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Downtown, Cairo, Egypt.
Tawazon: Ashtanga in the Heart of Downtown
Seeing as how most yoga studios in Cairo are found on quiet, tree-lined neighbourhoods, Tawazon’s location on Youssef El Guindy Street comes as a bit of a shock, as yoga studios downtown are hard to come by. Little did we know; it happens to be a little gem of peace and quiet.
The studio itself is simple, serene and quietly tucked away from the noisy streets. Located on the second floor of one of many dilapidated buildings, Tawazon Studio is a baby of a place. Opened in February by owner/manager Salima Barakat, Tawazon offers a range of classes including ashtanga and sivananda yoga, tai chi and bodification, which is a combination of dance and yoga.
While the majority of classes are in the evening, morning classes can be found on the schedule as well. Yoga beginners may not be prepared for yoga instructor Nina’s hour-and-fifteen-minute-long ashtanga class.
The yoga room is small and is filled to the brim with assertiveness and determination. The ashtanga class normally holds a maximum of four to five people to ensure an appropriate amount of space and attention for each student. Mirrors line the walls to help fellow yogis perfect their poses on the mats provided by the studio.
Ashtanga yoga typically incorporates a progressive series of postures and synchronisation of the breath. The process produces a large amount of heat, causing sweat that helps to detoxify the body. Needless to say, you must be prepared to sweat it all out! It results in a light and strong body, as well as improved circulation and a calm mind.
Nina automatically puts her students at ease with her peaceful demeanour and uplifting spirit. Beginning with a series of sun salutations, students are constantly aware of their breathing while moving back and forth between sequences. Not only is Nina patient with each student, providing attention and help when a pose seems nearly impossible; but she also allows room for the individual to keep his or her own pace. With calming points of meditation between various postures and sequences, it allows room for inner space to be created as well as motivation to push forward into the next pose.
Ending the session, lights are lowered and an appropriate amount of time is given in corpse pose; allowing the body and mind to fully relax and begin reaping the benefits from the intensity of the session.
A drop-in class is 80LE, and you'll pay 300LE for a five class package and 600LE for twelve.
A few years have passed since we last visited Tawazon. Despite the occasional ruckus that Downtown Cairo has become so well known for, the studio is running as per usual - providing a place for wellness, relaxation and exercise amidst it all.
Not much has changed
on Youssef El Guindy Street besides one, small thing: a wall now stands (covered
with delightful graffiti we might add) at the entrance to the building.
However, it’s only a minor inconvenience if that. There are two simple options
for manoeuvring around it: the first is to come from Sheikh Rehan Street and
enter through the front door. Alternatively, if you’re coming from Mohamed
Mahmoud, enter through the parking garage, weave your way up the stairs and
you’ll find yourself in the lobby. For those unfamiliar with the area, check
out Tawazon’s Facebook
page for maps and directions.
The studio is on the second floor. Simply designed, quiet and cool, it’s a breath of fresh air upon entering. Cosy cushions make for a laid back waiting area and you’re welcome to help yourself to tea, coffee and water.
Tawazon offers a unique blend as far as classes and workshops are concerned. Due to instructors away on business and vacation, group yoga classes are currently only once a week. The Sivananda course, led by Hala Barakat, comes highly recommended and is on Tuesdays from 7PM-8.30PM (80LE for drop-in).
If you’re looking for one-on-one training, private classes are also available and include ballet, modern dance, Viniyoga and ‘soul attunement’ to name a few.
We decided to check out free meditation night this time around. With over 25 years experience, it was soon evident that instructor, Mayana Clerc, has a firm grasp on the subject. For an hour and a half, Mayana created an open and comfortable environment for everyone – leave your shoes and your self-consciousness at the door. The class was led with the utmost patience and wisdom. Included was a basic run-down of mindful meditation including breathing exercises and visualization techniques. To take things further, everyone took part in honest conversation regarding their intention in attending, personal concerns and even goals. For those that have never meditated before, this is a rare and perfect opportunity to give it a shot.
Aside from that, workshops vary month to month and range between 200LE-300LE. For June you can catch a yin and yang workshop, also led by Mayana, on the 20th and dance meditation on the 25th.
Forget the intimidation factor that often accompanies studios like this; Tawazon’s friendly atmosphere and variety of options makes it a great place for paying attention to your mind, body and spirit. Give it a go.