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

 

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The Shala Seeding

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It’s my second to last self practice morning in Cairo and I walk through the Shala door, instantly struck by heat–the unmistakable warmth that comes from consciously moving bodies, from that deep breath with sound. I look down and am excited by the numerous pairs of footwear, more than what could fit on the shoe rack behind the door. I cannot help but smile in excitement, “it’s really happening!”

The Shala is the new yoga space, opened by my friend Iman Elsherbiny and her partners Lina Almari and Fadi Antaki, which partly drew me back to Cairo this last time. A little known yoga treasure in this part of Cairo, The Shala boasts of the only regular traditional Mysore program in Maadi (Mysore is a self paced way of instruction that empowers students to own their practice, to move consciously with breath, to learn the practice that is perfect for their body at the present moment) while also offering children’s yoga, TM meditation courses, kirtan, and vinyasa flow classes.

It’s been a joy to see the how each day is different, how the classes are filling up over the months. And then to come into a room that’s heating up, well, it’s pretty exciting stuff.

Of the teachers within the Ashtanga yoga tradition, I fall into a particular breed that move, from one place to another, covering programs, guest teaching–I do my part in the propagation of the yoga practice, spreading yoga dust with my traveling yoga mat.

However, a different kind of work awaits the teachers like Iman, brave enough to open shop and hold space on a regular basis (the gold standard amongst Ashtanga teachers)–they are like seeds, rooting themselves into the ground so that they can build a proper foundation in which a space as well as people’s practices can grow. It means overriding the wanderlust, it means showing up each morning no matter what. This is where the magic of daily practice happens, under the care of those willing to seed.

It’s been a very special time, this seeding of The Shala. It’s been really special to see this space at its infancy, to see it at so many “firsts”. I look forward to seeing it grow.

PHOTO: Mysore mornings at The Shala: seeding, growing! Mysore classes with Iman are 8-11am Sunday to Wednesday. The Shala is located at no 6, Road 200, Maadi.

Kirtan This Thursday

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Kirtan… I truly love this practice.

I love how singing together in a group invites us to embody divine energies: love, courage, openness, expansion. How it helps us breathe and builds community, creates understanding. In one such soulful/songful gathering in India some years ago I met this beautiful woman from Egypt, a teacher also, Iman Elsherbiny. And over the course of the two months we would see each other in practically every Kirtan gathering in Mysore, so blissed out, hardly exchanging a word. It’s amazing how the world works, how I return now to Egypt, my third trip in a year thanks to Iman’s support/healthy prodding.

What a pleasure it is to celebrate Amy’s new space The Shala here in Maadi with song, the very thing that drew us together. If you’re in Cairo, please join us! If you’re not, throw us a blessing-filled “Aum” from a distance

We kick things off at 9pm, Thursday, October 16. The Shala is located at Road 6, 200 — directly in front of the South American embassy. 

Final Schedule of Inner Dances in Cairo

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Final Schedule of Inner Dances in Cairo

Inner Dance

A process of knowing, being and doing. It’s a healing modality and a moving meditation. It is a question, an answer, a way to release blockages in the body. It is fluid and yet has no form. There are no rules. It can be static. It can be dynamic. Movement is optional. Your dance is your own; it will be whatever it needs to be.

To Book: 0101 348 0974

Meeting in the Mysore Space

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One class day to go here in Cairo. The countdown, I have to be honest, makes me sentimental. While my stay here has just been shy of two months and I recognize that in many aspects I have just been skimming the surface, there is such a great depth built into this work, into this practice of ashtanga yoga.

As we breathe and move in space, taking shapes with deliberate awareness and attention, we embody this process called yoga.

The mind and its trappings come into play, our issues and injuries–physical or otherwise–come to the surface. Our desires and attachments bubble up…and then the practice attempts to burst them.

The practice shines a light on the shadows: tension in the body often reflecting tension in the heart or mind, the dark of the ego lurking in the corners…

Teaching in a Mysore space is like getting to know someone very intimately without any context–and without any judgement. It’s like knowing nothing about a student’s life story yet observing personal symptoms of life and signposts of living.

The joy, particularly, is seeing how it gets physically worked out through this incredible whittling down process, sometimes with grace and ease, while other times, let’s face it, it’s a shit fight!

Sharing in this quiet personal process makes people who practice together incredibly close, sometimes without any of the usual friendly exchanges. We feel each other’s struggles and we celebrate each other’s victories on the mat, which is really a metaphor for our lives.

As for being the “teacher”, I feel incredibly blessed to take part in this process. Often, I do little other than being there. And there are times I need to admit to myself that there is nothing I can do other than to back up and give someone space.

Then there are the little moments that amount to so much: jump starting someone’s practice, moving someone in a different direction, aligning the body to feel secure and spacious, holding someone in a difficult posture…

Understanding and trust are built on this straightforward physical exchange and a very special relationship is formed between a teacher and a student.

I love meeting like this, in such a space that is both so real, so organic, so surprising; this is a space where yoga happens.

Photo: We ease into each other’s company with fluidity that comes with breathing in the same pace. The regular practitioners (Ashtanga Yoga Egypt, La Zone, Maadi) and I engage in the most common post-practice practice: having breakfast fit for champions at Lucille’s on Road 9.

Night & Day

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ImageAshtanga Yoga Egypt in La Zone, Maadi, Morning Mysore Program 7-10am

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Ashtanga Yoga Egypt in Ashtanga Yoga Cairo, Zamalek, Evening Mysore Program 6:30pm

Practicing in the morning and in the evening are as different as night and day–or, rather, day and night.

The body is different. Having woken up from a night of sleep, the morning body is a little more stiff, sometimes: a lot! But then there’s a freshness in the morning practice. In the early evening, the body is warm, more flexible, but also more tired. There’s a certain depth to stretching and willingness to surrender after a full long day.

The mind is different, too. The morning mind is less cluttered, emptying out during sleep. In the evening, the mind can be churning from a day of activity, stress, work, etc…The opposite can also be true, the anticipation at the beginning of the day can also create turbulence in the mind, while the tired mind can at times relax more easily.

The energy, of course, is different depending on whether it is the start of the day or the end of the day. Morning is a jump start while evening is a wind down.

And while practice is most ideal in the morning–very early morning, as the sun rises (aghast! totally unreasonable, I know!), and the air is fresh and vibrant, prana (vital life energy) is up–it’s more important to just practice, to find the time to show up on your mat for your own personal well-being whether it’s in the morning, at noon or at night…


Classes in Zamalek and Maadi continue until December 15. I will be heading to Aswan for 2 yoga retreats, December 19-22 and 24-17 (there are still spots for the second retreat) at Fekra Cultural Center, followed by a stint teaching at Deep South at Marsa Alem to ring in New Year 2014. 

Weekend Warriors

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It may not seem so, but it takes courage to get to class sometimes–to subject yourself to Cairo traffic (even on lighter Fridays), to leave your family for a few hours in the middle of the weekend so you can have a moment to yourself to feel your own body and breath.

But the result is worth it: victorious, we enjoyed the two-hour half primary exploration working on breath, workshopping a little this elusive thing called bandha.

Next Friday, 1PM, November 29 will be the last of the Friday Led classes in Maadi. In December, La Zone schedule will be Sunday to Thursday mysore mornings 7-10am until December 15.

Photo: This Friday’s led class at La Zone, Maadi, Cairo.