Women’s Day

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Last year, in conference, Sharath Jois was answering a question about something a student should do–I can’t even remember what about, but he used the masculine pronoun in his response. A female student then asked why he decided to use said pronoun and whether the practice was meant for men. He laughed, his eyes shining, the way he does when he seems to be enjoying a joke to himself, and asked her to look around as he gestured with his hands and chin to the sea of people crammed into the shala, an overwhelming number of which were women.

We have come a long way from the early days when the first westerners had contact with Pattabhi Jois and his ashtanga yoga, where the room of 12 would accommodate mostly men. And while we can count the few remaining senior female teachers, the modern day practitioner base is becoming more and more overwhelmingly female. The modern female ashtangi has come a long way. There are more female teachers now than before. There is a strong movement to champion women’s rights and dignity on and off the mat. Advanced women practitioners used to be a novelty and now it seems a norm that women continue on towards the advanced series, building strength while maintaining flexibility.

It is important to note that our yoga lineage celebrates women practitioners and teachers. Pattabhi Jois taught not just his sons and his grandson, the current director of the school, Sharath, but also his wife Amma, his daughter Saraswathi (both pictured above) and his granddaughter Sharmila. Saraswathi Jois, at 76, continues to teach in Mysore, India  alongside her daughter who assists her. Sharath’s wife Shrutti likewise teaches the afternoon classes with Indian students.

I’m not saying it’s perfect, but I am proud to be a part of a modern tradition of yoga that honors women, that encourages householdership as much as the practice, and, for those who are inclined, teaching. It respects the cycle of women, and asks us to do the same by taking our “holidays” during the first three days of our menstrual cycle.

Beyond the ideas of men and women, the practice itself is an incredible tool for empowerment. I came to this practice ten years ago pretty much still a girl. The years of practice helped me come into my own wellspring of inner strength and flexibility, I had no idea that I could be this courageous human being, let alone woman. And so with gratitude, I thank the practice. I thank my teachers and my teachers’ teachers who had the good wit and grace to teach men AND women this great method. I thank the one woman I’ve studied under, you are an inspiration. I thank all the women who came before me, who were brave enough to go to India to study yoga when India was even more foreign and wild and far away than it is today. It is good to remember that women are a part of this great lineage.

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Connecting with the Ancients: Ashtanga Yoga in New Hermopolis

 

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New Hermopolis’ architecture.

One of the things I love about Egypt is how something quite magical can come together here with such remarkable speed and energy. One conversation might spark an interest and next you know…you’ve got this thing, usually a kind of big substantial THING. One such small exchange between a student and her local travel-expert husband gave birth to some of my favorite Egypt adventures. Freedom Travellers and I went to the White Desert together in 2014 with Egyptian yoga teacher Iman Elsherbiny. We followed it up with a trip to Siwa Desert Oasis later that year. I’m happy to reunite with Yasmine Rifaat and Ahmed El Leissy for yet another retreat, this time to magical Minya in Upper Egypt where New Hermopolis has made some waves as a special eco-lodge whose ethos is all about transformation and healing.

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Four kilometers from New Hermopolis, is the remains of Hermopolis, an ancient spiritual center. Here certain Egyptian creation myths have their origin: the lotus blooming from the primordial waters, the union of feminine and masculine deities that speak of higher integration. A trip to Beni Hassan tombs will evidence how the ancients practiced something like āsana. So many traditions, so very old, and yet all so very similar. Am excited to draw on the ancients from this land to relate to the tradition of yoga and New Hermopolis is the perfect setting for such an endeavor.

Going into the White Desert was about looking for stillness in the yoga practice, while taking our retreat to Siwa was about finding the oasis within. This time, going to Minya feels like an opportunity to connect with the ancients here in Egypt, with an old tradition, an old wisdom. Also, it is a full circle. Here in Cairo, I have been running classes in Nūn Center. Pronounced “noon,” it is one of the 8 key deities/energies born in Hermopolis, it is the primordial waters from which creation springs, it is where the sacred lotus emerges, and with it life.

We’re going deep in Upper Egypt, March 16-19, for our Ashtanga Yoga in New Hermopolis. The cost of the retreat is 4000LE inclusive of transportation, food, accommodation (room sharing) and yoga/cultural programs. Bring a friend and get a 10% discount.

To book your spot, contact:
Freedom Travellers +20 122 110 4464
or Nūn Center at we@nuncenter.com, +20 122 398 0898

For more information, see our Facebook event page.
https://www.facebook.com/events/257379824712503/

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Magical Minya