Going into the Desert

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In two days: a new journey.

Farfara Oasis with it’s famed White Desert is known for the expanse of chalk white and curious rock formations sculpted artfully over time by the rough desert winds. Once a sea-bed, and then a savannah of lush green with herds of roaming gazelles, giraffes and elephants, it is now a living monument of ever changing time–a fitting place to practice yoga.

Free of distractions, the wide open areas of the desert, is a symbol of the clarity and purity that can be achieved by regular yoga practice. Slowly day by day, we are clearing away the debris of stress and tension, attachment and expectations, of our own preconceived ideas and cultural conditioning.

Going into the desert can also be tough, a harsh landscape, full of trials, bringing out the most innate of survival instincts. This is also true about the yoga practice. It can be full of struggle, pushing one to his/her limits, initiating one into the process of birthing and dying, of receiving and releasing, finding that oh-so-difficult balance between holding one’s center and simply letting go.

And so we plan…There’s no harshness built into the program as we have excellent guides, only one day of camping, a very modern, very comfortable trek into the desert, but the foray into the Great White is built into the yoga practice, into the asana-s, into the meditation, inner dancing and the satsang, each in its own way an opportunity to observe who we are in this liberating landscape.

PHOTO: Care of Freedom Travelers, who are expertly organizing this trip. Ashtanga in the Desert: A Yoga Retreat is on Thursday March 27-30. Co-teaching with me is the lovely Iman Elsherbiny.

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Take the Practice into the Streets

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Take the Practice into the Streets

After some time, after regular practice, something strange, different may happen…Before you know it your practice has gone beyond the four corners of your rubber mat.

I arrive Thursday evening. Al Cairo, the crazy city that somehow has drawn me back.

I found myself a little anxious as I boarded the plane. Was this an act of insanity, was I really returning to this crazy city? I worried about life on the road there, the gridlock, the hot tempers and near misses that characterizes life in Cairo.

My friend and fellow teacher, Iman Elsherbiny, has arranged for someone to pick me up. Ashraf is on a yoga study-exchange and only started with visiting teacher Sonja Radvila in February. He’s been going regularly ever since, and he tells me right away how much he loves it.

Not ten minutes out of the airport, a car full of people nearly back into us–we are on a highway. It’s a near miss, but horns are honked, and windows are rolled down and I am expecting the exchange of harsh words.

Ashraf surprises me. He smiles, speaks jovially across to the other driver.

For a split moment there is a sense of dismay; this is not supposed to happen. And then the whole thing shifts. Tension melts away as the other driver laughs as well, goodwill traveling between two cars in the middle of a bustling highway. Then we go our separate ways.

Something in me relaxes. All is well.

I commend Ashraf in his good humor, his ability to change what could have been an ugly situation. And he laughs and credits the ashtanga yoga practice. He says that he can feel the change.

I love this. I love how the process works, how the care, calm, consciousness cultivated in yoga practice inevitably spreads into daily life.

LIVING IN CAIRO & INTERESTED IN YOGA: Iman Elsherbiny (0122371729) and I (0101348097) are offering privates in Maadi. Iman’s regular class schedules can be found in Ashtanga Yoga Egypt’s FB page. We are taking a group into the White Dessert this weekend, March 27-30 for a special yoga retreat, if you’re interested, call or email me kaz.castillo@gmail.com. More details on FB, look for Ashtanga in the Desert.

PHOTO: On the road with Ashraf and Iman, sunset along the Corniche in Cairo.

Inner Dance in the Desert & in Cairo Saturday 22 March

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Inner Dance in the Desert & in Cairo Saturday 22 March

Very excited to return to Egypt. Before going into the desert, will spend a week in Cairo and offer Inner Dance and privates.

First offering is on 22 March, 5-7pm Inner Dance Workshop at Ashtanga Yoga Cairo in Zamalek.

To reserve a spot for either the desert retreat or Inner Dance, message me at kaz.castillo@gmail.com.

If you are ready to pay for your deposit for the Desert Retreat, contact Yasmine Rifaat, our Cairo coordinator, on Facebook.

Gracias por todos!

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Gratitude. The only word that expresses how I feel right now.

To Los Pazzificos, the students of Pazzifica Ashtanga Yoga here in Barcelona: Thank you. Thank you for your patience with my mangled Spanglish, for your dedication and love for practice, for welcoming me and for trusting me during these two months. It has been a joy to come to the Espacio Vacio every weekday morning and evening to meet you!

To Paz Muñoz: thank you for entrusting me with your Mysore program, your beautiful students, and your sacred spaces. I am so happy to have shared this experience with you. I have grown a lot in this time and have greatly felt your quiet and steady support!

To my friends here: thank you, everyday with you all has been a lesson in love, support and community. I am so grateful to have been able to spend time with you, to speak Spanish with you, to cook with you, to eat with you, to walk in the forest, to climb mountains, to dance in the streets to wild drumbeats, to listen to incredible mind-elevating music, and do some deep emotional cleaning and delve into deeper spiritual work.

To Barcelona: thank you for romancing me, for seducing me out of my comfort zones, for renewing in me the sense of independence and autonomy. I have fallen in love with your streets, your modernist architecture, your surreal sense of Catalan-slash-global humor, your cosmic sense of comic timing, your unique city-beat and spirit.

Thank you to all, thank you for everything.
Gracias a todos, gracias por todos!

PHOTO: Barcelona, Saturday morning. Grateful for another beautiful day.

 

Retreat into the White Desert: 27-30 March 2014

Ashtanga in the Desert - The White Desert Ashtanga in the Desert - Iman & Kaz

Though I am sad to wind down my time here in Barcelona (one week left now), am also excited to be planning my return to Egypt to teach a retreat with the lovely Iman Elsherbiny, who I was able to tag-team teach with in Cairo over two-day Cairo workshops in October last year.

There was a reluctance on my part to leave Egypt early last January and a spark of hope that I might be able to return sooner than later. Olé to the forces fate! as I am returning much sooner than I hoped possible. I guess there was a feeling that there was more to discover, more to explore in Egypt. And now to be planning a retreat in the White Desert a place I had put on my list of places to go to but did not have time for last year is such a boon! Feeling very excited!

To JOIN or for more details on the event: https://www.facebook.com/events/460693250720441/

For bookings, please contact Yasmine Rifaat / yasrifaat@gmail.com / 01005755551. Deposits are due March 14.

Yoga of Climbing

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Yoga of Climbing

For a moment there is only the mountain and me.
No, not even the mountain, not even Montserrat, epic as she is.

Just the rock. And me.
There is no hard place.

Just deep concerted presence,
the sensation of hanging by the edge,
and the complete absence of all else.

Nothing is important. Not the distance below,
not the incredible expansive landscape behind me,
not the meters above to the top, reaching the end of the line.

There is no space or time for thoughts,
or assessments or judgements.
There is no room for fear.

There is only the rock. And me.
There is no hard place.

These are the moments in which yoga happens.


Practice on and off the mat. IN-studio classes still ongoing. Will continue to cover for Paz Muñoz of Pazzifica Ashtanga Yoga until March 7, Friday, this week. 

Photo: Taken by my friend and first-ever climbing coach Joan de Arcanye. So grateful to him and his friend Micki for taking me to Montserrat two Saturdays ago (went up a 6a+, up to 22 meters, yikes!). Gracias, Muchas Gracias! Me encantada!