I met Nada two years ago in Marseille at Amie’s studio during a Jambo workshop! A young woman full of energy, funny and serious at the same time. Hyper attentive and dedicated to others.
I spent a long time with Nada. She has a typical / atypical path in yoga, a therapeutic and passionnate one. His testimony is super interesting : yoga gave her a new breath in a busy life and unfortunately also painful.
Forrest Yoga put Nada on an exciting journey away from her profession as a lawyer that I invite you to read today. I chose to keep all of what she told me: new exercise for me with this portrait.
I hope you enjoy this new contact with Forrest Yoga through the bright eyes of Miss Nada! Thanks Google translate !
When did you start practicing yoga?
I took my first yoga class in 2011: it was ashtanga class. The teacher came to me, her pendulum in her hand, at the end of the class saying to me: « do not come back, yoga is not for you! « . She was right, ashtanga is not for me and for my body: I have too much chest, too many injuries. In any case, the ashtanga that I experienced. And then, in my opinion, that is understandable. Asthanga was created for young men from Army in India: it involves very masculine skills. In short ! I’m glad she told me so.
I then did Bikram yoga in 2012/2013. I was in full swing of my legal career. I slept very little because I worked in several time zones. I needed to find a way to recharge my batteries and be able to continue not sleeping without taking drugs. I tried bikram and it worked for a while. And then, I reached my limits. I practiced 1 totwice a day! But I hurt myself very regularly, especially on my back. So I stopped. At the same time, I started reading Ana Forrest’s book (Fierce Medicine) and discovered Forrest yoga.
My first Forrest Yoga class was in Hong Kong where I was traveling. I had just finished the Fierce Medicine book. I had already practiced online. And then, in Luxembourg, where I lived at the time, Kristi Mae Rodelli, then Jambo Truong came to do workshops.
In Luxembourg, there was no Forrest teacher at this time.
Let’s go back to the beginning of your practice: at that time, what was yoga?
My first intention was to manage to keep energy and sleep little. You can really see a link with fitness: boosting the body to be able to hold on. The bikram is ideal for that: you get dehydrated, you have a boost of cortisol and suddenly you hold on.
How did you end up reading Ana Forrest’s book?
The girl who had the Bikram studio in Luxembourg did Advanced Yoga Teacher Training with Ana Forrest. She strongly advised me to read it. I’m someone who doesn’t read for fun. So I listened to it in audiobook. Then I read it.
After that, how did you do ?
At first, I kept going to the bikram class. I also did a little jivamukti yoga but it was less and less vibrating in me. I started doing bodywork training with Jambo and Brian Campbell. It was their second session. After this training, I could no longer practice in « classic » studios and I started exclusively to practice at home.
This training brought me immense sensitivity: emotional, visual, auditory, physical. Practicing with other people around me became impossible. This is where my relationship with yoga really changed: my practice became my space for me. There was a more therapeutic dimension than fitness classes. I needed to have a « space that was held ».
What made you decide to take yoga teacher training ?
To tell the truth, to be a teacher was never in my plans. I went to Anna’s workshop in the United States in Fort Worth, Texas. My second with her. The first was 6 months before. I wanted to meet her. I was intrigued after reading the book. I did the second workshop after bodywork. And then right after that, I was admitted to intensive care with a double pulmonary embolism. We didn’t know what I had. So, in my head, I thought that Anna Forrest had to « get me back on my feet ». A kind of counter workshop…
I went to Berlin for a month. I was told it was going to be very difficult to do the training right after I left intensive care. Strangely enough, the practice was not so hard for my body. And then, I was medically followed all the training long (1 full month). I systematically adapted the practice to my body, which is one of the fundamental pillars of Forrest Yoga.
This is where I started to see my body as an ally rather than something that betrayed me.
I told Ana Forrest: « I don’t want to be a teacher ». I had put up barriers from the start. She looked at me almost dumbfounded.
And what about this intensive month ?
It was hard. I almost left: my suitcases were ready. It was psychologically and emotionally tough for many reasons. None had to do with my body or my health. It was hard because of trigger points – my voice, the way I am perceived, even the maternal figure of Ana – on which I had to work in relation to my lineage, my ancestors. And then, also this idea of having to teach …
But it was interesting.
It was also a big group: it allowed me to blend in with the crowd. But I received a lot of attention, and I was almost embarrassed to receive so much. And then it also supported what I didn’t want to see.
It’s a friend who convinced me to stay !!
And since this training : have you ever taught ?
Technically, I don’t teach regularly: I don’t have time or the place that suits me. From time to time, I can give private lessons, replacements and « assist » in training. I love going to training because we have time to know people and people are generally more dedicated in healing, they take care of them.
