One class day to go here in Cairo. The countdown, I have to be honest, makes me sentimental. While my stay here has just been shy of two months and I recognize that in many aspects I have just been skimming the surface, there is such a great depth built into this work, into this practice of ashtanga yoga.
As we breathe and move in space, taking shapes with deliberate awareness and attention, we embody this process called yoga.
The mind and its trappings come into play, our issues and injuries–physical or otherwise–come to the surface. Our desires and attachments bubble up…and then the practice attempts to burst them.
The practice shines a light on the shadows: tension in the body often reflecting tension in the heart or mind, the dark of the ego lurking in the corners…
Teaching in a Mysore space is like getting to know someone very intimately without any context–and without any judgement. It’s like knowing nothing about a student’s life story yet observing personal symptoms of life and signposts of living.
The joy, particularly, is seeing how it gets physically worked out through this incredible whittling down process, sometimes with grace and ease, while other times, let’s face it, it’s a shit fight!
Sharing in this quiet personal process makes people who practice together incredibly close, sometimes without any of the usual friendly exchanges. We feel each other’s struggles and we celebrate each other’s victories on the mat, which is really a metaphor for our lives.
As for being the “teacher”, I feel incredibly blessed to take part in this process. Often, I do little other than being there. And there are times I need to admit to myself that there is nothing I can do other than to back up and give someone space.
Then there are the little moments that amount to so much: jump starting someone’s practice, moving someone in a different direction, aligning the body to feel secure and spacious, holding someone in a difficult posture…
Understanding and trust are built on this straightforward physical exchange and a very special relationship is formed between a teacher and a student.
I love meeting like this, in such a space that is both so real, so organic, so surprising; this is a space where yoga happens.
Photo: We ease into each other’s company with fluidity that comes with breathing in the same pace. The regular practitioners (Ashtanga Yoga Egypt, La Zone, Maadi) and I engage in the most common post-practice practice: having breakfast fit for champions at Lucille’s on Road 9.