To Zoom Or Not to Zoom?

While the recent Covid 19 has pushed much of the world to shelter in place, many are managing restrictive safety measures by taking their work, study, socialising and exercise online.

We are on a partial curfew here in Cairo with under 2000 cases, so far. Many, however, are taking the advice of government officials to stay home to slow the virus from spreading.

When I paused the program in mid March, I signed up to zoom, sent the students the link and a message that they could join me to practice together. So it’s been a month of meeting to meditate and practice.

I wanted time to understand how to use the platform. See if it really made sense to me.

Within the week, it became the new normal to see zoom screens posted on Instagram. Individual boxes showing students practicing together in their own homes. Almost over night, yoga programs around the world moved their teachings online. What at first seemed exciting made me feel a little anxious. Was this the next big thing? I started to wonder whether we were squandering the opportunity to really self practice?

I debated whether to just continue the casual practice group or restart classes online. It felt good to meet with students but I wondered if the ashtanga teaching method would really translate well online.

Over the last month I’ve taught a few led classes and a Mysore class to test the waters and, actually, I was happily surprised to see how the ashtanga practice translated well online.

What I learned—or, rather, remembered—was this: ashtanga yoga is more energetic than physical. Over the last three weeks, what drew us together was the silent dialogue of practice. Yes, it is personal. But it is also shared. And, in times like this, it’s important to stay connected.

Online, teaching too gets stripped down to the essential. Just as we confuse the practice to be a physical one, we often think of ashtanga instruction as being tactile with its hands-on-adjustments. When in truth, adjustments are sparse in Mysore, India. The teacher’s role is to hold space, to nudge students to walk down a path that only they themselves can go down. At its best, transmission from teacher to student is subtle and unobtrusive. Far too often, teachers (myself included) over-assist and we take on more than we should, stealing from students the opportunity to master an āsana on their own.

As we relaunch the program online this week, I know that we will loose some students in this period. This is a time with shifting priorities. Others, the ones already happily established might choose to self practice on their own. That’s ok. For those joining me, I know things can’t exactly go back to normal, but I know we’ll do our best to move forward, to adapt to challenging times and to thrive with the new opportunities these times and this medium of learning is bringing us.

Mysore Zamalek Classes will restart on Monday, 13 April. Monday and Friday are Led Classes. Tuesday to Thursday are Mysore-style self practice. Please message us if you are interested in joining the program online.

Teaching in Beirut

Yoga is about connections.

For some time I’ve been watching how our neighbouring Beirut’s program has been growing with various teacher friends coming to hold space there. It’s been a pleasure to see Yoga Souk’s Mysore program evolve much like our own in Cairo.

So, it’s a great pleasure to be here now in Beirut teaching at Yoga Souk in Saifi Village. Should you be in Lebanon, I am teaching Mysore-style ashtanga classes Monday to Friday 6:15-10:15 and led classes (for regular practitioners) on Saturdays at 9:30am.

We’ve also started a Yoga Sutras introduction course, which is a rich of exploration of the yoga philosophy that powers our practice. We have four sessions left and there is still time to catch up.

If you are in Cairo, Mysore Zamalek classes are continuing as scheduled at Nūn Center.

March Madness

We have a full schedule once again in March. We are had a retreat in Upper Egypt, more on how it went in a future post.

There’s an International Women’s Day Event at Nūn on March 8 where I will teach a led class and speak on Yoga for a Balanced Life, and we’ll be raffling off a month pass. Money from raffle ticket sales will go to Tawasol, Marwa Fayed’s Toy Run and Heya Masr, all helping to empower women/young girls.

Also, we’ll be staring our next Intro course on March 22.

Please message mysorezamalek@gmail.com for questions or to register for the month-long course.

Led Primary Time Machine

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Who has never wished to slow time down, or speed it up, or stop time altogether? It might be the stuff of science fiction, but what if I were to tell you that the ultimate time machine can be found on your yoga mat? I know, I know, it might seem like I’m peddling some strange siddhi, or yogic super power like time control. Well…yes…and no. It’s much more down to earth than all that.

Primary Series is the first series of the astanga method (there are 6 in all). Mostly, ashtanga is practiced in a self-paced setting. One performs their postures according to their own breath and abilities. In such a room, you can have beginners doing just the most basic postures while others twist, fly and contort themselves into shapes that one might not think humanly possible. This way of teaching is supplemented by what we call Led Classes. In the later, students practice together led by a teacher who is calling out the asana names and brief but key instructions while counting each vinyasa (breath and its corresponding movement) so that students can develop a steady rhythm and a clean, undistracted yoga practice. It is a class where one’s mental and physical stamina is tested, while one is harmonized into one collective moving breath.

When I really started studying the count of the first series of ashtanga yoga, I become fascinated with how it played with units of time broken down into units of breath/movement or breath/stillness, and how it moved between the two states, each beat with its own number. Until that point, I’d never truly observed time. I didn’t even like numbers. Time happened to me. I waited for it sometimes. It escaped me at other times. Time is and was always there, while I engage in some activity, conversation, even while doing nothing at all. Led Primary changed my relationship with time.

