Natural Teacher

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Nature is a great teacher.

So many inspiring lessons from the Nun Center Yoga and Detox Retreat at Soma Bay. One afternoon meditation we took the class to the great outdoors, meeting on the beach before sunset for a walking meditation.

There, each participant walked quietly, with presence and awareness, each taking their own time to feel each barefoot step on the sand as the Red Sea lapped at the shore, meeting at one spot where the sun ducked behind the mountain ranges.

With little instruction other than to breathe, to feel their feet and be in the present moment, each person set off on their own small journey.

Each experience was different from the another, but what was clear was how nature became their teacher that afternoon. How the sand, the water, the epic far off mountain ranges, the air and the sun took part in a range of subtle and spectacular lessons. How when we relax into nature, it holds us, and leads the way.

Nature is a great teacher.

PHOTO: Retreat participant Amber and her son Jonas watching the sunset at the end of our walking meditation.

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Seeing Shadows

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It’s interesting how when on long retreats or long periods of intense practice inevitably the dark shadows come.

Not that darkness itself comes, but
rather how in all the brightness and illumination, we see more clearly the shadow self: the dark egoistic tendencies, our repeating issues and patterns, old but not so forgotten sadnesses and bad feelings.

Not that we are meant to dwell on these things, but rather as we see them for what they are, we become less scared or intimidated or bothered by them. It is only a shadow after all. And there, we are able to move on.

Coming to the end of this week long yoga and detox retreat with Nun Center here at Soma, I’m reminded of how seeing these dark versions of ourselves are really gifts of light and vision. That clarity in the heart and mind comes from really truly deeply seeing.

In my way, I am excited by all the shadows that surfaced and by the courage and openness and exploration such shadows inspired in our wonderful group here. Everything is a gift. We simply must be open enough to receive it.

PHOTO: My own shadow on the beach here at Soma Bay, Egypt, which has been a lovely setting for a retreat.

The Yoga Bridge

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For nearly a week, three times a day, I’ve been meeting with our Yoga and Detox group here at The Thalasso Spa Soma Bay yoga room, unimpressively called Gym 2.

From day 1, we’ve been building something, though at the start, well, it seemed indistinguishable.

Bits and pieces if this thing we call yoga. Shapes and forms with the body. Sanskrit Mantras. Breathing techniques. Meditation.

And with our group of mostly beginners, some entering the retreat midstream, even I wondered at the mysterious structure, I wondered how the yoga portion of the retreat would take form.

Now, nearing the end, I see that we have been building a bridge. That in this setting of detox, of clearing the body and mind and emotions, of letting go, the yoga practice has been about building a bridge between one way of seeing, living and being to another more wholistic approach.

We are between two varying paths. Yoga is a bridge. And I’m looking forward to seeing myself and this group on the other side.

PHOTO: Bridge at Soma Bay. Excited to lead the group over this bridge later on our afternoon walking meditation. Though the retreat is soon coming to an end, I know that whatever has started here will continue to move people forward. Happy to also know I will continue to have contact through classes as NUN Center this month and an Ashtanga and Inner Dance Workshop there at the end of the month. It’s going to be great!

Egypt, Return to the Desert

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Ushtrasana, Camel Posture in the sand dunes of the White Desert last April 2014.

Landing in Egypt today marks a return to work. Here are some of the exciting things lined up for the next couple of months:

* October Classes at The Shala & Ashtanga Yoga Egypt
* October 30-November 2 Ashtanga in Aswan w/ Iman Elsherbiny at Fekra Cultural Center
* November 9-14 Nun Center Detox & Yoga Retreat
* November 19-23 Siwa Yoga Adventure w/ Iman & Freedom Travelers 

More are in the pipeline. Will post info as soon as.

If you would like to join or would like more information, email at kaz.castillo@gmail.com.

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.

 

 

 

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!