Farah Ehsan is one of Egypt's rising yoga teacher superstars. With such attention to detail and small bodily movements, she makes you doubt you were ever aware these parts existed in you. Her passion for learning and understanding anatomy and bodily functions is astounding. And she uses it all to serve the community and teach classes unlike any other. You can join her programs right here: www.flowbyfarah.com/on-demand
But first, scroll down to read all about her journey and her teaching style.
Teacher Feature • Farah Ehsan
What is yoga now to you as Farah, a yogi?
Yoga for me is everything, it's my whole life. I really believe in practicing what we preach, and it's been one of the things that's been keeping me balanced in life. I don't believe in perfect relationships; I've had my many battles with yoga. I don't want to turn people off but the more you get into something, the more you obsess about it, the more you see both the good and the bad, and the more you have to unlearn some things as you go, and foster new, better things along the way. And that's yoga to me in itself, learning moderation and not to take things to extremes, and learning how to keep my body in balance; and that's something that's often forgotten. Yoga itself has changed over the years. The yoga that existed 1000 years ago is not the same Yoga that exists today. And it's important to question things and to ask why; there's no one right path and there's no one right thing. We really need to be aware of that.
And what is not yoga to you?
Yoga is definitely not trying to achieve things that are unhealthy for you. Yoga is not comparing yourself to others; which is much easier said than done. Yoga is definitely not a very intense practice that is supposed to exhaust you; it's not supposed to make you burn out, nor cause any damage to your body, tissues, mind, or anything of the sort. It's really important to examine and to notice when these things are happening. Be honest with yourself even if it's sometimes hard to recognize.
You've been reinventing what yoga is about, taking the big picture and breaking it down into tiny little ones. How’s that been like for you?
I truly enjoy explaining anatomy in my classes and found that my students love learning about what's happening in their bodies. Even though we're not always doing big expressions, the small movements that may not seem like much, have a huge impact. My students wonder how it feels so difficult if they're such small movements; and I'm all about mindful moments now. Initially, what probably bought me to yoga were the big dramatic poses like arm balances. But, the deeper I dug, the more I realized that there are other things we can explore for long-term sustainable health. So, what I've been sharing most recently is what I truly believe, which is that yoga should be a sustainable practice to last you a lifetime.
I previously would focus more on crazy poses, but it's been a process of continuing to ask questions. I think one of the most helpful things for my yoga practice was to look beyond Yoga teacher training. To learn more about anatomy, the nervous system, joints and connective tissue in depth, I had to attend other kinds of trainings. Education never ends and I don't think I've ever not been enrolled in a course.
I believe that the 200hr teacher training is the bare minimum, it's only the tip of the iceberg. When I finished my first teacher training (which was great!), I walked into my first class to find one person with a knee issue, one person was pregnant, another had a shoulder injury and I freaked out, thinking ’how can I serve all these different people?’ I wasn’t prepared for that at all. So, you have to always keep learning to be of service to different people with different bodies, different injuries, different needs. I urge everyone to do that, get out of your comfort zone, learn and then learn some more. Follow professionals from different disciplines, people on different paths, teaching different things; that's how we continue to grow.
Photos by Mahmoud Al Fiky
A lot of teachers are notorious for dropping their own practice when they start teaching yoga, any experience or advice here?
Personally, I suffered from that a lot especially in the beginning. The thing about teaching yoga full-time is that it becomes your main source of work and you're pushed to teach more and more classes to be able to make a sustainable income. But we need to change that and foster the 'less is more' mentality. We also need to value yoga teachers and pay them well and fairly. I started off teaching too many classes a week; definitely a lot more than I could handle. I was experiencing a lot of pain, I was fatigued all the time, I had to nap between classes, and it took a while for me to understand that this is not what I want to do. But, I still wanted to continue teaching yoga. So, I ventured a bit more into entrepreneurship, rather than relying solely on yoga studios.
I led my own Zoom classes during the pandemic, and I was able to teach a more sustainable number of classes per week. I gained some more control over my time, which gave me time to continue studying, because I still had a lot of questions! Now I put limit to how many classes per week I teach. Even if it affects my financial income, I have to put my health first.
What's also been working for me, and I can advise other teachers to do, is to experiment with a shorter personal practice. I can now guarantee that I'll at least get on my mat daily for 20 minutes, rather than setting unrealistic expectations of myself.
What's your experience been like using social media as a teacher?
The first thing I want to say about social media is that it's a tool, and for many yoga instructors, it's a business tool, so it should be treated as such. There needs to be a bit of detachment, and to separate our self value from the numbers. I like to use social media to share what I'm learning, what I'm passionate about and what I can teach others. I want to connect with people who need this kind of content in their lives. At the end of the day, I give a lot to these platforms, and I work hard to create content which is a long-term investment.
The best thing about social media for me has been talking about things that I'm passionate about - I think that’s very underrated. People are spending so much time on their phones and you have a privilege to be able to share things for free with them. So it’s important to respect people’s attention and time, share things that are of value.
I try to focus on content that is going to help people, and concepts that I actually teach. So, when someone comes to my classes, they have an idea of what to expect. I believe it's a great tool for anyone to share their passions, the good, the bad, the process, and what you've learned.
It's important to understand the power of social media and how we can help people through it. Whenever I get messages telling me that I shared something, about back pain for example, and that it really helped them, it's honestly amazing. I spend a lot of my time creating this content and it's nice to hear it helped someone. Over time, you create real connections and relationships with people. Isn’t that what it’s all about?
Farah Ehsan • It's all about the details