The succinct sanskrit count which is seamlessly coordinated with vinyasa (movement and breath together), drishti (gazing point), and āsana (posture)–what we call tristāna, the three pillars of the practice–allows us to simply be in the moment, to be in time. As we experience time in such a focused and deliberate manner, we learn to just be: be in the inhale or the exhale, be the posture, be in the challenge if its difficult, be in the comfort if it’s easy. We learn to change, to shift quickly, to experience time which is always changing. We learn to drive ourselves, to get past the potential distractions in order to focus on the moment. We learn to be imperfect because we might not always be able to breathe as long, or move as quickly as is asked of us–and because that moment/breath/posture passes in a flash, we also learn to let go, to take things easy, to move on because there’s no time to waste. Every moment is really precious.

Moreover, when we learn to breathe evenly in both the inhale and the exhale, the speed in which time passes become immaterial. The pace of the count can be fast or it can be slow, but it little effects the steadiness of mind when we are breathing in a balanced way. In that way, we also overcome time.

The ashtanga yoga method as a whole has done so much for me, it’s hard to explain how transformative this odd succession of postures strung together with breath can really be. It’s scope is so very wide in my life. But with led primary, learning to count, learning to surrender to the count is a very specific and concentrated experience. I love it more now than ever. The more time I spend with it, the more time it gives me. Time really slows for me between the beginning and the end of each breath, so much happens, and yet the whole series can be done in a flash. In that hour and a half, we can learn to expand and compress time. Ok, not time itself, which is constant, but definitely our experience of time evolves. We learn to be present, which in this day and age is pretty challenging.

I got married recently, and it’s true what every one says that the build up to a wedding can be so big and then the whole crazy thing is done in a flash. I wanted very much to be present and to enjoy this incredibly special day in my life. I remember when I started walking this incredibly long beach aisle to our odd shaped ceremonial arch, I decided to just breathe and take it one step at a time, there was nothing else to do, no one else to be with, nowhere to be other than right there and then. It did go by all too quickly as all greatly lived moments do, but I can also say that I savored it. I can’t imagine I could fall so easily in that space, slowing myself down, without having that blueprint from the practice.

It must be said that led primary can be very difficult and it might take a lot of practice to even start to observe each breath especially when someone is leading you through it. But that too comes with the practice.

So, no, you can’t dial back to whatever year and redo whatever wrong. It’s not that kind of time machine. But Led Primary does help us tune into the world in front of us, into that precious yet fleeting present so that we can simply enjoy it. It helps us live our best possible moment, one we can happily look back on. And it helps us to continue to move on.p with grace and contentment.

Led Primary this Friday at 8:30am at Nūn Center, 4 Shafik Monsour. Mysore Zamalek has led classes twice a month. If you aren’t familiar with the series, please message us to find out the best way to start an ashtanga practice. 

October Schedule Up

September has had us hopping here in Mysore Zamalek and we are happy to welcome back returning students and introduce a whole new group of students to the practice.

Due to some irregularities in our schedule, we won’t be taking in new students until 14 October. And we thank incoming students for their patience. We are also starting our next Intro Course in the October 26, this special month pass for beginners and refreshers include 3 special classes where we speak more on the theory and foundational principles of the practice.

Please note that between September 30 and October 11, I will be teaching from 7am to 9 only, the room is however open for self practice until 10:30am. October 3, 4, 7 and 8 we have no instruction though the room is open for self practice. October 9 is moon day and there is no class.

For more info on joining Mysore sessions and/or the Intro Course, message us at mysorezamalek@gmail.com. We are located at Nūn Center, 4 Shafiq Mansour, Zamalek, Cairo.

And We Are Back

Classes are back in session here in Cairo. We are happy to get things started this September. It’s a full month.

On top of our regularly schedules classes, Sunday to Thursday 7-10:30am and our two led classes on September 14 and 28 at 8:30am, we are starting our second Ashtanga Yoga Introduction Course, a 4-week course that includes 3 workshop weekend classes and unlimited Mysore classes for the month. It’s a great program for starting or refreshing your yoga practice.

We’ve added “Mysore+”, additional self practice sessions on September 7 and 21, these classes are for quiet exploration of your practice. I will be available in the room while self practicing myself. It will be a nice time to practice together.

Mysore Zamalek classes are at Nūn Center, 4 Shafik Mansour, Zamalek, Cairo. We accept drop ind from experienced practitioners, please contact us to make an appointment if you are a new student. Our email is mysorezamalek@gmail.com.

The Thread of Practice

Parampara, the unbroken line of lessons from teacher to student, is one of the most striking things about our yoga practice. It is a thread that runs through the practice, that holds it together. Many question this, especially these days. But to say that this has no part in modern day Ashtanga yoga, I think, would be a step in the wrong direction. While I often have long stretches of solo self-practice, I could not do this without a teacher.

Is this system perfect? Well, is our practice perfect? It is all just a process. We’re constantly learning, constantly evolving and innovating.

As I take time off from teaching my own students for the next couple of months to visit my own teacher at the source of Ashtanga yoga in Mysore, India this thread becomes ever more present, ever more felt, ever more experienced.

Yoga becomes alive in such learning spaces. I learned long ago that I had to give up my aspirations to teach. Period. To be a student is one of the greatest gifts, to be in a position to receive, to learn, to grow, and to be guided when undergoing such a precious journey is such a blessing. And while I feel the separation between myself and those who I meet daily on the mat, I know that for now it is time for me to learn, to nourish my own practice, and that the long arms of these two months ahead will extend far longer than one might imagine.

Mysore Zamalek is closed from today till early August. We look forward up restarting with you then!