Thank you

When I opened Hamsa 4 years ago, I strived to make a difference, amidst a chaotic commercial yoga scene. Hamsa was, first and foremost, about the quality of its teachers. No fancy decor, no marketing strategy, no clothes or incense shop, just a small yoga studio in yet another Beiruti building doomed to demolition. We did it all from scratch. We distributed flyers, brought our friends along, and opened with a kick. People joined from all over town, beginners and experienced alike.

Today, my teaching has evolved, my vision has changed, and my life is no longer the same. Instead of spending my time trading hours for dollars, I have many dreams to fulfil.

I would like to thank, from the bottom of my heart, all the people who have literally stepped into Hamsa: whether you were a friend, a teacher, a family member, one of our regular yoga students whom I will surely miss, or a drop-in who chose never to come back, THANK YOU!!! You have made Hamsa what it is today. Without you, we would be nothing.

For those of you who still hold class packages, Hamsa will remain open and running with a reduced schedule until June 21st. The outcome of the space itself is still to be discussed, but we will keep you informed as soon as we know ourselves.

I wish you an exciting and fruitful year ahead,
Sarah

A word from Sarah...

It is with great joy and gratitude that I have had the chance to see, meet and maybe even teach each and every one of you at Hamsa over the last two years. The dearest and most precious gift one can get as a teacher is to witness one's students grow and mature on the path. I feel very touched and grateful for your trust, each time you lay arms open on your mats, ready to let go of what no longer serves you.

As you may know, I am now eight months pregnant and my body is calling me to temporarily withdraw from teaching, in order to focus on the upcoming birth of my daughter. Hamsa Yoga Space is very dear to me, and I feel grateful for all the teachers who will be taking over during my absence. I think this space reflects the essence and spirit of Yoga, in its simplicity of form and ethos, striving for continuity and stability despite the very nature of our ego, which always wants more: to sell more, to buy more, to produce more, to receive more, and to consume more.

The festive season is coming up, and I can already sense the shopping madness manifesting in the streets. The texts say that the path of Yoga begins with ethical guidelines to improve our relationships with other people (yama). We are social beings, and our relationships are our very first testing ground - and our greatest challenge, in my opinion. Usually translated as "non-greediness", the fifth of these guidelines literally means the "non-receiving of gifts" (aparigraha). 

Now, does that mean that we shouldn't buy each other presents for Christmas? I don't think so. In my opinion, it means that we shouldn't fixate on them, but rather look for contentment (samtosha) within ourselves, and enjoy the warmth and light of our togetherness, during the darkest time of the year.

I strongly feel that, as a human species, we are going through potent times of change and crisis on a global scale; the rise of pollution, wars, conflicts, ludicrous governments, emotional fractures - to name only a few - are issues that need to be dealt with on a collective level. And in times of darkness, I like to recall the last words of the Buddha: "Make of yourself a light." Let's all make of ourselves a light, and shine that light to whoever or whatever cause or part of the world needs it most.

With love and gratitude,
Sarah Warde

On Freedom and Constriction in Yoga

     Students that begin their journey in Yoga are usually confronted with physical obstacles in order to reproduce certain "forms" or "shapes" known as Yoga poses (Asana is the word in Sanskrit). Many of which may actually look like mere gymnastics! The literal meaning of Asana being "to sit", our tense Western bodies need to be prepared for a confortable sitting position - with hip and shoulder openers, and back and core strengtheners.

     Amongst the 196 aphorisms of Patanjali's Yoga-Sutra (yogic scriptures), only 3 describe Asana. The first one speaks of two complementary polarities:
- Sthira: steadiness, stability, firmness.
- Sukha: happiness, ease, confort.

     Sthira is the effort that one puts in the body in order to achieve movement. In most cases, it means bending, twisting, arching, opening... all of which constrain the chest and reduce the breathing capacity. Sukha is the confort that is needed in such constriction in order to attain mental peace within the pose.

     The issue when imposing on the body a certain form is that one might stay in this state of constriction which will never feel totally embodied. When it actually needs to be a choice. Choosing to raise the arm, choosing to twist the chest, and not because the teacher said so. The student has to desire the movement with his/her whole Self, as a tool to transcend constriction and attain freedom.

     Yoga is a path to liberation (Kaivalya), and one shouldn't fall in the trap of automatic movement and choreography. Instead, one should always try to remain vigilant and conscious of what is going on physically and mentally. This state of focus (Dharana), is a first step to a more meditative state, which can be achieved in any pose - and not just sitting cross-legged.

What is Yoga?

Yoga is not easy to define. In most general terms, the Sanskrit word comes from the root YUJ which means to bind or to unite, and thus stands for "union with the Self" or "spiritual discipline". What must be harnessed or mastered is attention, which ordinarily flits from object to object.

In the West, Yoga is widely practiced as a form of fitness training. But more importantly, the postures are only the "skin" of Yoga. Hidden behind them are the "flesh and blood" of breath control and mental techniques, as well as moral practices that correspond to the skeletal structure of the body. 

"The fundamental objective of Hatha-Yoga or "forceful Yoga" is to transcend the egoic consciousness and to realize the Self. It is particularly focused on developing the body's potential, aiming at liberation from suffering through physical transformation."  Georg Feuerstein