Yoga in Palestine

Thirty years ago, Nahed was one of the first women to start with yoga practice in Palestine. She started teaching even before she had the chance to go to India to get a teacher training. Now she is not the only one anymore. We speak with Nahed and with Eilda, the founder of Beit Ashams for self development about how important yoga and meditation are for body and soul. Especially in the Palestinian context of continuous oppression, restrictions, stress and pressure, more and more women AND men are finding their relief in yoga and meditation practice.

Beit Ashams does not have a website yet but you can find them on facebook:

Eilda is working on content for two applications in Arabic for meditation practice.

Meditation applications

Tawazon has meditations in Arabic for different moments, for relaxation, for mindfulness practice, for children and for trauma. Fitjab is especially created for women who where the hijab, the head scarf.

For meditation apps in English check out: Insight Timer, Calm or Plum Village.

You can find these applications in the Google Play Store or in the Apple iStore.

Tawazon meditation application

Transcript of episode 4: Yoga in Palestine

Kristel: [00:00:00] Welcome to stories from Palestine podcast. The weekly podcast that is recorded in Palestine and about Palestine. My name is Kristel and I study the tour guide program at the Bethlehem Bible college. This is episode four of season two. Last week we did a guided tour through Beit Safafa, that was a history episode.

[00:00:29] The week before we learned about Sufi sm in Palestine. And this week I talked to Eilda Zaghmout and Nahed Bandak about yoga and meditation in Palestine

[00:01:07] Kristel: I am at Beit Ashams [House of Sun] yoga center where I’m meeting with Eilda.

I’ve actually had a couple of yoga classes here myself. And about two years ago, I did a mindfulness meditation course. And that was the first time I got introduced to mindfulness. I never was interested in any of that. And coming to Palestine, I all of a sudden started to know more about meditation and about yoga and it’s really enriched my life.

[00:01:36] So I really wanted to make an episode about this center in particular, but also about yoga in Palestine. So I’m really happy Eilda, that you have time for me because you’re a very busy woman. Can you just introduce yourself, tell us a little bit about who you are and how did you get introduced to yoga?

[00:01:53] Eilda: So thank you, Kris, for this. I am so excited and I’m privileged to be interviewed by you and this beautiful podcast. My name is  Eilda Zaghmout. I am a yoga and meditation teacher and I am a co-founder of Beit Ashams for self-development. This center is a community center that started exactly in January 2015. So we’re six years old.

[00:02:18] Now, if we, you know, exceptionally take off 2020, it’s like five years, no, seriously, we celebrate the sixth year this year. The journey  of Beit Ashams actually started as a vision of a safe space where people can come and feel hope and feel light. You know, we live in a very difficult situation, not just on, you know, the social or economical level, but also on a political level.

Eilda Zaghmout

[00:02:47] So Beit Ashams was created to give hope. When it’s easy to lose hope outside. So as people come in, the vision was to create this beautiful space for them to come and like, you know, release the weight that they’re carrying in their bodies and come light. And we need lights in this place, in this country where there is a lot of darkness and actually not just here, it’s becoming all around the world.

[00:03:14] So that’s where the vision started as a, actually at the beginning, it was supposed to be like a woman’s center, but then we thought, you know, te want to reach out to everyone. So it turned out to be a community center. So Beit Ashams is divided into three main rooms. The room we’re sitting in is called Horizons, and the idea is to open up our own horizons through discussion, through reading, through, you know, gatherings and meetings.

[00:03:42] It’s a way to elevate. And also there is healing through sharing. So this is one of the places that had like hard discussions. We also have the kitchen space, which we called Creativity and Exploration. And it’s the space where we work with kids. So kids from age three, they come to this room and they bake, they make food with their hands.

[00:04:03] And the idea is to connect to our senses because you know, kids at this time, they are kind of disconnected or using all of these devices. It’s hard to come back to who they are. So we connect through the senses again by baking and making food and eating what we do. And also through crafts.

[00:04:22] So they come for two hours and they, you know, for mothers, this is like the ultimate gift, you know, because a lot of moms I know for myself at one point I was like, don’t mess up the kitchen! So this is where they come, they mess up the kitchen.

And we have ‘Being’, the third room because we believe we all are beings of love, of bliss, of light and freedom.

