A Look Back: Ashtanga Yoga & Detox Retreat in Gouna, Egypt

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This retreat with Nūn Center in Cairo was a total surprise. The day I decided it was time that I finally book a ticket out of Cairo, where I have been lingering for nearly over two months, Nada from Nūn called to see if I would like to lead the retreat, thus happily extending my time in Egypt.

The week-long retreat was a marriage of so many beautiful methods, all promoting nourishing the body, mind, and soul. Meditation, breathing exercises, Sanskrit chanting, yogasana (ashtanga and gentle classes for those on juice fast) were woven through an expertly planned and executed nutritional program with a juicing or (delicious!) vegan detox diet and body work. Inner Dance, particularly, moved participants to new depths, allowing people to feel free, release and flow in new ways. Everything just dropped so beautifully into place.

 

 

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There were a variety of yogasana classes. We started with a gentle welcome class introducing many to their first taste of yoga. The following mornings, more experienced practitioners opted for ashtanga class with the first two days being foundation-building led classes, followed by mysore-style self-paced classes, while juicers and beginners were treated to gentle flow and yin-style classes, focusing more on allowing students to cultivate greater awareness of their bodies.

 

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One of the best things about teaching a week-long retreat is the luxury of time. There is time to develop a stronger connection with students, to cultivate greater awareness in the body, to dive deeper into the multifaceted yoga practice. We had time to meditate each morning, to practice chanting mantras like the Gayatri Mantra, to sample yoga nidra and kirtan.

AND There was time to dance–inner dance, that is. In all, there were three sessions. The first session was an (inner)eye opener in which participants felt awe and surprise at the experience of their own healing energy. The second, which was a partner session, was a playful and loving exchange between participants. The final dance was one of deep surrender and beauty, spontaneous and heart-opening.

 

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I love how after the week, I could clearly see the transformational power of yoga combined with a rich slew of holistic practices, how everything beautifully supported each other. Grateful for this final offering in Gouna, Egypt. Excited at the possibility to work further with Nūn Center in the future.

PHOTOS: Nada in headstand, background is The Palace pool in Sheraton Miramar and the Red Sea behind it. / Asana classes. / Partner inner dance session. / Chanting together. / Final group picture.

 

 

 

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End is the Beginning

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End is the Beginning

It’s surreal to be back in Manila, an entire year since I first set off. Again, coming to full cycle.

So ends an incredible journey of both teaching and learning, which has taken me to North Yorkshire, the Spanish Pyranees, Barcelona, Japan, Egypt, Barcelona again, London, and Cairo for a second time. So ends a series of sharing in Egypt, so begins new opportunities to share and grow. So ends a year of travel, so starts a new adventure. Always: the end is the beginning.

Over a week ago, I was leading a retreat in Gouna, Egypt through Nūn Center. There, away from life in Cairo, overlooking the Red Sea, we found respite from the day-to-day madness. We were coaxed deeply into process: the detox diet coupled with yoga and inner dance facilitated some deep purging. Some kilos, tears, and a lot of old limiting ideas were shed. We were all sad to see this special time come to an end.

In truth, however, the end of the retreat marks the beginning of the real work ahead: the challenge of how to bring the lessons and impressions of that week into our “real” everyday existence. Returning “home” carries the weight of our old samskaras, our old patterns.

Sometimes, these cycles may make us feel like we are on some strange loop, things interminably repeating. And we struggle when we see that we ended up exactly where we started.

But nothing stays exactly the same. Change is inevitable–even if we appear to be revisiting a similar place or moment. One teacher/friend likes to point out that these cycles become more and more refined over time. It’s true; as I sit in my old room here in my family home, where nothing appears much to have changed, I cannot help but notice the biggest difference: me! I am different, and through me, things will continue to change.

 

PHOTO: Closing Circle for the Ashtanga Yoga & Detox Retreat with Nūn Center in Gouna, Egypt.

Into the Sea

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Into the Sea

I love it when yoga and inner dance are a surprise. Yoga, particularly, has hit the mainstream. We all know what it quote-unquote looks like, and from there extrapolate certain ideas. But when we really experience it, everything changes…

It’s a little like walking down a long pier and then getting to the end and seeing the expanse of the sea before us. We can look at it. Observe its beauty. Be in awe of it. We can take in its coolness, its freshness with our eyes.

Or, with a little courage, a little effort, we can walk to the pier’s edge, and plunge in, bathing in the cool clarifying waters, being surrounded by it, being in it. It is a different experience altogether.

The sea and its depths may continue to be a mystery, but we have a deeper (more sea-level) understanding of it. There is an experience of the sea, which often–in the yoga tradition–is a metaphor for Consciousness–with a capital “C”.

Yesterday, when we closed the Ashtanga Yoga and Detox Retreat in Gouna with Nūn Center, more than a few people expressed what a wonderful surprise the whole process was, particularly the yoga and inner dance process, how both supported the detox but also opened up the body, heart and mind.

I loved teaching this group for a week. A week program gives people time. It allows to people to slowly get their feet wet, to take a dip, then wade, until they are ready to dive.

Into the sea. Of consciousness. Of change.

PHOTO: Steps to the ocean. Off the pier near Sharaton Miramar’s Palace, the setting of the week-long retreat. A beautiful end to a very special time here in Egypt. And I think also a beautiful beginning, no, many beautiful beginnings… Gratitude abounds!

Shadows Surface

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IMG_3780Yesterday, just past the halfway mark of the Yoga and Detox Retreat here in Gouna, a retreat participant shared her surprise at the emotions which were coming out of the process (juice fast, bodywork, yoga…). Some issues she had thought she was well past. I could not help but smile a little. Yes, I thought, this is also a part of the process.

I will always remember my first trip to study ashtanga in Mysore, India and how subtly and dramatically it worked on me. It was a breakthrough, with emphasis on “break.”

I recall how the months passed softly, beautifully undramatic. And then, quite suddenly, close to the end of my third and final month, I found myself crying over my favorite Indian breakfast, triggered by one little question: how are you today?

Not much had changed really. Life was still good. The practice was amazing–somehow, however, it had facilitated crucial movement, it had stirred some very old stories. And these old stories continued to cast their shadow…

How this usually obscure shade on the ground, when I looked properly, was quite a telling reflection of me, triggering what was the beginning of an epic healing journey.

We all cast some kind of shadow. It is a reflection of us, but not who we are. When we notice these shadow sides, it is an opportunity to recognize who we really are as opposed to what we are not. And as we change, so do our shadows.

PHOTO: Today, I love my shadow, as pictured at a pier here in Gouna, Egypt. It’s been a very special time here at the Nūn Center Yoga & Detox Retreat. I am totally inspired by these group of participants, who are taking this opportunity to shed unnecessary weight in the body, mind and spirit. It’s been wonderful supporting this process with yogasana, meditation, pranayama, chanting and inner dance.

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.

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.

Inner Dance & Ashtanga Yoga in Gouna, Egypt, April 24-26

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Gouna Workshop kaz and imanJoin Amy and I for the Gouna Weekend Workshop on April 24-26. Beautiful Gouna is located on the Red Sea in Egypt.

@ Insight Counseling and Integrative Health
Thursday, April 24: Opening Circle/Introductory Class 7pm
Friday, April 25: Yoga Class 10am, Inner Dance 7pm
Saturday, April 26: Yoga Class 10am, Inner Dance 12n