"When I decided to open the yoga room and announced it as going to be an Ashtanga dedicated studio, a lot of people not only questioned what I was doing, but flat out said that two, three months and you will close shop, this is not going to succeed. All I thought it was... just open" - Joumana Saber, Owner of Yoga Room Dubai.
One of the best parts about practicing in Mysore is all the people you meet, each with their own story and personal journey. People end up finding the practice in such different ways and for different reasons. Some people quit and then some can't stop no matter what external circumstances challenge them. Joumana Saber, owner of The Yoga Room Dubai as you will see in this interview falls into the second category.
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I lived in Canada for five years without my family. My family stayed back in Dubai and I lived in Montreal for university. And the plan was to stay there after university, but it didn't quite work out. I think partly because I was missing home, to an extent, and missing my family. So I decided to move back to Dubai. I started practicing Ashtanga in Montreal. Yeah it is definitely where I was introduced to it and I think I was really lucky to get introduced to Ashtanga when living there because of who Darby and Joanne are. So, Darby's studio was right under... it was on the same street where I lived. And then one day, I met Terry, who is Darby's student and also teaches in his Shala. I don't remember much of what she told me. But all I know is I looked at her and I felt like there was something about her that was pulling to the practice. And that was nine months before I actually went to practice at Darby Shala.
Surya Namaskara D
I got sick and my mother had cancer. And so my sickness... it wasn't really a sickness, it was a health complication. It could have resulted in a similar type of cancer that my mother had. And I didn't want that. So, I used to be a heavy smoker, just like my mom. And I was pretty much going down the same path as my mom. The first class I took with Darby was his level three boot camp class, definitely not part of what I know Ashtanga as right now. But, you know, at least he didn't call it an Ashtanga class. It was a level three boot camp and he had a Surya Namaskar D for Darby. You know, it was a class where you had a lot of fun and that's pretty much a great opportunity to know exactly what that person is like and what he is going to be like, as a teacher, as a friend, and even as a father figure. He balanced out the strict with the fun, as well. And he was very friendly and very approachable.
After working for about two years, I decided that it was time to visit Mysore. I was just curious, I wanted to know what it was about and I wanted to get it out of my system. I thought it will be like a one-time thing, and that's it.
And what I loved most about attending classes with him was that whenever you finished and you were leaving the room, he'd give you a hug. I decided to go back to Dubai four months after starting my practice. I got a job. I started a working and I was miserable. I just wanted Ashtanga. I wanted Darby, if anything, and I wanted the teachers that I met at the Sattva Yoga Shala in Montreal. After working for about two years, I decided that it was time to visit Mysore. I was just curious, I wanted to know what it was about and I wanted to get it out of my system. I thought it will be like a one-time thing, and that's it. I talked to Sharath and I said I would like to invite you to Dubai one day and he said he will love to come and he said you know the magical words "come to Mysore, get authorized and then I come. Open Shala and then I come." So I blanked on everything that he said and all I heard I open Shala and I'm like, okay I'll do that.
Keeping It Simple
When I opened the Shala, my intention wasn't for me to run it. I just wanted a space for myself first of all because I got tired of that little corner in my room with the air conditioning on and I felt like it lacked the things that a Yoga Shala needs. And I wanted a space for people to experience Ashtanga Yoga properly I guess is the word that I would use. We made it simple for people to choose. We offered one thing and that was it, and that was our focus. And when you focus on one thing, you don't complicate things, you don't confuse people. From my experience in the yoga room, a lot of the people, maybe 60-70% of the people that come to workshops are not necessarily regular students at the yoga room or even regular Ashtanga practitioners. But through these workshops they get a glimpse at what Ashtanga Yoga is. And so a lot of people get curious and they start to come to classes and sometimes they'll end up being Mysore classes.
Only the Beginning
When I decided to open the yoga room and announced it as going to be an Ashtanga dedicated studio, a lot of people not only questioned what I was doing, but flat out said that two, three months of you will close shop, this is not going to succeed. All I thought it was... just open, you know run a program and everything will be fine and it will succeed. I didn't have to think about it succeeding. It was just very natural. I knew that this practice is much stronger than people's doubts and if you pass on the system in an undiluted matter then they'll experience the real thing and they will want more of it. There definitely has changed, there's a lot of growth physically, mentally, emotionally. I don't remember what I sounded like, what I looked like, how I felt on the inside or how things felt around me before I started practicing, that it almost feels like this is something that is so natural to me because I have being doing it for a very long time. And I have only been practicing for five years, which is nothing. It is almost like I just scratched the surface, I just really started.
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