[00:04:45] So this is the room where we do yoga and meditation. Any kind of activity that connects us to our true self, our true being, this is briefly what Beit Ashams is all about.

[00:04:57] Kristel:  And how did you get connected to yoga? Because I came here the first time, 12 years ago, I think now, and I had not heard anybody talking about yoga.

[00:05:08] It wasn’t something that I heard was part of the society. And right now, 13 years later, that’s a different story. So can you tell me a bit about your journey in yoga? How did you get introduced and maybe also connect that to how yoga was introduced into society?

[00:05:24] Eilda: [00:05:24] It was actually a pain in my neck,which my chiropractor suggested,

[00:05:29] and he said, you know, if you find yoga, it’s going to help you. So I had a severe pain and through my chiropractor, I started looking for yoga and it was actually Nahed who was teaching. She was the only one that was teaching. So I joined her classes and I felt much, much better. And that’s when you have the sense of, wow, it’s helped me and I would love to help others.

[00:05:52] So I wasn’t a yoga teacher back then. I started my journey with Nahed and then I was working in an NGO. And then I decided to resign while having that vision where I knew yoga will be part of Beit Ashams, but I wasn’t a teacher. So, you know, you call something and the universe listens. So that’s how it came.

[00:06:14] There was this yoga teacher training in Palestine through a Canadian organization. And I did my 200 hour certification during the training. At one point I wasn’t ready to teach just days before the last part of my training, because that was a long journey. I jumped into teaching. After that, construction started at Beit Ashams.

[00:06:35] And then my journey continued because you know, yoga is a journey of self-discovery that doesn’t stop. So I did my kids yoga teacher training in the US and you know, the more you practice, the more you fall in love, the more you want to know more. So I did my level one and level two yoga teacher training, which is a school of yoga

[00:06:56] that’s called like power yoga. So it’s a dynamic practice that works on, there is physicality of the practice, but the idea behind it is when you do the physicality, you stop your mind and you connect breath to movement. And it’s dynamic because you also release a lot of emotions from the body. So I did my level one and two in the US.

[00:07:19] And I was hoping in 2020 to do my third level, but it never worked, but it’s okay. You know, and throughout this journey, I also did yoga for trauma. I did a training in Jordan and then also another training in Jordan I did was yoga for kids with cancer. So this also allowed me to start chair yoga practice, which is yoga on a chair for elder people and people with injuries.

[00:07:43] And it actually came from my training in yoga for kids with cancer, because we use the chair for these kids because they are after their chemotherapy sessions, they have high fatigue. They are imbalanced. So you want to give them like all the tools that they can use. So I adapted this to have it for seniors and people with injuries who cannot practice the normal kinds of yoga and poses.

[00:08:09] Kristel: That leads me to the next question, which is, how do Palestinians, like the society, perceive yoga. I mean for me, I realized that Palestine is quite a religious society. Whether you are Muslim or you are a Christian, it is the Holy land after all. And most people, they are born into religious families. So that’s what they live, that’s what they experienced.

[00:08:29] And yoga is something that’s probably a little bit away from that religious belief. So how does the society perceive it? And do you see any changes in that.

[00:08:41] Eilda:  It was actually challenging. It’s still challenging at one point. I come from a Christian background from the Greek Orthodox church.

[00:08:49] So some priests in my church say, this is haram [not appropriate according to the religion] this is, you know, against the will of God. Others say, if you do the physicality of it, if you’re not going deeper into like the rituals, it’s okay. And actually what I am bringing here, I always say this, it’s the intention of people. My intention was never to convert anyone.

[00:09:11] My intention was never to bring the foreign belief system into my own community. My intention was to help people the way I felt helped to release the tension from the body, the stress and like really create space within yourself, releasing all of this, the heaviness in the body, the weight you’re carrying the burdens of life.

[00:09:34] It is stored in the body. The more you go deeper into the yoga practice, you see it, you feel it like the pain, the responsibility, you know. So once you go into this journey and my intention was to take people on a journey of self discovery to connect to the true essence of who they are. My intention was never to take them  away from their own belief system.

[00:09:55] On the contrary for me, yoga was the way to show me to connect me back to my faith, because it’s not that crazy. It’s not that different. I mean, when in the yoga philosophy you learn the non stealing, the non harming. The non lying, it’s part of our tradition, our faith. It does not contradict. And that’s why I say it’s intention.

