments of human connection, a sense of community prevailed among guests and teachers, thus creating an environment apt for growth and vulnerability. Asta explains, “Everyone came to Habitas AlUla for their own reasons, and many guests were very open about why. Outside the wellness workshops, I could spend time with all the participants during hikes, meals, and other special moments, like stargazing. At Habitas, I appreciate that everyone feels like a family and has something to share and teach.”
When it comes to wellness, we are all impulsed by a set of intentions unique to our life story. No matter the reason, there is beauty in embarking on a journey of transformation. By dedicating cherished time and effort to our physical, mental, and emotional well-being, we create space for change in ourselves that will flow into our communities and the world as a whole. This summer in AlUla, our wellness workshops served as a prime example of how we can choose connection even in the most unexpected situations.