So you did poppy perinatal yoga and pike camp ? Why ?
I love learning. I have a doula training (a traditional midwife). So Poppy , it was natural for me. I wanted to do the training with Cath Allen, a Forrest yoga Guardian. It is a training that is very therapeutic because it focuses on the core, abs, hip placement and posture. This training allowed me to regain more mobility and overcome my pain.
And the pike was also on my list: Cath Allen and Heidi Sormaz are super powerful practitioners and can impress (Note from Caro Caro: they impress me!). But, in fact, they are super accessible and wonderful. I felt very strong after the week of pike camp: physically but also mentally. And it was not only balances: there was also meditation and yin yoga.
Otherwise you also have a gift of extra sensory sensitivity?
I have had these gifts forever. I have always connected with God and the Universe; I am very religious. It’s part of my life. Things settled down during bodywork training, where I became even more « sensitive ». I knew and I saw. Obviously, it has been refined. And during a meditation, I had the intuition that it was necessary to open this to others.
Do you have a favorite yama or nyama?
I do not have a classical yoga training where we study the texts.
In the philosophy of yoga, there are many things which from a spiritual point of view echo in me. What struck me most in my spiritual development was generosity. It’s important especially in the world we live in now. It’s important to me, regardless of my economic status and the money I earn.
The hardest part for me is letting go. We link it with the service of the Universe. However, serving the community and the Universe is important and easy, and yet at the same time I find it difficult to let go. It’s a daily exercise.
I really care about one of the pillars of Forrest Yoga: breathing. It turned my life upside down. Before my training, I had no somatic feeling of my rib cage. Itdid not move during breathing. I was completely anesthetized. I talked about it in my TedX conference (https://www.tedxroyaltunbridgewells.com/speakers/2018/10/9/sarah-nada-arfa,).
If you had books to recommend to someone who doesn’t know yoga? Something that marked you?
Two authors come to mind :
The works of Dr. Joe Dispenza who has written extensively on meditation and its positive impact on our lives and our health. I listened to him when I was in the hospital. That’s when I started to meditate.
And Dr. Nadine Burke Harris with The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity: she talks about the somatic impact of trauma in childhood. Yoga and meditation can repair these traumas. Her books scientifically prove to us that yoga has real impact on our health, much more than medication.
Can you manage a daily moment just for yourself?
I meditate every day as soon as I get up. Different types of meditation: guided / unguided, with / without music. I am more pleasant when I meditate. When I have time, I meditate and practice but sometimes it’s difficult. When I can, I try to run and spend more time in ceremony according to the moon phases or period of the year … even if it is only a few moments to release the tensions, it is vital !
Hold a sacred space. « Hold the sacred space » Can you tell us more ?
It’s difficult to translate; I would say maybe « guardian of a sacred space ».
It’s a space where you feel safe and not co-responsible for the space. As a practitioner (yoga teacher, doula, bodyworker), it’s difficult to be in a class and see that the students are doing things that are not good for their body at the biomechanical level, to see that the teachers are not answering about injury / breastfeeding / maternity or postpartum.
There is also the spiritual side: the teacher is present and manages the space spiritually. But I find it is hard to explain. For us, teachers, it means to be anchored – feet, hands, pelvis -, to be present, to use the Breath Formula breathing (breathe before speaking to ask the words), respect the body of the student and then, at that moment, an osmosis is created. The space is felt to be held. But it is true that it is difficult to describe.
For example, clearly for me someone like Bikram cannot hold a space, at least from my point of view. When I am a practitioner, I like that teachers who know me leave me space to arrange certain poses.
A mantra or a song that you want to share with us?
No mantra but I love the songs from Fia. She’s very nice, and her lyrics are very beautiful. And then, Jean Ferrat Sings Aragon « Quand on n’a que l’amour ».
A favorite posture?
Wrist streches for pleasure. Shoulder shrugs (movement of the shoulders with the shoulder blades closer in the back and movement down) from a purely utilitarian point of view. And the work on the psoas (I saton a bolster, one leg stretched out, one foot against the wall, and the other is folded over my chest): tensions go away!
Pose you hate?
Greetings to the sun. And then Jambo and Brian played Disney songs for me for half an hour to greet the sun. And now it’s fine. The poses that I apprehend the most are those where I get the least and at the same time, they are the ones that make me feel good.
For a long time, I did not like the openings of the chest: bridge / wheel / heel to butt. And then it got easier! Right now, I’m struggling with everything that is balance and piking! Because it means letting go completely and transcending my fears.