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25 May 2017Last updated
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Changing my job changed my life

Asma Lootah, 40, from the UAE, ditched her corporate career to pursue her passion and hasn’t looked back

Asma Lootah
15 May 2016 | 02:43 pm
  • Source:Getty Images

I LEFT THE CORPORATE WORLD IN SEARCH OF FREEDOM. I worked in telecommunications for five years. For the first four years I worked in the internet engineering department, despite the fact that I did not study engineering, and in my final year I was in the marketing department.

Working there was stressful... I had just moved back from Washington DC, where I had been at university, so it was a period of great change for me. But I was practising Pilates religiously with my good friend Kym Parsons, so that saved me. But I felt
stuck in a rut.

In my fourth year there, I was in what I call ‘self-discovery mode’. I knew I wanted to leave and have the freedom of being my own boss, but at the time I did not know what the business would be.

After reading a few books and discovering more about myself, I identified three factors that guided me towards what I wanted to be doing with my life: doing something I love, doing something that would help people and give back to my community and doing something that would give back to my country.

Pilates ticked all of these boxes so, when my older brother said, ‘Why don’t you open a Pilates studio?’ it was like the lighting of a match. I resigned straight away and never looked back.

The toughest part was finding enough money to start up the business, pay the rent and my staff. Something that I always tell people is that being an Emirati does not mean you have to work less, or that it’s easier. On the contrary, we face a lot of roadblocks and we struggle financially too. For example, it was hard to educate people initially about Pilates and it was hard to attract Emirati clients. Also, all the government approvals and regulations were painstaking.

In 2012, I decided to expand to offer people more services that would help them achieve their goals and live a healthy, happy life. It wasn’t easy as, again, I had to find funds. I even considered going back into the corporate world to raise the money for the expansion, but we found a way through.

Now at The Hundred Wellness Centre we offer so much more than just Pilates. We also have yoga, HIIT training classes, DNA testing... We even have an in-house homeopathic doctor, a nutrition expert, a physiotherapist and a café selling cold pressed juices and speciality coffee. And we just keep growing and adding more and more elements. It’s so rewarding. It’s really changing people’s lives. What could be better than that?

My life is great now. I really couldn’t ask for more. I own a state-of-the-art facility with people I love working with. We are a family who work hard and strive genuinely to help people lead a healthy happy life.

I think the most important thing is to remember you only live once. So spare a moment to reflect on your life and the steps you must take to lead a less stressful life and a life you want to lead. Prioritise what is important and learn to say no.

Asma Lootah

Asma Lootah