What originally brought you to yoga? And to the training?
When I had only a few days left at university, I wrote a long list of things I wanted to achieve after graduation and I called it “Post-Graduation Project”. Among many other things, I wrote “Get Healthy”. So I got myself a gym membership. And because I was unemployed, had lots of free time and strongly believed that it was healthy to keep myself out of the house for the longest possible period, I attended all the classes my local gym offered. Everything from aerobics, pilates to zumba and even belly dance. It took me some time to start seeing tangible results, but when I finally did, I was pleased to notice that I wasn’t feeling as much tiredness as I used to before, I had overall more energy throughout the day and I saw that my posture has greatly improved. But on the other hand I was disappointed by the fact that all of what I did, did not succeed in lowering my anxiety levels or in helping me establish a strong psychological foundation to improve my self-worth and confidence. Therefore I knew there was something missing.
Then to my benefit and total surprise, the gym introduced yoga into its weekly schedule. And I went to my first yoga class with a sole intention of lowering my stress, and with a preset mental image of how the class would go. So I prepared myself to sit cross legged have my hands on my knees, and my eyes closed and chant “yoga yoga yoga”. How entirely wrong I must have been to expect that. The class was set in the late afternoon, the room solely lit by the dim flames of the candles distributed across the space, and the sound of soft ocean waves was playing in the background. Contrary to my expectations we did not sit down and chant but instead we were flowing slowly from one posture to the other. Most of the postures required flexibility and balance. One posture in particular caught my attention the most out of all the other postures, in which we were sitting with one leg spread in front of us and the other held between our arms as one would hold a baby (the sole of the foot being the baby’s feet and the knee being the baby’s head) and the teacher invited us to bring our legs closer to our chests and rock them from side to side. I haven’t experienced something like this before, a straight act of loving and caring for one’s self. This whole experience was so touching, and to my own surprise I found myself shedding tears.
From that day onward, I’ve got completely hooked up to yoga, it was possibly, I thought to myself, the thing I was missing. This did not continue for long, for unfortunately the gym had to cancel yoga classes shortly after that because not many people were attending the classes. Months passed until the gym reintroduced yoga, but this time with a different yoga instructor. And a different yoga style. This was more of a physical activity than anything else. We were asked to push ourselves, work hard, and never to give up. The goal was to perfect the poses. I will admit I benefited a lot physically and also even was able to boost my self-worth to a certain extent, but there was no more holding our legs between our arms.
The thought that there was more to yoga than perfecting poses never left my mind. I believed yoga should be a moving meditation, but it did not feel that way to me. A piece of the puzzle was missing, and i was bound to find it. And since I am a member of the “Right To Movement” community, and I wanted to experiment with other available yoga options, I attended my first yoga class for “Right To Movement” runners at Beit Ashams with Nahed who coincidently mentioned the Yoga Teachers’ Training in front of me. I did not know, at that time, that my decision to apply for the training, would bring me a step closer to finding the missing piece of the puzzle. And it did.
How has yoga transformed your life?
Yoga took me through a long, eventful journey. One that started physically then took a mental turn. One I’m still way far from finishing.
I shall start from the beginning, with the first ever yoga classes I took, coming from a background of fast paced physical activity; yoga for me was such a relief. A time set weekly to loosen up my muscles and relax. I enjoyed the simple stretches and twists – which were all of what we did of yoga at that time. So physically I was getting more flexible and feeling recharged.
With time, as my practice continued, and as I was introduced to more advanced postures, I found I was always doubting myself and often opted not to even try doing those postures, giving in to the thought that they were beyond my ability. I always chickened out. But thankfully, my teacher would encourage me and sometimes even force me to do them. Then to my surprise, I would do them, and for a moment feel like I owned the world, I was capable of doing something after all. This made me reflect on my life, I knew I had missed out on many opportunities simply because I didn’t have the guts to make a step forward, because I was doubting myself and my abilities. I’ll be honest, yoga had an undeniable role in creating a thought in my head, that “maybe I’ve been underestimating myself throughout all these years, maybe I can actually do it”. I’m my own harshest critic, but I’m learning. And action, eventually, will follow thoughts.
I also came to realize that the most challenging postures for me were the inverted postures – which I may add, are still challenging up until this moment. Even in times when I knew my teacher was totally in control of the situation and she literally was supporting and holding me up, I was fretting and pleading her to put me back down, because I was scared, because you have to fully trust yourself to be up there. I haven’t mastered the inverted postures yet, but I came a long way, now I learned I should trust myself and I learned I’m worthy of it.
Then came the yoga teachers’ training and I found the holistic approach in which yoga was presented really interesting. It is something I wasn’t familiar with. A complete novelty to me. My experience was hard and it consisted of a lot of learning. I learned about yoga philosophy, about the yamas and the niyamas, how important it is to let go, to forgive, to love unconditionally starting with myself. Dealing with others is less of a trouble for me. My real struggle is with the way I perceive and treat myself. Yoga philosophy surely opened up my eyes to this; it also helped me realize that I could do something about it if I will. Because I learned that it all starts with the thoughts we feed our minds with. And the ultimate goal of yoga is to use asanas, pranayama and meditation as a gateway to reach a state through which we’re somewhat in control over our minds. And as Emoto concluded in his water crystals experiment “we’re all water bottles after all”.
With the training I also experienced how to listen to my body, how to clearly identify the fine line between giving my level best and pushing too hard.
And in addition to opening up my joints, it also helped me open up to others, to share my thoughts and feelings, which is a very big step to me.
Yoga has definitely transformed my life, I’m fully aware that I still have a lot to work on, but I’m pleased of where I am now. I’m relieved that I can now continue on with my life caring a strong basis that the teachers’ training has helped to build.
How do you plan to teach?
For the time being, I will start giving weekly yoga classes for kids in Beit Ashams beginning together with Yara (another new teacher). I’m also planning to teach once a week for “Right To Movement” runners in Farashe yoga studio in Ramallah.
I had plans to practice yoga with my girlfriends outside in nature in a nearby park in Jerusalem. But current security situation does not allow for such a move. This plan is postponed for lord knows how long.
In the future when I get more experienced with teaching, I plan to continue sharing yoga with kids especially the underprivileged, I believe that working with kids have the miraculous ability to instantly lift one’s spirit. And maybe even share yoga with teenagers by then, because I know how difficult teenage years could be, and how much potential teenagers carry inside them, a potential if directed towards the right path, can do wonders.