Core 8, a wellness platform in Dubai, was actually born out of horrible pain.
“My head felt like it was parked on a spike,” recalls co-founder Nikki Meyler. “I was taking medication every single day, going to hospital and being given pethidine injections as well as morphine. I was trying to get myself better but nothing was helping. I wasn’t getting anywhere. Pilates was recommended to me, but I would end up in incredible pain because nothing in my body was working like it was supposed to.”
What Meyler is referring to is a horrific late-teens horse-riding accident in her native Ireland. Her severe back pain and spasms only intensified over the years, coming to a head one day in 2012 when she was living in Dubai. The cause? She simply raised her leg in a side plank.
“My disc herniated and decimated,” she says. “I’d never been in so much pain in my life. I had to have emergency surgery and then quit my job to rehabilitate myself.”
Yet something new took root just as Meyler’s life was put on pause.
“Yoga kind of happened,” she says. “Everything clicked and came together. I did my training to figure out more about myself.”
It was during her 200-hour teacher training course in Dubai that she first met Sara Otto, who is Lebanese-German. She and Meyler bonded, both feeling a shared urgency to spread the wellness message to both clients and teachers and to be a positive driving force in the community.
Core 8 corporate wellness
This was the beginning of the Dubai wellness platform Core 8 − Core represents inner strength; 8 the eight limbs of yoga − that offers solutions for both corporate and individual clients and access to tried-and-tested teachers for private and semi-private sessions.
“It took us a few months of exploring how to combine these elements together,” explains Otto, “bringing anything from yoga, pilates, barre, mindfulness and nutrition together.”
Both women left their careers to become fully accredited yoga and pilates specialists, officially launching Core 8 in 2018.
Meyler and Otto wanted to target the corporate world in their work, knowing first-hand the stresses that workers endure on the job. In addition to teaching positive coping mechanisms and paths to mental wellbeing, they offer signature classes like At Your Desk Yoga and Roll and Release.
“These are specifically formulated so the attendees don’t need to change attire or sweat,” explains Otto. “They are perfect in-office and during-the-day classes.”
Along the way, they try to dispel any misinformation about wellness that may run through the corporate world.
“People often talk about wellness in unsubstantiated terms,” says Otto. “The conversation on wellness is out there but qualified knowledge is lacking.”
Finding the best in wellness
On the non-corporate side of things, Core 8’s owners are tackling a problem that exists despite the wide variety of Dubai wellness and fitness professionals.
“It’s hard to find a really good teacher for you as an individual,” says Meyler.
That’s why in addition to doing their own teaching, Otto and Meyler help clients access a network of the most appropriate freelance teachers through Core 8.
“Think of us as an Uber for the best wellness teachers in the UAE,” says Otto. “We’ve known most of the teachers we work with for a long time and if that isn’t the case, we make sure we demo them and know that they are well studied in their field and have some sort of specialization.”
Whether you’re after calisthenics or gong healing, Otto and Meyler have a ready pool of people “who know their stuff.”
They both believe it’s best to learn about movement and wellness in a private or semi-private setting as opposed to in a group.
“We have a selection of classes called Shred and Skills, meaning strengthen, tone and learn new skills,” says Otto. “It is difficult learning to handstand or backbend properly if you’re in a class with 10 other people − the teacher can’t give you their undivided attention.”
This kind of tailor-made experience obviously costs more, but the Core 8 owners believe wellness is an area people need to invest in for long-term results and benefits.
Private rates per hour are between Dh350-440 and upwards for small groups. Friends can split the cost to make their own private session at a location of their convenience.
“There are no excuses when it comes to the mind and body,” says Meyler.
Core 8’s background
Otto, who previously worked at two of the top advertising agencies in Dubai, had a 12-year yoga practice that helped keep her stress levels at bay. With 500 hours of yoga teacher training, she places an extra emphasis on modern functional movement, meridians, meditation and breath work. She wholeheartedly believes that it just takes the right practice to change a life − and that there is every reason to do it.
“If you’re feeling overwhelmed, in physical pain, suffering from headaches or anxiety, we can help,” she says.
Knowing just how life-altering an injury can be, Meyler has made working with people in pain her focus.
After she left her job as director of a design and branding agency and qualified as a yoga teacher, she went on to study back, fascia and trigger-point release with specialist Jo Phee, anatomy with Tiffany Cruikshank, the founder of Yoga Medicine, as well as pre- and post-natal yoga with Sally Parkes BSc, the UK-based author of The Students Manual to Yoga Anatomy. This year, Meyler qualified as a Neurokinetic therapist, offering a form of manual therapy that combines motor control theory and manual muscle testing. She plans to go to Australia early next year to study with Dr Stuart McGill, a back specialist and expert on diagnosing and relieving back pain.
And she remains a fierce advocate for proper technique and adapting workouts and practice to meet the various needs of each body type.
“I used to think it was normal to simply live in pain day after day,” she says. “Nothing could be farther from the truth now.”
Featured image Sara Otto/Core 8
Georgie Bradley is a British/Greek editor and journalist based in Dubai after being bred in Bahrain. She's been published by The Guardian UK, The Telegraph UK, BuzzFeed, The Huffington Post UK, Buro 24/7 and Harper's Bazaar Arabia. Most recently she was the deputy editor of Emirates Woman. You're most likely to find her in the aisle seat.