Beginning Practice: Planting Seeds, Finding Flowers

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Over the last weekend, I was with friends who had moved into a lovely new apartment, and I got swept into a small project of turning an old wooden table into a bit of homemade art. A compass was purchased, along with a pencil and a selection of paints, the table was portioned into concentric circles, the first seven of which made up the seed, the rest that followed blossomed into what was to be the flower of life–though from my up-close perspective of the table, I couldn’t really see it. I saw the circles, and the folds between circles, I could see patterns, but not the thing itself. Even as I painted, I focused mostly on the surface of each petal that I chose. My vision was narrow, but it needed to be. The few times I tried to look at the entire table, it was disorienting. So, I stuck to the task. I carefully stayed within the lines drawn up in pencil, painting the color evenly in the allotted spaces. It wasn’t until later, when I looked at it from a distance with more of the petals painted that I could see what we were actually working on. I was genuinely surprised and impressed by our efforts. There I was, painting blue petals, spaces between circles, but really we were creating an entire flower.

It’s the beginning of week 2 of teaching in Cairo and at Nūn, here, we have a few beginners, as well as some practitioners who are reviving their practice. These days, I realize, are about painting petals. 

I have asked students to breathe and move with the same sort of methodical brushstrokes, to simply focus and stay within the lines. When they are done, I ask them to do it again, committing it to memory.

Perhaps this is true with our practice in general. When we start learning ashtanga, we have a suspicion that there is a great framework, or perhaps we were told of this alleged intelligent design that connects everything, but we don’t really “know” it, not in a way that we understand it, or can even know what it looks like, not when we’re learning to breathe and not pass out through sun salutations. 

We enter a room and it’s obvious that there’s some sort of pattern that repeats itself, but we don’t really see it as it is, mistaking it too often as its form, asana like acrobatics. It’s probably best that we don’t see the big picture, which is always potentially growing as long as we practice. It’s overwhelming, too much information. Seeing too much, also, we get caught in wanting to look ahead–and then we steal from ourselves the opportunity to participate in the great unfolding. So we learn the practice piece by piece, bit by bit.

This is a great way of learning. Each posture, or even element of a posture, is a digestible module to be learned and digested before moving on to another unit of learning. Still, nothing is ever lost because everything is reviewed and repeated. The body is maintained, the mind is continuously purified. The mind and muscle memory are sharpened together. Before we ourselves know it, we have a pretty full bodied practice. A complex system of breath, attention, movement and postures that all work in harmony with each other. So many seeds grown into a garden.

Whether one is a beginner or a long time practitioner, the planting of seeds, the painting of petals, the growing, the tending of garden never ceases. For me, this is what keeps Ashtanga interesting. I am constantly growing, constantly finding myself surprised to see the ever evolving “big picture.” The practice keeps my focused on the details, invites me into the nitty grittiness of it, gives me work to do in tidy digestible bits that are just the right size for me. It keeps me engaged in that work, just enough, that I don’t get distracted by the usual stuff and, also, don’t get hung up on the big picture itself. 

This is one of the great gifts of this method–also, one of its challenges for practitioners, and, yes, but for teachers too. I am constantly having to check my desire to share, which may be born out of the best of intentions, but may also be feeding off some need to indulge my own ego (that to be a good teacher, I should perform, deliver, yadahyadah…), against the integrity of the practice. 

I may leave my friend to finish painting her table, but I take with me the reminders it has given me in relation to practice: the magic of economy (how less is really more), that seeds grow when properly grounded and showered with patience, attention and love, that everything comes in due time, usually with incredible and surprising results.


Am excited and grateful to be currently sharing at Nūn Center here in Zamalek, Cairo. I will be here for two months, teaching a Sunday-Thursday Mysore, 7:30-10am. For more information: http://www.nuncenter.com. 

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Inner Dance in The Shala, Maadi

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Inner Dance is an experience. I always have a hard time explaining this energy work because it wants to be felt more than observed. It wants to be danced with. Sometimes it’s a slow dance, some times it’s a mosh pit. It might not look like any kind of dance at all. It kind of depends on you, where you’re at, what you’re deep internal music/musings might be at that given moment. And though we are in a room together, it’s kind of like dancing with yourself with, the door is closed, the volume is on high, and you feel free and light enough to go for it. To dance like no one is watching.

