We know that you’re probably anticipating the full scoop on renowned artist Shurooq Amin’s latest body of work, and you’re not entirely wrong to do so. In this feature, however, we explore a different side to the artist that surely complements her powerful soul: Pilates.
For Shurooq, fitness has always been an important part of the artist’s life. “Throughout my whole life in general I did most activities you can think of: horse-riding, scuba-diving, roller-skating (which became roller-blading later), skateboarding, bicycling, swimming, as well as every fitness trend that came about over the years.” She begins. “I’ve always been physically active: as a child and teenager, I studied classical ballet and contemporary dance for 12 years. Then as an adult, I studied Salsa and Latino dancing.” Despite a penchant for chocolate (because, who could say no to chocolate?), Shurooq Amin is constantly seeking balance, whether it be with her personal life, her diet, fitness, or work.
With ten years of practicing Pilates under her belt and a PMA (Pilates Method Alliance) degree, Shurooq decided to spread the message to help others find that sometimes elusive sense of balance. We speak more to Shurooq, the Pilates instructor, in this feature interview.
What is your daily fitness routine?
Pilates. Pilates. Pilates. I do my training daily: an hour of advanced Mat Pilates (which is Pilates without any machines), then some days mix it up with other forms of strength and flexibility movements, like yoga, free style dance, small weights, etc. You have to mix it up so the muscle doesn’t get lazy by getting accustomed to only one move.
How did you get into Pilates?
It was only after I had my fourth child that I began to feel my body really giving up on me: my spine hurt constantly, my stomach was flabby no matter how many crunches I did (at one point I was doing 200 crunches a day and I STILL had a big stomach), and I was usually tired, weak, and self-conscious in my own skin. I read everything I could on health and fitness, and decided to try Pilates (I had read that Madonna swore by it and that was good enough for me!). I tried a couple of classes in Kuwait at the time, but honestly they were not great, so I decided to do it on my own. After 10 years of practicing on my own (by reading everything I can find on Pilates both online and in books) and after seeing the transformation in my body and spine strength, I decided I wanted to take it to the next level and become a professional so I can help other people with this “magical” method. I did my research and enrolled in one of the best Pilates academies in Dubai (affiliated with a New York academy) and got my degree as a PMA (Pilates Method Alliance) certified Pilates Instructor.
What does the practice mean to you?
It means my life! Just like my art (which is a part of my daily life and identity and flows from my soul), Pilates is also now part of my daily life and identity, and flows from my body. For ultimate happiness, you need a balance of mind and spirit and body, right? So I have found the perfect balance on a daily basis: I wake up and drop my daughter to school, then I come home and have my almond milk tea and eggs, then I head straight into my studio where I do my daily Pilates training, then I take a coffee break, followed by a few hours of painting and working in the studio. On most days I have new clients to train, either in the morning or the evening, so I take that into allowance as well.
What do you enjoy the most about teaching/Instructing? Do you feel that you also learn from this experience?
Absolutely! I love teaching Pilates because I am sharing a “secret”, and helping people heal, get stronger, leaner, and healthier. Pilates strengthens your muscles by lengthening them as well, and it is for both men and women, young and old. It was actually created by a man named Joseph Pilates during his imprisonment in World War 1, and he helped the other inmates survive by teaching them some moves that he called “Contrology” at the time, because every move is done with precision, efficiency, and control. You can remain fit well into your 80s with Pilates. And believe me, my male clients can vouch that it is not easy at all!
Your fans perceive you as not only an artist, but also as a force of positive change. Are you looking to combine art with your Pilates instruction? Or are you thinking of keeping the two separate from one another?
No, they are two completely separate careers for me. I am aware that some people would be skeptical and wonder “Who does she think she is? Is she an artist or is she a Pilates instructor?”. That’s just human nature, and I have dealt with skepticism before. It is in people’s nature to pigeonhole you in a small box and label you, so they think they can understand you then. But when you live outside of the box, they get frustrated with you because 1) they cannot label you, and 2) you are not fitting their stereotypes. I am used to dealing with this: journalists used to ask me “So do you see yourself as an artist or as a poet?”, and I always found that narrow-minded. Nobody asks Jennifer Lopez if she is a dancer, or an actress, or an entrepreneur, or a mother. She is all of those things. Same with Madonna: singer, actress, businesswoman, mother, etc. Angelina Jolie is an actress, activist, public speaker, mother, etc. Strong independent women with vision are always under attack and skepticism regarding branching out into different fields. These women are my role models and I aspire to achieve in my lifetime multiple successes.
For Kuwait, I break all stereotypes of what an Arab Muslim single mother should be: I am a mother of four but follow my (big) dreams nevertheless; I was a University professor but have tattoos all over my body, I am an artist that tackles taboo topics, I am a published writer/poet but am an Anglophone, I turned 50 this year but I live as if I am 21 and thanks to a healthy lifestyle and Pilates, my body can attest to that, and I also live transparently, without that “mask” that I always depict in my paintings. So of course people don’t “get it”. I do hope, however, that with my new Pilates practice I can inspire people and show them that you are only as old as your body and spirit: I have a teenage spirit (thanks to my father) and a strong youthful body, thanks to Pilates. 50 is the new 30. I am living proof of that.
Tell us about your classes.
I give private one on one classes (or private groups of 2 to 3) either in my studio, or in the client’s home, depending on whichever option is more convenient for the client. I start with asking the client some questions, then doing a Posture analysis, then customizing a Pilates mat program for that client based on their own individual needs and level. I’ve had clients with extreme back pain and I’ve accommodated for that, and some with fractured bones and injuries, and I’ve accommodated a program for them too. Anyone can do Pilates with me, whether they have never done it before in their life, or whether they are at advanced level. They should feel the difference after just one session, then see the difference after 12 sessions.
What’s next for Shurooq, the Pilates instructor?
I would like to establish a loyal client base this year, to really prove myself as a caring professional instructor and to see my clients transform. Once I feel I’ve achieved that, whether that takes a year or three years, I would like to eventually open my own Pilates studio, where I continue my practice of unique customized programs for clients based on their individual needs. In addition to Mat Pilates, I will be offering Reformer, Cadillac, Chair, Barrel, Silk suspension, MOTR, and even Pole workout and Dance. I am going to be continually learning and taking courses and getting my certification and license in all of these areas. For now, regarding my one on one classes I am just focused on Mat Pilates and infusing it with all the Anatomy knowledge that I’ve gained from my training at the Pilates Academy Dubai. Our teacher trainer Chloe was incredibly meticulous: each one of our muscles had to be immaculately positioned before we did any move, our posture had to be perfect. She paid attention to every tiny detail and taught us to do the same. I owe it all to her perfectionism.
Because we can’t help ourselves, please catch us up on your art! What is your latest series about? When will it be ready?
I am working on a series called The Russian Doll Chronicles, which has been 2 years in the making. It will be exhibited toward the end of this year or the beginning of the next. It will be an important show for me not just because it will include new mediums (other than – and in addition to – my usual paintings), but also because of the source of its inspiration and the methodology of its evolution. At this point in time, I’d rather not give out too many details about it, so you will just have to wait and see!