Not all who wander are aimless. Especially not those who seek truth beyond tradition, beyond definition, beyond the image. I am often asked, “How did you come about being a yoga teacher?” My answer is “Yoga found me”.
Three years ago, I was sitting in my high floor office in Cairo, browsing the web and searching for inspiration. I was looking for a sign that would tell me who I am or what the purpose of my life was. I had spent most of my post-grad life working very hard to get to this very office. I was starting my career in the field of commercial trading in a very reputable American firm, living a very comfortable life and earning a four-figure salary. Born and raised in a conservative family in Egypt, my sole motivation was to go above and beyond the tradition and norms of society, where women are expected to complete education, get married and raise a family. This motivated me to get the best education and the so-called “best job”. I was supposed to be happy, but before I could realize it, I was captured in my own image, which was suffocating me. How can one be super successful, make good money and not be happy? My ego prevented me from sharing my feelings and discussing these questions. I started drifting away from family and things that were important to me. To release this captive feeling and frustration I started running and yoga.
I was trying to break through an imaginary cage. I bet many of you can relate to this situation. How many of us are running away from work and life by torturing ourselves after work hours, eating and drinking mindlessly or working out to death, just so that we can live through another day?
At first, it started with one or two classes a week, but soon, like an addict, I was there as often as I could skip out of work early. The yoga teacher was an escapee from the world of public relations. She had luscious red, wavy hair and milky skin.At the end of every class, she turned off the lights, and we students lay there in the dark. “You deserve good things!” she intoned in a throaty voice.
I wept silently. I desperately wanted to deserve good things.
Over time, I needed that positive affirmation more and more. I needed a teacher, a spiritual guide, someone to tell me that I was worth loving, that my body was fine just the way it was, and that, somehow, the universe knew what it was doing. I decided that the most efficient way to do this was to become a yoga teacher myself.
In the midst of all this bliss, I got fired from my job. It was 16 June 2016.
There is a quote by Leonard Cohen “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in”. The light of yoga had penetrated deep into my soul and made me a yogini. That incident of losing everything all at once connected me to my true calling and passion and I immersed myself into studying the various forms of yoga. A teacher once said, when we find our true life’s passion, it will be fully expressed when we begin to share it with others. To share the gifts of yoga, I began teaching extensively. Before I realized it, a year had passed. I was not meant to be a prisoner of corporate life and since then I have been a full-time yoga teacher.
It’s so rewarding to inspire and support others through their journeys; nothing beats the feeling of seeing others begin their path to spiritual and physical healing. Everyone of us has a story to tell which spurs on others to begin their own journey and develop their own stories to share. Seeing my students grow, heal and transform is amazing. I watch them grow from misguided and clumsy fawns into majestic and graceful bucks. Teaching not only validates but also enhances my understanding of yoga; the more I teach, the more I get innovative in helping my students practice the right postures and asanas. I grow as a yoga practitioner the same time I evolve into a better teacher effectively promoting the values of yoga.
When I reflect back on my journey over the past year, one of the most valuable lessons I have learned is “Get rid of old to make room for new.” Sometimes you do it deliberately, other times it is forced upon you. The most important thing is that one needs space in their life and heart to be present and embrace new experiences. Some of us know what our passion is but are scared to act upon it. But most of us don’t know our Dharma, our calling, our purpose. The real question is, if we don’t have time to explore the gifts of life, will we die not knowing or experiencing it either? You don’t have to burn yourself out of your current job like me to find your passion. All you can do today is to get rid of the old comfort zone of friends and experiences that define your identity and you will create space for new things that are waiting to connect with you. Put yourself out there and try something new. Explore a new country, learn a new language, get involved in a volunteer organization or something as simple as trying a new yoga studio. Every experience, whether good or bad, teaches us something. The universe conspires; you just have to pay attention to the signs!
Instagram: Mariam Azmi