As a woman, I take pride in other women around me. I know our struggles, I know our battles and I know our insecurities, and I have lived them all. On women’s day I want to give a shout out in general to all the wonderful women in my life, thank you for being part of it. However, this tribute is to a very special group of women, women who have inspired me and changed my life in ways, I don’t even think they are aware of, and today I can only feel so much love every time I think of any of them.
When I was struggling with depression a lot of people recommended sports and working out as a distraction, in the begining I found it tedious and a chore, but then each of these magnificent women walked into my life and became part of a healing journey that taught me so much and helped me so much, they played and still play an active role in my battle against mental struggles, so today I share with you the story of each of these beautiful women and how their role in the fitness industry healed me.
The stories are shared in chronological order of when they started being a part of my life.
I cannot mention any of this without talking first and foremost about Sally Salama, my friend that has enough passion and drive to change the whole f**** world if she was given a chance. I met Sally when I was totally uninterested in sports, I went to the gym because I had to, wasnt very educated on proper eating habits and found the whole field, boring. Then this slightly eccentric, insanely passionate woman, who talks about fitness like it’s her oxygen, became my friend. Her passion intrigued me in the begining, and the more she talked about workouts and exercise and how she is pursuing it as a career the more I felt that there has to be more to that field than what I am doing, there is more than the tedious treadmill.
Eventually I started asking her questions about different classes and workouts, she would give me recommendations, ideas, tips and would text and ask me how I felt about the classes. She would invite me to the Zumba events and her Heya Health events and I would go, and after the event she would tease me about the *resting b*tch face I have while in zumba” I would laugh, but I also felt secure that in an event that had over a hundred people, she still managed to look out for me in the crowd and make sure I was ok.
She would talk to me about instructors and trainers, facilities, workouts etc. And when I sent her pictures of what I was doing she would give me tips and feedback and she knew how important it was for me to celebrate even the slightest victories, she paved the way for me, and on one new year’s eve she got on an 8 hour bus ride with me, all the way to Siwa, where I met Aia Faham, the second beautiful lady in this story.
Aia is the founder of The Lalaland and the name alone was enough for me to check out the post for her yoga retreat in Siwa. I packed my bags, decided to experience new years in a different way, and went on an immersive yoga retreat with Aia and the group.
She was so bubbly and so alive that her energy was nothing but contagious, in the class and on the yoga mat I started learning how to listen to my body. How to slow down, breathe, decelerate my thoughts to catch a break and let my body just be and move.
I spent a week on this retreat and I felt my brain slowing down, my breathing was better, I had quit smoking and I was genuinely happy amongst a group of strangers I had never met before ( I always struggled with social interactions growing up, was almost always on the loner side) but slowly on this trip I started talking to people I dont know, socializing, sharing laughs and stories and a couple of years later, I am so happy to still call some of them my friends.
Aia taught me how to slow down in the hectic world, how to take time to breathe, to think slowly and to appreciate my body. Because of her, I fell in love with Yoga, which I can never imagine my life without today, and because of my love of yoga, I met the gentlest soul ever, Ranya Mahmoud, the woman who said one simple sentence and she didn’t realize that she would one day change my life.
Towards the begining of 2018 my life was falling apart, I was distraught, heartbroken, very unhappily employed and grieving the loss of my father. I powered through life and shut down every warning sign that I am not ok, I pushed and pushed and pushed until I broke, and automatically I realized I needed to heal and my mind drifted to how I felt on that Yoga retreat in Siwa, and I wanted to recreate that feeling.
With stiff joints, and an aching soul, I looked up the gentlest yoga practice around me and I found Yin Yoga at Nun Center, with Ranya Mahmoud.
If any of you have met Ranya, you would know that I’m not exaggerating when I call her one of the gentlest souls ever, from the moment I walked into her class, she started speaking, I felt soothed to my core. Ranya brought balance to the hectic world outside.
She brought me so much peace, so much serenity that I wouldnt miss any of her classes no matter what, the serenity became an integral part of my existence .