[00:10:18] So there are people who thought it’s not okay to practice yoga, but I think also with being here for all of these years, I saw also the change. People did shifts and recently we’re seeing, we’re having like full classes of people. Even during COVID-19. We ask people to sign up in advance and we have like safety measures, but people are finding this as a tool to take them away from what they have been experiencing.

A meditation session at Beit Ashams

[00:10:46] Kristel: Do you offer yoga classes only here in the center or do you also go out and maybe offer it in other locations?

[00:10:55] Eilda: Actually we started here. To set up a physical space at the beginning. And then I go out to,…  I had a beautiful group of young girls in one of the villages around Bethlehem. So I used to teach girls from age 7 to 12.

[00:11:11] I also worked in different refugee camps with women and also in villages. It wasn’t like constant. By invitation. So I would go and share the practice of yoga and meditation with several groups of women. You know, Beit Ashams is becoming like an umbrella to bring different practices where people connect to their self-care and well being.

[00:11:33] After starting the physical space, it gave me the time to go out and reach out to different communities in Palestine.

[00:11:40] Kristel: Is there a difference, for example when, let’s say women who are coming here or men also come here, right? Yeah. So they come here and they maybe know about what yoga is, because that’s why they’re coming.

[00:11:52] But when you go into the refugee camp and you do yoga for a group of women, who’ve never done it before. Is there like a difference?

[00:12:01] Eilda: Totally! People will come here knowing what they’re doing, kind of, even if they’re new to yoga, but you know, they are coming. But when I’m invited to go to different places it’s like totally new to people.

[00:12:15] And actually what made it at one point a little bit challenging is we don’t have a literature of yoga in Arabic. I myself was trained in English. I remember the first time I did a class in Arabic, I went into the class ready to teach with my English practice. And then everyone is an Arab in this room, why to teach in English?

[00:12:37] And I was like, Ooh, oops. I had to come up with all the words, terminology. And also it’s very sensitive because in English and in Sanskrit actually, the original language of the Asanas, the physical postures, they come from the nature. So we have cat and cow and upward dog and downward dog. So, you know, you can just like, say this in Arabic, it’s like intimidating.

[00:13:09] So I was like, okay, we have to come up with something. It’s very interesting. Why it’s easier to land for us when we speak in English, but you do it in Arabic, it’s like, you’re cursing someone. I was like, okay, that’s a bit challenging. But what actually I have noticed is women in villages and refugee camps are also very open to have their own space.

[00:13:37] I mean, you know, in a refugee camp, it’s packed. People don’t have their own personal space. And the yoga practice is becoming that own personal space, their own yoga mat. It feels like their own Island, their own home, where they can just like be who they want to be away from distractions. I also worked with, with a group of women in the old city of Jerusalem.

[00:13:58] I worked with different groups of women, you know, when I had permission able to go into Jerusalem. I did a beautiful training also to share, not just yoga practice. I am a yoga teacher, meditation, and also I am certified in tools called capacitor tools of self-care. So I integrate a lot of things for the women.

[00:14:17] It’s like a beautiful journey that they take.

[00:14:19] Kristel:  So you mentioned that you had a teacher Nahed, and we will speak to her shortly, and then was there other teachers with her, before her? And how is that now? In Bethlehem area and maybe also in other towns, can you say something about the number of yoga trainers and other yoga centers?

[00:14:39] Eilda: [00:14:39] So also to give credit to Doctora Olivia Anastas. She was the first woman to teach. She’s a dentist. So she got also more involved in her, you know, clinic, but she was one of the first women actually to introduce yoga here in Bethlehem. And then it was Nahed and that’s it. Until we did the yoga teacher training with this Canadian organization.

[00:15:03] And they certified a few of us. I’m the one that’s teaching now. And actually after that, and after Beit Ashams started to become, like, as I said, as an umbrella, we had different yoga teacher trainings. So we did certify people not through us, but there was this French organization and we trained around 21 women from all localities, governorates in Palestine.

[00:15:28] Some of them are active, actually still teaching. Some are not. And I would maybe say, you know, if you depend on teaching yoga to support yourself financially, it’s not. So, this is also part of the things, is this is kind of new to the community. I mean, I honor and appreciate all the teachers that came before us and laid the foundation for this practice, but also there was still, you know, it wasn’t very much popular. Now there’s Farashe in Ramallah,  a beautiful center and we have beautiful relationship with all the teachers there. There are few teachers in Hebron, maybe two.

