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Zizi Yoga: The Sudanese Yogi Bringing Wellness to Hip-Hop & the NFL

CairoScene had the opportunity to sit down with Zaineb Hassan, the ambitious yoga instructor and founder of Zizi Yoga, to learn more about her journey and how she began creating her own world.


Those who are fans of American football association NFL, the NBA, the Calm app, and American music label Dreamville, may be familiar with the name ‘Zizi Yoga’. With an extensive resumé and a passion for wellness and holistically coordinating mind, body, and soul, founder of Zizi Yoga Zaineb Hassan has demonstrated how it’s possible to incorporate your dreams into even the unlikeliest of places.


CairoScene had the opportunity to sit down with the talented and ambitious yoga instructor and entrepreneur, to learn more about her journey and how she began creating her own world. 


Born and raised in the Middle East, hailing originally from Egypt & Sudan, Hassan moved to Maryland, USA on an academic scholarship in 2008, where she completed a pharmaceutical programme while studying for her yoga licence. If studying pharmacy under a scholarship wasn’t impressive and demanding enough, Hassan also found a way to incorporate 200 and 500 hours of yoga study into her year – but, as she shares, it was worth it. “I truly fell in love with the art of mindfulness and attaining inner awareness. Knowledge of self, accessing higher consciousness and understanding who I was intentionally was the alluring heightening factor that captured my attention as a whole.” 


Despite the long hours of yoga, Hassan didn’t see it as an added responsibility or burden. In fact, yoga became Hassan’s escape from the harsh demands of college studies, and offered a path of calm. “Yoga was offered as a free class in college and I eventually became a regular student after one session,” Hassan says. “I felt a sense of freedom, confidence, love, and simply the ability to show up as my authentic self.” 


So how does one jump from learning yoga, to teaching yoga, to creating one of the most coveted yoga brands in the US? Drive. 


“My drive and thought process for launching the brand, ZiZi Yoga, was “Do not take NO for an answer & create your own world.” I was laughed at initially for the idea of teaching yoga in the athletic industry, which fueled my own fire to keep soaring.” 


Hassan began her work with athletes with a performance coach in DMV, who became her mentor. Working with him paved the way and opened the doors to the NFL world, where Zizi began working with her first client, Stefon Diggs. This was followed by working with Super Bowl champions Torrey Smith, Vernon Davis and DQwell Jackson – all who were, incidentally, also University of Maryland alumni, which allowed Hassan the opportunity to sign her first collegiate contract with the football team. “I now employ yoga teachers around the nation to work with different universities within their specific athletic departments,” Hassan shared, adding that “the University of Maryland & ZiZi Yoga will be walking into our 6th season together.”


Success like this is undeniably built not just on discipline and perseverance – but also being a good teacher. How else does one explain Hassan’s extensive clientele, who flock to the yoga instructor to improve their mental health and fitness? 


“A major part of excelling in this field is keeping everything light and fun. It will be challenging, however as long as the mindset is to trek through the outcome, it will be worthwhile… I am excited to work with individuals who strive to be the best version of themselves on a daily basis which enhances my fuel to live abundantly.” 


Individuals like Dreamville perhaps? During quarantine, Hassan famously began yoga sessions with Dreamville’s Earthgang. They would hold co-hosted IG lives where Hassan would teach yoga both to them and the audience. 


“Dreamville is an entire blessing that I have a ton of respect for. Bridging the gap between hip hop as a music genre and holistic wellness is a dream come true. By implementing mindfulness into assisting Dreamville I’ve been able to change the narrative/stigma around wellness.” 


We asked Hassan what else is important to her, aside from yoga. “Family, freedom and giving back to all communities at any and every capacity possible, whether it be offering my services, working on campaigns by donating and spreading the awareness on a specific initiative,” Hassan answers. “I work with multiple nonprofit organisations to provide necessities in third world countries where resources might be scarce. I am currently working on developing my own fundraising campaign with a few prominent individuals to benefit Muslim Women’s shelters in America.”

Hassan also shared insight into her Sudanese heritage, from her Mother's side. “The word Sudan is royalty. There is a deep rooted historical lineage of eminence with our background that I do not take for granted. Being Sudanese is making my bloodline proud by shining through the core values instilled in me from my immediate family; (parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins). There is a high level of respect for holding the torch and wearing the crown to being a Sudania that I can’t exactly put into words. The feeling is indescribable. I’m proud of my heritage and to walk in my journey with the highest honour.”


Follow Zaineb Hassan's journey on Instagram, @zizi.yoga.