Thursday, April 21, 6:30pm, I will be offering Inner Dance sessions in The Shala in Maadi. Excited to return to this space, which has hosted so many ID sessions, and, with it, many personal movements. Thursday Inner Dance will be a weekly offering until early June. (Thursday, 28 April, there will be no class for Easter holidays).

The Shala is located at 6, Road 200 (in front of the South African embassy) Maadi. To book: 01223717729 -01222384498.  The session is 120LE.

Cairo, The Romance Continues

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Taken at Cairo’s Gezira Club by the late Zeinab Lamloum, a great photographer, devoted ashtanga student and good friend.

There are some places that simply draw us, that holds a place in our hearts and our imaginations, that stirs in us some deep kind of recollection of what it is to be terribly, beautifully human. Since late 2013, that place for me has been Egypt. So, in this year which I’ve dedicated to living more fully, more authentically, making my fourth teaching trip to Cairo feels like a pretty good idea.

Over the last few years, I realize, I have formed an interesting, and ever changing, relationship with the place and its people. My first trip, I subbed for fellow teacher, Egyptian Iman Elsherbiny when she took her own trip to study with our teacher in Mysore, India. That first experience was like stepping into someone else’s life, living in her apartment, teaching her classes, being taken around by her friends. My second trip, I joined forces with Iman to help her open her new yoga space, The Shala in Maadi, during which we did a few retreats together which solidified our own sisterhood; her friends became our friends. The last time, I was teaching workshops and retreats, mostly on my own, I spent practically every weekend away from Cairo, it was beautiful but discombobulating. I started to make my own connections, but it was snippets of a life in a whirlwind.

In a way, over those trips, Egypt and I were having a romance, intense but fleeting, substantial enough that it has kept me wanting more; so risky at times that I wanted to keep myself at a safe distance. Still, the feeling remains, I know that Egypt and I like each other.

It’s been nearly a year and a half since my last meeting with Egypt and I wonder whether we’ll jive or not, whether we can we still top the magic of the first, second, even the third time?! I’m not going to try to think too much or speculate the possibilities. I can’t speak for Egypt, but I know I’ve changed and I have a feeling that in the backdrop of Cairo I will know how much more different I am from the other times I’ve come to visit. I know I have grown there, and I know there is probably more growing to do together.

I have different intentions than previous trips. Instead of seeking adventure, wanting to teach everywhere and spreading myself too thinly, I am concentrating my energy, hoping for a stable two and a half months of teaching and self-study.

This time, I am making Nūn Center in Zamalek my base for two months, while continuing to offer Inner Dance in The Shala in Maadi, where the healing modality grew a steady following by the end of 2014.

Between April 17 and June 10, I will be teaching a Sunday to Thursday Mysore program between 7:30-10am at Nūn Center (pronounced “noon,” Nūn is the symbol for primordial water in Ancient Egypt), along with supplementary weekend workshop classes on Friday mornings that will include “Introduction to Ashtanga Yoga” and various themed explorations paired with the traditionally counted led class. For more information on the Nūn  Ashtanga and Inner Dance offerings, please check out the website http://nuncenter.com. Email or call for bookings and inquiries we@nuncenter.com/+20 122 398 0898.

I will also be facilitating Inner Dance in The Shala in Maadi on Thursday evenings. For information on the Inner Dance schedule please call 01223717729-01222384498 or check out The Shala Facebook Page.

There will surely be more in store, dates are being floated and ideas are brewing. So, please continue to check in for updates.

I can’t say where this romance will take me, but I suspect it’s where I want to be going, deep into the personal work that fuels my own teaching, my hunger for learning, and my love for living. I’m excited to say: Cairo, I’m coming.

For Weekly Mysore Classes & Friday Workshops
Nūn Center
4 Shafik Mansour, Zamalek, Cairo
we@nuncenter.com/+20 122 398 0898

For Thursday Night Inner Dances
The Shala
6, Road 200 (in front of the South Africa Embassy), Maadi, Cairo
01223717729-01222384498