Finding Serenity Near The Pyramids of Dahshur: A Retreat with Yoga Khana
I went on this retreat with an open mind and no expectations.
Yoga is something I started to remedy a back problem I have, I needed an engaging physical activity that wasn't physical therapy, which interested me enough to motivate me to work on building physical resilience. What I have found with yoga is that it's difficult to remain focused on the body, when the majority of yogic philosophy works on the mind and soul just as equally using the breath to guide you inwards.
Did that sentence make any sense to you? Well, it won't at first, but after a few classes you'll get what I mean.
As Yogi Ali, founder of Yoga Khana, pointed out on the retreat, the only way to really be able to grasp people's infatuation with yoga is by diving in and trying it. Practice. Practice. Practice. It's one of those things, you have to try it to understand.
I was no yogi when I started practising. I went to classes, watched YouTube videos and built a home practice with Yoga With Adriene - my favourite channel - and began to read more on the concepts, ideas and philosophies behind yoga.
My first yoga book was called "The Little Book of Yoga" which I bought from Urban Outfitters on Camden Street in London two years ago, because it looked cool to me at the time as Coffee Table book, and only started reading it a year later.
I signed up with Yoga Khana, founded by Ali El Alfy or Elyogiali, for this three day retreat in Dahshur. Ali was joined by Cornelia Pauer or "Nilia", who working together took turns to give us classes, talks on yoga philosophy and lead meditations.
The retreat took place in a beautiful little estate called "Ardy" or "My Land" as translated from Arabic, in Dahshur. The house itself is an 8 bedroom haven, surrounded by vegetation, homegrown vegetables and fruits, a plethora of bougainvillea and a perfect little rectangular pool in the centre.
Hammocks, tanning beds, and intricate wooden furniture were scattered around the garden area. Fresh sunflowers brought in from Cairo especially for the retreat joined us for classes and were placed at the lunch table; flowers are guaranteed to fill a space with vitality and good energy.
Our room was simple, it had everything we needed, and a fully stocked shelf of English and Arabic selections.
Classes took place in the Yoga Shala, a circular room at the far end of the estate ideal for practising, or on the flat open-air roof of the villa. Both were wonderful in their own way. The Shala allowed for a more traditional practice, while doing a class in the sun with the birds chirping and the wind blowing was an entirely new experience for me. I loved it.
The meditations were what stood out to me the most. Being a complete newcomer to this kind of mental concentration, I took it as a new experience and, simply, tried. The results of meditation were to my astonishment completely amazing; arriving with an open mind is key.
Last but certainly not least, the food was exceptional. All locally sourced and vegetarian. Breakfast consisted of an assortment of cheeses, the best ta3meya I've ever had, tomatoes, cucumbers, freshly baked bread, foul, and tahini. Lunch and dinner involved fresh salads, quinoa dishes, and for our final day, home made feteer with molasses. YUM.
Dahshur is secluded and peaceful, as was this retreat. Planned with care, and taught with dedication I would happily recommend this to anyone looking to try something new outside of Cairo.
Yoga is the practice of looking inward. Of not allowing your thoughts, your physical limitations, or your environment affect you or hinder your presence. It allows you to cultivate awareness, and practice being in the present moment.
Yoga isn't cool mats and Lulu Lemon pants followed by a vegan breakfast, although it can be, I view it as an experience. Different things work for different people, and this works for me, to calm the mind and train the body to work with you rather than against you.
Give it a chance and you'd be surprised what you'll discover about yourself through this mysterious and magical practice.