Yesterday, I took a walk on the beach in Soma Bay before our last afternoon class. Just the day before, I led our yoga group on a meditation walk at the very same spot. And I was struck by how much the landscape had changed, how the sea and tides had reshaped the sand. It was so different from the previous day; it was another world.
Everything changes. When we surrender to the flow, when we stop resisting the natural forces that move us, we simply shift.
Leaving Soma Bay now and as I reflect at the week that passed, I can see how everyday was different. How the various elements (detox diet, treatments, meditation, community, yoga) have been forces that have worked subtly on each participant. How, as our inner-scape changed, so did the body, the face, the light in our eyes.
Yes, everything changes like the beach constantly resculpted and reformed by the tide.
PHOTO: Beach, Soma Bay, Red Sea, Egypt. Grateful for the shifts this week.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In two days: a new journey.
Farfara Oasis with it’s famed White Desert is known for the expanse of chalk white and curious rock formations sculpted artfully over time by the rough desert winds. Once a sea-bed, and then a savannah of lush green with herds of roaming gazelles, giraffes and elephants, it is now a living monument of ever changing time–a fitting place to practice yoga.
Free of distractions, the wide open areas of the desert, is a symbol of the clarity and purity that can be achieved by regular yoga practice. Slowly day by day, we are clearing away the debris of stress and tension, attachment and expectations, of our own preconceived ideas and cultural conditioning.
Going into the desert can also be tough, a harsh landscape, full of trials, bringing out the most innate of survival instincts. This is also true about the yoga practice. It can be full of struggle, pushing one to his/her limits, initiating one into the process of birthing and dying, of receiving and releasing, finding that oh-so-difficult balance between holding one’s center and simply letting go.
And so we plan…There’s no harshness built into the program as we have excellent guides, only one day of camping, a very modern, very comfortable trek into the desert, but the foray into the Great White is built into the yoga practice, into the asana-s, into the meditation, inner dancing and the satsang, each in its own way an opportunity to observe who we are in this liberating landscape.
PHOTO: Care of Freedom Travelers, who are expertly organizing this trip. Ashtanga in the Desert: A Yoga Retreat is on Thursday March 27-30. Co-teaching with me is the lovely Iman Elsherbiny.