How did you get introduced to yoga?
I started practicing yoga in 2010 with a few friends of mine. We would attend private classes together after work but it didn't last long. I started going by myself afterwards until I got addicted to it. Later in 2014, I was in Kuwait and I had a lot of issues at work and I was always stressed out and I barely had any time for myself. I decided I needed to take a month-long vacation and go for the yoga teacher training course, not necessarily to teach but rather to know how I can practice on my own. I packed my bags and I went to Thailand and during my second week, I sent my manager an email and I quit my job, and I called my parents and told them that I wasn't going back. I lived in Thailand for 2 years! It was such an easy decision that came very naturally, I simply found myself there and I realized I couldn't continue to waste away in the corporate world.
I finished my training and I started working in my school, I was assisting, I was leading a very basic and beautiful life. After two years, I felt it was time to go back home and I came back here to Egypt.
What do you think it was about your teacher training that made you decide to quit your job and pursue yoga as a career?
I realized that I hadn't been myself for more than 3 years; I was extremely stressed at work, I had no social life, I was unhappy and I couldn't feel satisfied with anything I'm doing. I thought there was something missing. I can't really explain what happened in Thailand or pinpoint a specific thing but I just felt like home. I felt very comfortable and I felt that I was finding my soul and my true self again. I would look at my teacher, my guru, and I could see myself in him; I could see myself doing this for a living and sharing the path of yoga.
When I first started to practice yoga, I was focused on and motivated by the physical practice. In Thailand, I was drawn into the spiritual side of the practice and it was through that, through taking life one day at a time, through facing and dealing with issues, and through finding peace within that led me to know that I wanted to become a yoga teacher. My journey was a getaway from everything that I know, culture, people, everything familiar, and it was so liberating. I was able to find my center, focus on myself and work on bringing out my true self.
A lot of people have certain idea of what a Yogi should behave and look like. What's your take on this?
A Yoga teacher is a human at the end of the day, they don't look anything extra, it's all about balance. A lot of people think I'm strange for going out and maintaining a good social life when I'm supposed to be the squint and quiet yoga teacher. I don't need to be any specific thing. For me, I just tried to balance everything out. I try to practice every day, I try to eat healthy as often as I can, and I push myself to become a better version of me, but I'm no angel and I'm not supposed to be one. I don't live by any book, I'm just doing the best that I can, balancing between my social life, my practice, and everything else. We don't live in a bubble; yoga teachers are just like everyone else, we just perhaps see life differently.
What do you think is missing in Egypt's yoga community?
A yoga community! Coming from Thailand, it's a very tight-knit community, we have certain places where all yoga teachers go to; we chill, we discuss teaching, we share examples about different student cases, we help each other out, and we take each other's opinions, everybody knows each other and we're all friends. I don't really feel this here, I feel there is more competition, which isn't what yoga is about for me. I would like us to get to know each other, to support each other, and to collaborate together. I think this platform is a very good start, you have most of the teachers under one roof and you have a great opportunity to do something with this.
How different is practicing yoga in Egypt than in Thailand?
In Thailand, you have the full yogic atmosphere. You have the nature, the spiritual part, even the people, they come with the right energy, and you have a lot of great options. Here, I feel we're stuck in a studio and we're trying to pace a busy life. You practice to try to cool down or control the things around you, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, it's just the way things are here and the way lives are. I do still feel a lot of people are stuck in the physical part of the practice and they're not exploring the other aspects of it.
Meditation is very hard and that's why it's one of the last levels of yoga. So yes, the physical aspect is a great start to get you there; you're gaining the strength, the mobility and the mental capacity to be able to sit in meditation. So, where we are here in Egypt is a great start but people need to understand that it's only the beginning.
How do you balance between being a teacher of yoga and a student of yoga?
Honestly I do practice every day. I teach two to three classes a day at most so that's about 3 hours of my day. I have plenty of time for my own practice. Of course, there is more time that goes into driving to and from the class but I still have a lot of time available. What I do sometimes if I'm not in the mood to practice at home, I go half an hour before my class time and practice for a bit before the students come in. I also practice with my students sometimes during class.
If you had to pinpoint some of yoga's most valuable lessons for you what would they be?
This is a very difficult question. I’d have to say, yoga allowed me to see life differently. I know this sentence might be overused but this is seriously what happened with me. I saw success in life as having a corporate job, proving yourself at work, having better titles, better salaries, better cars and houses and it brought me nothing but stress. It was all very materialistic and I was never satisfied with anything anyway. In Thailand and through yoga, I learnt how to be happy with the most basic things imaginable. I was able to understand that I can live doing what I love and not what I have to do or what I thought I had to do. So, when I got off that path I thought I had to follow, and explored something that I love, I was able to see and appreciate life in a completely different way. I get to enjoy everything now, my personality changed, the things that make me happy changed, everything changed to the better, much much better.
To practice with Nina, visit her teacher's page here.