Waem Zabar on the challenges of training the island's yoga teachers
We chatted to Waem Zabar whose Namaste yoga centre has become the first place in Bahrain officially certified to teach the teachers.
Waem became interested in yoga around six years ago, after the birth of her child.
She said: ‘Having had a C-section, I couldn’t be in the gym lifting weights and doing heavy work-outs so I was looking for a gentler, more holistic, healing way of getting back to fitness and I ended up doing more and more yoga.
‘It was initially a completely physical thing then I got into reiki and started looking at the deeper layers within yoga rather than the purely physical movements.’
She has now been practising yoga for six years and teaching for two – she went through the official process of becoming certified by the Yoga Alliance, the international body which oversees quality and standards in yoga teaching.
Now Waem herself has become qualified to teach other teachers and the first course begins at Namaste at the start of November.
Would-be teachers have to have been practising yoga regularly for two years and must be prepared for two ten-day study blocks during which they will complete 200 hours of teacher training.
But if that sounds like an awful lot of sun salutations, bear in mind that it’s not all simply about yoga poses.
Students also learn about guided meditation and breathing techniques, teaching methodology and practical applications, such as alignment modifications for the yoga poses, the philosophy and anatomy of yoga and yoga therapy – how to safely work with students with injuries.
Waem explains: ‘Sometimes people think of yoga as just carrying out a series of poses, which it can be, but there is so much more to it. There is a great deal to learning to control your breathing and using your breathing to feel how you should be working with your body.
‘It’s like peeling an onion, there’re many, many different layers.
‘Our students will learn about a completely holistic approach with an introduction to the Ayurveda lifestyle and at the end of the course they will receive an internationally recognised certification for yoga teachers. We’ll be offering level one and level two qualifications and this is the first time the certificates will have been issued from Bahrain, which is really exciting.’ Namaste also offers a level one reiki practitioner course. For more details visit www.namastebh.com.
One of the services on offer at Namaste is yoga therapy in which Waem works with people suffering a variety of physical problems from non-specific muscle pain to serious illnesses such as cancer.
She said: ‘Many of the physical issues we have are down to the body rejecting the way we live. For example if you sit at a computer all day, it should be no surprise if you suffer from back ache. The amount of stress many of us carry around with us can lead to stiffness in the shoulders. And in some cases there can be an underlying contributing factor to more serious illnesses – for example, one woman (Louise Hay ‘You Can Heal Your Life’) suffered cervical cancer, she had been abused as a child and her body had spent her whole life rejecting that, which had caused unbearable stress. in such a case yoga may not be a cure but it can certainly help.’
Yoga therapy is targeted towards specific objectives – such as to help with diabetes or take pressure off a painful hip or back – it works by beginning to move energy within the body to kickstart healing.
Much of it is gentle movement with concentration on the breathing and releasing stress.
I arrived at Namaste with no particular health problems but Waem quickly spotted a slight imbalance in my left hip and shoulder. I had not even noticed these issue but once Waem started working with me to loosen my shoulder, I could feel the stiffness.
She kept reminding me to breath, loud and deep, and had me perform a series of movements such as leaning my arm into a wall to open my shoulders.
She also gave me a series of gentle exercises or movements to perform at home to continue the process which, after a deep relaxation session, left me feeling almost bonelessly loose and floppy.
I’m not convinced on the cancer benefits but if you’re feeling stiff or sore, this system of movements that will almost certainly help.