Waves on Water, Power of Transformation

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Waves on Water, Power of Transformation

This week I am in Gouna. And all around me, there is water: inviting poolsides, the Red Sea, the manmade lagoons that break the desert landscape here with different shades of cooling blue.

I am here to lead the yoga program for Nun (pronounced “Noon”) Center’s Yoga and Detox Retreat. Nun, it turns out, comes from the idea of water. Nun spells out the ancient letter N, the hieroglyphic symbol of which looks like waves on water, like so: VVVVVVV.

Water is a powerful element. Without it, life would be impossible. In the Pharaonic tradition, water is the source of life. From the water, the lotus came into existence and from the lotus, light, everything… Water is the primordial stuff, from which all is created.

And so, it feels apt, that we return to the water. To cleanse. To wash away the grime of daily urban existence. To deeply undo the unhealthy patterns of living, from the food we eat, the activities we engage in, the thoughts we have or the ideas we take in. To create new patterns: healthy and sustainable ways of engaging with our bodies, our emotions, our minds, the food we eat…

It is said that water has memory and that it is a great conductor of information. So, I’m excited. It feels a little like we are diving into this great transformative soup, with many elements to support positive shifts: the different aspects of yoga (yogasana, meditation, breathing, chanting) combined with inner dance, nutrition (organic food, vegan or juice fasting), and body work.

We jump in the water, so to speak, later this afternoon. I am eager to get in, to see the waves on water, to experience the ripples of transformation.

PHOTO: Gouna, Egypt, the site for this week-long yoga and detox retreat with Cairo’s Nun Center.

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Practice is a Window

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Practice is a Window

Sometimes the body is a dark room. Practice is like an open window that allows the light to shine inwards. Fresh air wafts in. And we can breathe.

A few days ago, I came into practice with a certain heaviness. Something personal had gotten to me, just the night previous. I knew that I was over-reacting to the news, that my emotions were stirred up in a way that didn’t quite equate the situation.

During such moments, practice can be intense. It has a different flavor; the movements doing a different, more focused work. I found myself feeling emotional standing in the very first samasthitihi even and then incredibly vulnerable in kapotasana, which left me winded, breathless.

When I finally lay down to take rest, letting myself go on the mat below me, it suddenly dawned on me where my emotion was coming from, the root of it. The whole issue was suddenly laid out so very clearly before me.

I hadn’t consciously tried to uncover the mystery of it, I had hoped for some relief at best. However, practice had simply, seamlessly uncovered it, skillfully teasing it out through breath and movement. And with new light, fresh air streaming in, I could better rest.

I am constantly surprised by this amazing thing, this incredible tool, inner detective, problem solver we call our yoga practice…a window to who we are, to our deep internal processes…

PHOTO: WIndow at Nun Center, Zamalek. I will be teaching at the Nun Center Yoga & Detox program between 28 May and 4 June in Gouna. Very excited to be leading a week-long ashtanga retreat complimenting a vegan diet and gentle yoga for juice fasters.

Remembering Pattabhi Jois

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Remembering Pattabhi Jois

Sri K. Pattabhi Jois may have passed away today, five years ago. But his spirit, his energy, his legacy lives on through the work of his family, through his many devoted students, through every person who steps on their mat and breathes through the ashtanga series.

To say that ashtanga has had a profound effect on my life is a massive understatement. It has given me work that I love deeply; it has put me in the field of so many amazing people; it has brought me to so amazing places that I might have never even imagined going; it has broken me open, pulled me apart, and put me together again, numerous times; it has changed me, and made me more myself.

Guruji’s role in my life cannot be summed up. I can only express my deep gratitude.

Surprise Yourself and Dance Under the Moonlight

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Surprise Yourself and Dance Under the Moonlight

Cairo, Egypt.

Each day here seems to be ripe with inner exploration these days. I cannot help but feel gratefulness to the community of yoga practitioners and seekers who I have met here. Over the two trips to Egypt, I have shared from the ashtanga tradition and by facilitating inner dances in various studios around the city, in Aswan, in Sinai, in the White Desert and in Gouna. And I feel very blessed and thankful for those who have joined me in classes, workshops and retreats.

I have also made some amazing friends here, who do not practice, but have on occasion–with a certain curiosity and at times bafflement–expressed interest in the work that I do. Being able to share the inner dance with a small group of them just this last Tuesday has made the time here all the more richer. Not just for me, but for many of those that joined our impromptu gathering.

There are so many amazing things, incredible methods of self-discovery and healing that is often around us. So many teachers, so many gifts waiting to be opened. We often fail to see what is right underneath our noses. Sometimes, we are just too busy. Life–what we perceive as the loops we must circle in our lives–gets in the way. We find it impossible to take precious time out of our schedules. We fail to see the value in them. Other times, we are simply hesitant. It’s easy to put off or dismiss the new or the strange, that which is not so easy to grasp. But when we do, we are often surprised. There is so much we don’t know, so much that awaits us.

But when we surrender to these moments, we are blessed. And such simple miracles like dancing under the moonlight, letting go of our concepts, allowing the body to move, the spirit to shift is able to happen.

PHOTO: The Full Moon shining over our Inner Dance last Tuesday night.

The Practice of Moon Days; Full Moon Tomorrow

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Full Moon Tomorrow

The dot of light in the darkish sky above Cairo is the Moon. Tomorrow early morning, the moon will be at its fullest. For us ashtanga practitioners, this is a time of rest; we take a break from the usual 6-day practice, allowing the process of yoga to subtly integrate into the body one extra day. But do we really take a break from practice?

The moon days are as much a part of practice. It tests our attachment to the practice itself, it tests our ability to actually observe this time with presence and awareness. It teaches us about the pull of the moon in our lives–and when we notice this, how we feel deeply connected to more than just our individual body but to something infinitely greater.

PHOTO: The full-ish moon last night above the streets of downtown Cairo. Enjoy Moon Day, Everyone!

Pyramids of Practice

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Pyramids of Practice

Spent the last weekend in Dashur, in the outskirts of Cairo. It was awesome to drive to our destination and to have the Dashur “bent” pyramid pop out of the landscape–the pyramid serving as proof of how incredibly mysterious and surprising life is, how much of it we don’t understand, how compelling it is, so full of untapped power and potential.

And so it is with practice. It can feel everyday, the landmarks looking so familiar. With regular, daily practice, we already know the way. It’s easy to take things for granted. To go on automatic.

Then something shifts. And we are suddenly aware of its power. It pops up like a great pyramid, an enigma, that pushes boundaries. It wakes something within us with a sort of strange understanding that goes beyond words. And we bow to it, with humility, with grace, and let it work its magic.

PHOTO: Dashur Pyramid. Speaking of magic: Inner Dance in an hour and a half in Ashtanga Yoga Cairo in Zamalek. 5pm. Yalla!