[00:16:06] In Nablus here is one main yoga studio, for my friend Haya. And also there’s Mirna, there’s Sabrina there’s Naheel and also a Farah. So we have a group of yoga teachers in Nablus. Jerusalem, we have a few actually recently this past year in 2019, which continued to 2020, we did a Kundalini yoga teacher training here in Beit Ashams.

[00:16:29] So we also certified people over this long journey of six months to train them in Kundalini yoga, which is also yet another school of yoga. They did finish their training in March, 2020. And we have a group of them that started teaching at Beit Ashams. So the community is growing. There is a community of yoga teachers in Ramallah, amazing teachers.

[00:16:51] We kind of have like relationship with each yoga teacher and purposely also I connect and I contact those who I know that certified. And it’s very interesting in Ramallah. There are a few male teachers. Yes. Because usually we’re seeing women who are leading a, you know, yoga classes, but there are a few courageous, I would say brave male teachers in Ramallah.

[00:17:16] Yeah. So the community of teachers is growing and we are actually reaching out to the community around us, by teaching and sharing the practice.

Yoga in Beit Ashams

[00:17:25] Kristel: Now for people who are not close to Beit Ashams and who can’t come here, are there any ways to do yoga online, maybe applications or something in Arabic language?

[00:17:37] Eilda: At the beginning of COVID in 2020, when all of this craziness happened, I also took time for myself. At the beginning, I thought, you know, I felt frustrated for a few days. And then I was like, okay, let me just be and enjoy my time at home. And I didn’t want to teach at that time. I felt like it was too much.

[00:17:58] I am a mother of two and it’s hard to keep my two kids, you know, locked in a lockdown, in a room, for me to teach. So I was like, I’m not going to pressure myself. And I started using our Facebook page just to share some practices, like breathing exercises, different yoga poses, to help release tension or help with, you know, a better sleep.

[00:18:21] I used that platform. And at the same time, simultaneously, I was contacted by an app. The owner of this app is from Kyrgyzstan. It’s very interesting. This guy has an app called ‘Fitjab’, and it’s a fitness application designed for women, especially women with hijab [Muslim head scarf]. This gives them their own personal space to practice different kinds of fitness.

Fit Jab application

[00:18:45] So he asked me to do yoga classes in Arabic, and that’s what happened. So we have this Fitjab. These are paid classes, but they are not expensive. People can just log in and get the variety of classes. And this is the first time I speak about this. With you today. So this is one option. The other thing is I am a head of meditations at the first meditation and mindfulness app in Arabic, called ‘Tawazon’.

[00:19:11] I write the content of the meditations and I record them with my voice. And then we have this wonderful app, which was just featured by Apple a few weeks ago. We have different meditations. Things that, you know, speak about emotions or emotional eating or binge eating.

[00:19:56] We have a section for relaxation and meditations before sleep. And we have a very special kids library that we do meditations for kids starting age 3 to 6, 7 to 12, 13 to 17.

[00:20:48] Kristel:  Eilda, can you tell me a little bit more about the children’s meditations? Because I have children and I really want them sometimes to wind down. So how did you come up with this idea? How did you produce them and what is special about them?

[00:21:02] Eilda: The kids library is designed to speak to different age groups.

[00:21:07] What makes this library special is the fact that it’s being checked by Dr. Shafiq Masalha who’s a clinical psychologist. So actually when I write the content of the meditations, I send them to Dr. Shaffiq, he checks and he sends me his feedback and I edit and that’s before recording. And it was very interesting to hear his feedback every now and then, you know, for every meditation that I write, because sometimes I fall into like my Lala land.

[00:21:36] Speaking of this forest with animals who are living in peace. And he goes like, no, that’s not true. You can’t just fool the kids. You have to say the truth. I was like, okay. You know, just speaking about this one man show, he was like, no, it’s about cooperation. So, you know, he was kind of very like the feedback he gives me is very professional.

