Drawing on Sand

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Drawing on Sand

Last week, I hit a beautiful stride in practice. All was flowing smoothly: the breath, the corresponding postures. Even my difficult poses seemed to be giving way. Backbending, which has been so elusive of late, seemed to have returned. I was so happy.

The last two days, however, has been a different story with a completely different body. I’m not thrilled, but I also accept that this is a part of the journey.

It’s a humbling reminder that sometimes practice is a little like drawing on sand, that some depths take a great deal of time to set, that there is a certain impermanence to day to day practice, that it takes little to sweep away what we have so artfully crafted.

Still, there is no need to be frustrated. There is no need to be attached. This is the nature of things, that nothing stays the same, least of all our minds, our bodies.

Maybe this is the greater lesson: to know that what we do, what we create, what we breathe life into will inevitably change, or die, or go away–and not just be ok with that, but instead actively celebrate this cycle of life and living.

 

Photo: Zeina composing circles in the sand, the sun setting behind her, during our Ashtanga in the White Desert Retreat. White Desert, Farafra, Egypt.

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Move to Your Own Beat

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When you really give yourself space, when you give yourself room to breathe, something magical inevitably happens, something moves and flows.

It may be spontaneous dancing, a sigh, a cry or a song. It may be very quiet, a tear drop rolling off the cheek. Whatever it is, let it come and then let it go…

Photo: Shifo enjoying a solitary boogie during our Ashtanga Retreat in the White Desert a couple of weekends ago.

Iman Elsherbiny and I are in Cairo this weekend, teaching Ashtanga and Inner Dance workshops near City View. To join or for more information please contact Mariam Sobhy on 01001188660. 

Road With No End

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Road With No End

On this desert road, the path disappears into the horizon, but I know it just keeps on going, that the further I travel, the stretch of road will continue to expand before me.

This is the same with practice. There is always more beyond what the eye can see.

Once upon a time, this would have been frustrating. The desire to get to an end, to reach a goal, to finish, is so compelling…

These days, however, am relishing the continuity of practice. How getting better at one posture, for example, means seeing that there’s more work to be done elsewhere. How it flows and flows without end, how there is somewhere else to get to, something else to experience, even when I don’t know what it is because somehow there’s a feeling that I know where it’s all going: home, where the perceived end is only another beginning.

Photo: The road into the White Desert, Farafra Desert Oasis, Egypt. Offerings this Weekend: Inner Dance in Cairo, April 11-12, 8:30-9:30.

Going into the Desert

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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.

Take the Practice into the Streets

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Take the Practice into the Streets

After some time, after regular practice, something strange, different may happen…Before you know it your practice has gone beyond the four corners of your rubber mat.

I arrive Thursday evening. Al Cairo, the crazy city that somehow has drawn me back.

I found myself a little anxious as I boarded the plane. Was this an act of insanity, was I really returning to this crazy city? I worried about life on the road there, the gridlock, the hot tempers and near misses that characterizes life in Cairo.

My friend and fellow teacher, Iman Elsherbiny, has arranged for someone to pick me up. Ashraf is on a yoga study-exchange and only started with visiting teacher Sonja Radvila in February. He’s been going regularly ever since, and he tells me right away how much he loves it.

Not ten minutes out of the airport, a car full of people nearly back into us–we are on a highway. It’s a near miss, but horns are honked, and windows are rolled down and I am expecting the exchange of harsh words.

Ashraf surprises me. He smiles, speaks jovially across to the other driver.

For a split moment there is a sense of dismay; this is not supposed to happen. And then the whole thing shifts. Tension melts away as the other driver laughs as well, goodwill traveling between two cars in the middle of a bustling highway. Then we go our separate ways.

Something in me relaxes. All is well.

I commend Ashraf in his good humor, his ability to change what could have been an ugly situation. And he laughs and credits the ashtanga yoga practice. He says that he can feel the change.

I love this. I love how the process works, how the care, calm, consciousness cultivated in yoga practice inevitably spreads into daily life.

LIVING IN CAIRO & INTERESTED IN YOGA: Iman Elsherbiny (0122371729) and I (0101348097) are offering privates in Maadi. Iman’s regular class schedules can be found in Ashtanga Yoga Egypt’s FB page. We are taking a group into the White Dessert this weekend, March 27-30 for a special yoga retreat, if you’re interested, call or email me kaz.castillo@gmail.com. More details on FB, look for Ashtanga in the Desert.

PHOTO: On the road with Ashraf and Iman, sunset along the Corniche in Cairo.

Inner Dance in the Desert & in Cairo Saturday 22 March

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Inner Dance in the Desert & in Cairo Saturday 22 March

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 kaz.castillo@gmail.com.

If you are ready to pay for your deposit for the Desert Retreat, contact Yasmine Rifaat, our Cairo coordinator, on Facebook.