Strength, growth and friendship beyond the mat

Since coming to the UAE, British expatriate Melanie Swan has made friends in all kinds of places from work as a journalist at The National to the gym, so becoming close to her yoga teacher she says was no surprise for the two women who share so much in common.

Yoga can be a fairly solitary practice, time to internalise, bring together the mind and body but it can also be a beautiful way to meet new people who share similar beliefs and attitudes. It was our shared love of yoga which is how I met Liz Terry, at her vinyasa flow class back in 2011 when she was teaching at Exhale in JBR.

Liz and I are the same age, 34, and share many things in common from our personalities to our life experiences and we both value friendship very strongly, not least since being far away from our families, mine in the UK and hers in the US.

Yoga challenges us both. It forces us to be more quiet in our minds, to learn to accept things the way they are, however hard this at times can be. Its philosophy teaches us so many vital keys to deal with life from compassion to the simple commitment to practice.

Liz and I connected very quickly through yoga. She had recently come to Dubai when we met and I had recently moved from Abu Dhabi to Dubai after two and a half years in the capital. I was drawn to her bubbly nature and her energy though as I grew to know her more, there was so much more to Liz than ‘Liz the bubbly yoga teacher’. Not least, I learnt how much a teacher gives to their students before themselves.


I have been practicing yoga very on and off since my first class around 12 years ago but really engaged much deeper since a trip to Thailand nearly six years ago and through a teacher in Abu Dhabi. However, nobody had ever really made me commit to my mat in the way Liz did.

I first sought out yoga as I needed some mental calm in my life and figured yoga could be a good way to find that. Meditation is a very tough practice so for me, I find meditation through physicality the easiest. Many people however approach yoga for the ‘exercise’ idea but for me, that wasn’t what drew me to it. Neither Liz nor I practice to ‘work out’ but use yoga as a means of challenging and looking more deeply at ourselves. As Liz’s own teacher says, “the most challenging part of an asana (posture) is letting go of the ego”. Yoga teaches us to lose any sense of competition and to be more compassionate with ourselves. It has also been a vehicle for us both to manage the grief of losing our mothers, both of us coming truly into our practice at this challenging time in our lives.

Liz’s ability to bring so much honesty and personality to her teaching was from the start, very appealing: the qualities I also look for in a friend. Her business called Satya Flow Yoga, is Sanskrit for ‘truth’, which Liz really lives by. While she is an awe inspiring teacher, after more than five years teaching and close to 10 of practice, she remains so humble and her humility is a constant reminder that there is no place for ego – either on or off the mat.

I love to practice with Liz, whether we are taking classes or workshops together or just having fun on the beach. So much has she inspired me both on and off the mat, I finally decided to do my own yoga teacher training qualification this year thanks to Liz, who was the training assistant. I had first thought of this around four years ago but there is a saying, “when the student is ready, the teacher appears” and this I believe happened with Liz. Her friendship and my confidence in her as a teacher certainly enabled me to go deeper into my physical practice but also, she challenges me off the mat in a way true friends should.

Melanie is a journalist for The National newspaper and can be found on Twitter @Melanieswan1.

If you have found friendship or love through a shared interest or hobby, get in touch with us at to share your story! 

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