[00:21:59] It also opens up my mind to the mentality of the kids and how they think. Now we use inquiry all the time in the meditations, which means we ask the kids questions and they start really at an early age to know how they feel. How did you feel about this bird that tried to save its forest, its home, the courage of this bird. But sometimes do you feel not so courageous. And there’s validation for all the emotions for the kids in the meditation.

[00:22:31] So you also give permission for whatever emotion they have. To be validated. And this is something that’s really interesting because you see it landing in kids’ minds and conscious at an early age. And this gives them a possibility for the future to be able to express. But for me, the kids meditation is a very special library, is a very special section.

[00:22:57] And also another very special section in this app is designed for post-trauma. Now I don’t write that content because I don’t come from a psychology background. We have a group of psychologists who write these meditations and they’re coming from the scientific background, but also they are meditators. This section is built for post-trauma. And it’s been also very helpful in reaching out to people.

[00:23:23] I have a beautiful colleague, a male voice, in the app who reads the meditations for men that are designed for post-trauma. So man speaks to man and I speak to women in post-trauma. So that’s also a very interesting section in the app.

[00:23:39] Kristel:  I’ll make sure to post links to these two applications and to the center in the show notes of the podcast and on the website.

[00:23:46] So people can continue and look for more information there. Can you, when you think back over the last six years that the center has been open, give example of some of the events that happened here that really stand out for you?

[00:24:01] Eilda: Now, that’s very interesting. Well, actually we had a lot of amazing events. Beit Ashams worked as a magnet also.

[00:24:09] As I said, when I said this was an umbrella, it helped a lot of teachers from abroad also to come and share their practice in a safe space, a safe setting. We have a wonderful connection with teachers in the Plum Village, which is a very famous community meditation center in France. So we used to have teachers.

[00:24:32] Every year for three days, leading a meditation retreat here in Palestine. This is like an outstanding thing that kept happening every year to have teachers coming from this tradition and share mindfulness was amazing. And the last time that we did it, we had like 45 people in the retreat. A lot of trainings, a lot of workshops.

[00:24:52] We also had Khawla with us for a wonderful mindfulness practice for people to go deeper. And this was like a series. You remember? It was amazing because it started, you know, from beginners and she took people in this journey. I’m also very proud of my beautiful British teacher, David Sey, who comes here every year, shares the practice, builds this community together.

David Sye Yoga Beats

[00:25:15] He does a very crazy type of yoga called yoga beats. So he actually plays beats in the background of the yoga practice. And he believes that you don’t stay in the pose for a long time. It’s not static. So he keeps having these micro movements like dances, like you’re moving your body with the music and it’s amazing because he comes from a very rich background of not just yoga and meditation, but Sufism.

[00:25:40] And he brings a lot of things into the practice. So we have amazing teachers, also like teachers from India that came here, you know, all of the yoga teacher trainings, we have Kundalini, you know, I do the power yoga practice, the dynamics. So you don’t stay in the pose for more than five breaths. You keep moving.

[00:25:57] It’s a flow. We have Hatta, which was one of the old schools that Nahed maybe would speak about. We have yoga therapy, which is designed also to release pains of specific illnesses in the body. We have Kundalini, which is kind of fast paced, but you stay in one pose for a certain period of time. They do also chanting and mantras, and we have an amazing group of teachers that were certified.

Kundalini yoga with Shereen Barakat

[00:26:22] We also have yin yoga practice, which is the total opposite of power yoga, because it’s a passive practice. You stay in the same pose for three to five minutes. So it’s designed to stretch your muscles. It’s designed for you to go deeper. To release. I used to do chair yoga practice. Now I stopped because of COVID and you know, the target is elder people and I don’t want to cause any harm, you know, you don’t want to be responsible for anybody’s harm.

[00:26:49] And also we have kids yoga classes from age 3 to 12. So we have a variety of classes here.

[00:26:56] Kristel: Thank you Eilda. I have to say that for me as a Dutch person, moved to Palestine and coming to live here, your center, even though I don’t have that much time to come. And last year was very hard, but it’s really helped me to get through some hard faces in life.

[00:27:13] Coming to move to Palestine in general. It wasn’t that easy. It’s not a country like any other country. And we are facing a lot of restrictions and we see a lot of violence around us and we see a lot of people not being able to live the life that they want. And that brings a lot of stress and anxiety and having a place like this,

[00:27:33] where you can learn about mindfulness. It has changed my life. So I want to thank you for this, for your effort. I know that you put a lot of your heart and your time and your energy in this place, but I know that it’s been for many people who are living here, something that has helped them through hard times and they are now able to also share that and spread the light.

