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.
Very excited to return to Egypt. Before going into the desert, will spend a week in Cairo and offer Inner Dance and privates.
First offering is on 22 March, 5-7pm Inner Dance Workshop at Ashtanga Yoga Cairo in Zamalek.
To reserve a spot for either the desert retreat or Inner Dance, message me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are ready to pay for your deposit for the Desert Retreat, contact Yasmine Rifaat, our Cairo coordinator, on Facebook.
PHOTO: White Desert, Egypt. Save the date announcement was posted today on Facebook. Very excited to be planning my trip and class offerings,not to mention the chance to reconnect with students, friends, and adopted family. More details to follow soon!
Since I started traveling last year, Pazzifica Ashtanga Yoga is the third mysore program I’ve subbed for. It’s been a full season for me: Osaka, Cairo & Barcelona. It’s fascinating to see how, although the essence is the same everywhere, the yoga practice adapts to to the different needs and cultures of the people in each place. The character of practice changes according to the personality of the people and the flavor of the place.
My time in Japan, confirmed what many teachers shared with me. My students in Osaka were incredibly keen, present, disciplined and attentive, especially to their teachers. They worked hard to deepen their practice and got the results to prove it. I miss them still, it was a real joy to work with them.
And Egypt…well…how to explain…
Needless to say, Egyptian students are not the same as Japanese students. This was apparent in the first workshop, which I co-tought with Iman Elsherbiny. Some students had interrupted the flow of the class to negotiate their way out of doing a certain posture. Iman and I locked eyes. She smiled and shared with the class that she had just briefed me on how Egyptian students were unique and here we were in negotiations, right in the middle of class. Everyone laughed, the students especially, they seemed to agree that they would sort of be a handful and, in their way, were consoling me about it.
Fast-forward to the end of my trip as I led the Aswan retreat, half peopled by regular students, some I met on that very first day. Already, my first morning of silence was thwarted. Everyone agreed to it, sure. But no one seemed to remember come morning. For this group of 17, I could sense that their combined energy didn’t make for silence, so I just rolled with it.
And then, on the final evening, just as the bonfire was being stoked into existence, I’d just barely turned around to fetch a cup of tea when a giant speaker was brought out. Before I knew it, students were taking turns playing smartphone DJ–attention deficient ones at that, we’d make it through halfway or maybe two-thirds of a song before someone changed the track. Still, everyone was up and dancing! Really joyfully dancing!
On one hand, I wondered: how had I so completely lost control of the group, how would I maneuver them into the thoughtful sharing at the closing circle and soulful kirtan that I had planned?!
On the other hand, it’s pretty freaking hard to get people’s energy up in this manner! And here they were just clapping and singing and laughing and dancing because that’s what Egyptians do at a party. And our retreat had become a party, a celebration, a gathering of new and old friends, who had seriously bonded over three days of yoga classes, meditations, great food and amazing sightseeing. We genuinely loved each other and reveled in each others’ company. I had to admit, I could not have done better.
There’s more to that evening: a yoga retreat theme song that was improvised at the spot and a special Egyptian style warrior pose that I can’t even begin to explain…so totally fun and awesome, yet so totally wrong and outrageous at the same time—a feeling that replicates for me when I think of Egypt, so totally indescribably strange and also very eerily perfect.
Yoga, Egyptian-style…It is what it is, so much like the people there and Egypt itself, it’s got its quirks but it’s got a lot of heart! I look forward to returning!
Today, just finished my second week here in Barcelona. Starting to get to know the students, a mixture of the global community that make up this very unique city. I look forward to getting to know this magical place through this group of students. So far: Me Encantada!
Photo: Wall art carved into Philae Temple walls in Aswan, Upper Egypt.