How did you get into yoga?
I've been doing yoga for maybe five or six years now. At the beginning, the feeling I always got out of yoga, the practice, would be very much different than anyone else’s. It's very strange but I'd come out from a yoga class sometimes very angry and I'm like why is this happening to me? Everyone comes out of savasana so relaxed and in touch with themselves and now that I understand more about yoga, my anger was just a release of so many things. So I was actually doing some work when I wasn't acknowledging it or even aware of it. There’s so much more to yoga than just the physical part because that's all I knew at first. At the time, I was working at a bank in Dubai and I wanted to leave this corporate life and find something else to do. I thought yoga would be a good option then, not that I would be a good teacher, I still wasn’t very confident then and I doubted myself. I just knew I wanted to do something that is yoga-related, maybe opening a studio in Cairo to share yoga, with an area to read and an area to chill.
I went to India originally for a month but decided to extend my time there. I needed the discipline and I felt like it was something very much different from my lifestyle before. The effects of yoga take a lot of time to kick in but in India, it was slightly faster because there's no other focus but your practice and yourself within the practice. So, I found myself starting to develop in a way that is not related to the physical practice itself but related to how I was as a person. For example, I used to be insecure about many areas in my life, ‘I’m not going to be able to do that, teaching is not my thing, my physical body is not strong enough’. All these things I used to tell myself started to diminish bit by bit and I started to realize that it has nothing to do with me. I’m just a messenger, nothing more, nothing less. Instead, I started thinking, ‘You Farahnaz, as a practitioner, that’s your own thing, but you as a teacher, you're just here to transfer knowledge. Yes, it gets filtered through you as Farahnaz giving out this knowledge but the knowledge is the same’. So, I started to realize that and I started to want to learn more so I can share more. I was hooked on yoga. It’s been a constant development process for me since then. I'm only a student and I have a long way to go and it's very exciting and every time it's different and I'm excited to share the process with the students. We’re both in it together, they teach me and I teach them and this is how it's been so far.
What was the least expected thing that yoga helped you with?
It’s very strange but I’m nicer than I used to be! I'm kinder in nature and more compassionate. I've always had this lack of connection with my emotions, I’ve always had this gap. I'm not going to say that I am fully connected right now because I'm still working on it but yoga has been helping me get in touch with my emotions and making me more understanding. It’s been making me want to do good too, be nicer to people. It’s helped me articulate how I feel as well. I look at things, I analyze them, I understand them, I change my opinions about things, and I’m accepting of all that. Yoga makes you in touch with the whole process of thinking and feeling and doing rather than just one without the other. It's a process. I’m so aware of everything now. Sometimes it’s exhausting, something I think all the awareness is backfiring but I let it go. I harness acceptance and patience with that awareness and I can’t say that my emotional connection is perfect now, but it’s definitely a lot better.
As a teacher, you don’t always have time to practice, how do you deal with that?
In general, giving time for your self-practice is essential. Teaching could affect you negatively when you're physically and mentally exhausted. As teachers, we’re very invested in it but there could be drawbacks to that. We have to come to terms with the fact that we’re not superhuman and we all deserve breaks like any other person that works. We need a break from teaching as well. So, I would say a couple of days off every couple of weeks is good to refresh the system. Keeping a daily practice if possible would be great too, I’m trying to keep up with that now. The most important thing to understand though is that yoga is not getting on the mat and practicing for an hour or so every day. It becomes a part of your life even if you drop a week of physical practice. I can practice through reading a chapter in a book, do some breathing exercises, turning my car ride into meditation, becoming more patient and accepting of myself and others. There are different ways of incorporating yoga in your daily life and once you become aware of that, practice will be a part of your life.
What is something that you hate to hear about yoga, whether it's a misconception or something that you don't necessarily agree with?
It just upsets me when somebody says ‘Yoga is not for me’. What do you mean by that? There is a lack of knowledge about what yoga is and who it’s for and we are partly responsible for it. It's our role to inform people that yoga is not for a certain type of people, it's not for the people who eat well, drink well, sleep well, those who are flexible, or have any specific type of body. Yoga is a process and to start it, get on a mat, start reading about it, doing something and eventually you’ll start witnessing its effects and reaping its benefits, whoever you are and whatever you look like.
What advice do you have for those new to yoga?
I would say go to classes, explore teachers, explore the different types of yoga and see which type works for you best. Teachers are essential and if you feel that you're not connected to a practice, it might not be the type of yoga. It doesn't mean that you're not into yoga nor does it mean that the teacher is not good, it just means that the connection is not very strong and that's fine. Try again. Read about yoga and understand the feeling you get in a practice. The effects are way stronger than people expect, you have to have that in mind as you practice. It's just the lack of awareness and the many distractions of the city of life that keeps it at bay. Open up to them and you’ll start experiencing them yourself.
What about advice for teachers?
Teachers in Egypt, I would love more talking and explaining in classes. I feel like yoga needs to be talked about more here. We definitely want to learn more and being on the mat and doing asanas is not enough. So, share the knowledge you have about yoga. Share articles with your students, book recommendations, share more in any way possible. I find a lot of students who have no idea about the full spectrum of yoga and they’re not willing to listen because they expect to go in a yoga class and just start moving but it's not only about that. So, this is something that needs to be increased, if all the teachers here do that, the students will listen.
Farahnaz is a teacher with a lot of passion about her practice. She recently opened Bardo Clubhouse in Maadi. On September 8th, they have an exciting workshop by David Goulet called Science of Chakra and Pharaonic Mythology. You can find out more about it here.