[00:27:55] So thank you Eilda and I wish you all the best, all the luck.

[00:27:58] Eilda: Thank you Kris, for, you know, your time for this beautiful energy you are  bringing here and good luck with your podcast. It’s very interesting. I’ve been also following you recently with the podcast, so I’m very proud of you.

[00:28:11] Kristel: Namaste

[00:28:22] Eilda: Namaste

[00:28:51] Kristel: Nahed, thank you very much for having some time to be on this podcast episode about yoga in Palestine, and you should be on it because Eilda told me that you were one of the first people to teach in Bethlehem and that you were her teacher. So welcome. Thank you very much for being here and tell us a little bit about yourself if you want.

[00:29:10] Nahed: Yeah. Thank you, Kris. And, uh, it’s a long story, but in short, it started like 30 years ago, after I had my four kids. So I started yoga and practicing yoga at one of my friend’s house. Teacher used to come and give us classes twice a week. And since then, I just, I was hooked to the yoga and I fell in love with the practice and the effect also of the practice at the end.

[00:29:39] So since then I’ve been, I was practicing, you know, regularly and really integrate with the feeling that I had at the end of each class. And that made me realize that yoga is not just about poses and practice. It works deeper, on a deeper level, on body mind, and bringing balance to the whole body.

Yoga Teacher Nahed Bandak

[00:30:06] Kristel: Can you maybe for people who don’t know anything about yoga, can you explain in short to what it is? Because I know there are still people who have never done it, so they don’t know what to expect. 

[00:30:18] Nahed: Yoga is like, self transformation. You know, you change. It’s many things, you know, it’s like, uh, poses and breathing and meditation all together with a practice with practicing poses and breathing and meditation,

[00:30:36] this works on the energy centers on the body that brings balance to the body and mind and soul and emotions and sensations. This is what yoga is in brief. Poses are so many poses, like hundreds of poses that we do that works on energy centers.

[00:30:55] Kristel: So tell me about how did you become a yoga teacher?

[00:31:00] Nahed: Yes, after I practiced, I’ve been practicing like regularly for 15 years, something like this.

[00:31:07] I started teaching even without my, I didn’t have a training or a certification. The director of the wellness center asked me to teach there yoga. Because we were practicing there with another teacher that taught for a while and then she didn’t want to continue. And he asked me to continue instead, in her place.

[00:31:27] So I hesitated at the beginning and then I started teaching .It was really terrifying for me to teach without certification, but I did. And it was an amazing experience with my students. Then Eilda came in when I was teaching there at the wellness center. Yeah. And then I decided that I want to, you know, have the training,. And then I got introduced to a teacher that I really admired,

[00:31:58] and then I signed in his training in India and I went, I had my training after eight years of teaching without certification.

[00:32:07] Kristel:  Wow. You went to India for it?

[00:32:10] Nahed: Yeah. I went to India for the training. It was an amazing experience.

[00:32:15] Kristel: [00:32:15] Yeah. I bet.

[00:32:17] Nahed: [00:32:17] Yeah. To learn yoga is the best to be in India.

[00:32:20] Kristel: [00:32:20] That’s where it’s from originally?

[00:32:22] Nahed: Yeah, originally it’s from the Far East, from India. Maybe 5,000 years ago it started, something like this.

[00:32:30] Kristel: And how did you see yoga developing in Palestine? If you’re, if you’ve been doing it for such a long time, then you really saw how it started out of nothing. And then what is it today? Can you kind of picture that for us?

[00:32:45] Nahed: Yeah, it’s been spreading out amazingly at the beginning was so slow. Because I, I was the only yoga teacher. Here in Palestine, in the South. In the North there was, but it wasn’t that spread out. Then I was teaching my students and they became interested in yoga and trainings came in, from internationals.

[00:33:06] They came, teachers came in. They had like trainings here and my students applied and we had more teachers and also in Ramallah, Farashe started. And other teachers, you know, started with one teacher and then more teachers had trainings and we had more teachers also in the North. So now in the South we had nice number of teachers and also in Ramallah, in the North.