One of the sentences Ranya said that changed my life and the way I handle myself and other people was when she told me “Be soft, for when you are soft, you can bend, but cannot break.” It seemed like such a simple sentence, but it struck deep with me. I realized I needed to be softer, more flexible and more fluid. That sentence was the inspiration behind this blog.
From Ranya I learned a lot about self love, listening intuitively to my body and appreciating my body and what it can do. Like I said, she bought balance in a very hectic Cairo. The amount of times I’ve smiled on the yoga mat one second, and let tears flow the next are countless. I learned through Yin, that slow and focused is just as good as quick and strong, and that emotions need to be expressed and are not a sign of weakness.
And because when you are soft, you bend, but don’t break, my journey took me to my next encounter, with Julia Alexan. I signed up for a flexibility class with Julia, thinking I just wanted to move a little bit more, and be a little less stiff, but I was apprehensive about the class! Anyone that knows me well, knows I might as well have been born with two left feet. With the first couple of classes, I found that these sessions were something I also looked forward to, I learned that something as small as a one inch improvement was worth celebrating. The class and what I achieved in it was very exciting for me, the chest opening exercises for me released the negative energy, the backbends excited me, and by the end of the 1st round of classes, my confidence grew tremendously. Julia’s class made me a more confident person, and taught me to appreciate what I’m capable of. It taught me that when you dont overthink, you just listen to your self and take small steps, you can achieve more than you thought was possible, you might even surprise yourself.
Finally, last but definitely not least, I cannot mention fitness and the effect it had on my life without mentioning Vibes and the two brilliant, inspiring and beautiful women behind it, Noonie Saleh and Sara Taha!
I’ve known Noonie and Sara for a while, but I got to know them better, and to work out with them more last winter when I joined their 30 day challenge. To say that the experience for me, has been life altering, is not an exaggeration.
These two women believe in the power in each one of us, they know exactly how to push you to bring out the best of you, without hurting you. They brought out the beast in me, and in a good way.
They push you to explore your limits, and if you are afraid to try something out, they will be there to support you and stand by you until you get over your fear. Box jumps for me were absolutely terrifying, I’m generally so afraid of anything above the ground, but Noonie was relentless, she supported, would always say, I’m right here, dont worry, I got you if anything goes wrong, you can do this! And then one day, I did it, and I wanted to dance with joy. It still scares me, but I now take a deep breath, focus and jump. The funny thing is, I now do that with life, the practice carried over, and I think that fear is good, but I’m stronger than I think I am.
Every workout is a confidence boost, and a stress reliever that is enough to cure even the most hectic, stressful, mind-screwing Cairienne day.
The more I stayed at Vibes, and trained with them (the rest of the crew there is quiet awesome, but it is women’s day, haha) the stronger I felt, the better I felt and the less stressed I was.
The other perk I had to working out, are the people I met. I struggle with making friends, but then gradually because I joined the 30 day challenge, and then the 12 week challenge, it became so much easier to make friends.
I found people that share my interests, that root for me, and we work together to empower and improve each other, and that is something I dont usually find in Egypt. Vibes for me has become my happy place in Egypt, my recharge, and the people I met there for me are my tribe.
A lot of people talk about how fitness changed their life on the physical aspect, and so many people work out for getting fitter or thinner, and focus on the physical alone.
While the physical enhancement is important, the mental stimulation, and decluttering of the mind, that workouts bring to your life is one of the most effective tools to fight anxiety, depression, and a multitude of other struggles.
The more you discover your physical strength, or your flexibility, the more you understand your capacities and that you can be both gentle when needed and strong when needed. You can be as soft as water, or as powerful as a beast.
You learn to control your body and feed your mind, and you understand that fitness and working out is more than just a tedious treadmill.
Pick a workout you love, and you will watch your life transform.
To Sally, Aia, Ranya, Julia, Noonie and Sarah, happy women’s day. I look up to all of you, I find you an inspiration and thank you for being part of my journey. All the love.