[00:33:33] It’s been spreading out. There is a demand for it, you know, everywhere. So I, for me, I, I do outreach, outreach, yoga, you know, I go to, even refugee camps. I teach there and I teach in centers wherever I have a call, I go, I just go, this is my mission. This is what been calling me since so many years, you know, to spread out yoga, in my country in Palestine.

Meditation session at Beit Ashams

[00:34:02] Kristel: How do you see it beneficial for people? Can you give an example of what it does with people?

[00:34:09] Nahed: Yeah it gives them like comfort and they’re so eager to have the session because they feel this peace and calm and balance when they do the practice. And also they tell me about their experiences when they go home.

[00:34:27] Also, they take this practice with them. And, you know, yoga is not about just poses. It’s about also controlling the mind because most of our problems and imbalances comes from our way of thinking, our mind. During our practice, through assanas, through poses, we practice our balance and being focused and centered.

[00:34:54] So all this can be taken to their daily life with a family, with them at work, you know how to follow their goals and being focused to where these goals with a practice on their mat, their pauses, balance, and have steady gaze. This will help them also to apply this to their life. Many people tell me about their stories.

[00:35:22] And how they take this home and deal with the kids. It makes them calmer, more peaceful, more patience with their children. They’re dealing with them differently now. And even doctors are recommending yoga for their patients. So since 15 years ago, until now it’s been spreading out. Amazing. Yeah.

[00:35:46] Kristel: And did you see within your own circle of family and friends that people were getting interested because of you because your daughter is also a yoga teacher, right?

[00:35:58] Nahed At the beginning they were like all making fun of me. And 30 years ago it was like a, to think to start with yoga. What’s yoga, you know, but after so many years,… she graduated from university and she had her career for eight years. And then the shift happened without me pushing her or even guiding her through this journey.

[00:36:24] You know, she just chose to leave her career and to start her journey in yoga. And she’s so happy that she did that because this brought balance to her life, even more.

[00:36:36] Kristel: Did you ever experience within your own community, from a religious point of view, that they were against yoga because they thought it was against the church for example?

[00:36:46] Nahed: No me personally, no. But like the center I teach in, yeah, they faced                challenges, but me, myself, where I teach, I never had this experience. Or with my family, yeah, sometimes they make fun of me and they say you are Buddha, you’re not a believer. You’re atheist. I don’t know. At the end they see the result in me, you know, on how I deal with situations and with them and, you know, you become human.

[00:37:16] Kristel: Yeah. But for example, how is that when you go to the refugee camps or the villages where the majority of people is practicing Muslims, do they find it easy to combine yoga with their religion?

[00:37:29] Nahed: Some people, they don’t come, they refuse to come because they believe it’s against their religion. But the people that they participate, I have very religious people that come to my classes,

[00:37:41] they don’t have this kind of thinking, like yoga is against religion, because they see how we practice, being connected to your body and how you feel to your thoughts and how this can make your life easier and happier to connect and to accept how you feel in this moment . And the way you feel, and believe that this will pass, this won’t stay.

[00:38:27] Kristel:  If you want some suggestions for yoga and meditation apps in Arabic and English, then go to the show notes of the podcast or find this yoga episode on the website

I can’t emphasize enough how it has changed my life to take daily time for some mindfulness meditation. And I want to take this opportunity to share my gratitude for Khawla Shahada, a Palestinian Dutch mindfulness coach who taught me this:

[00:39:00] The mind is like a glass of water with sand. If you keep stirring, then the water will never get clear. It is when you leave the glass of water for a while that the sand will sink and the water will become clear. And the same goes for the mind. When you keep thinking, worrying, planning, analyzing, you don’t give your brain the chance to get clarity.

[00:39:30] And that is what mindfulness meditation does. You should really give it a try. If you haven’t already had the experience.

Khawla Shehadeh mindfulness coach

Now thank you for listening. And it’s always nice to hear from the listeners. So don’t hesitate to go to the Facebook or Instagram page and leave a message. I read them all and I always reply.

[00:39:52] You can sign up for the weekly mailing list to get a reminder in your mailbox when a new episode is online. And of course you can help me to keep going by doing a small donation on the Kofi page. There you can buy me a coffee or a falafel sandwich.

All the links that you need, you can find in the show  notes and on the website

[00:40:18] From my heart to your heart. NAMASTE.