Thursday, April 26, 2012

Post #252 - For a change of pace...

Recently, on the BaliSpirit website there appeared the following article.  It was written by Shervin Boloorian, a former colleague of mine from the National Iranian American Council.  The piece was entitled “Spotlight on Nobieh: A Rare Glimpse of Yoga in Iran.”

Nobieh Kianyfard runs her own yoga studio and has practiced or taught Yoga for 16 years— training teachers for 5 years. She has taught in 3 different languages and has developed a signature style of dance-- "Dance of Life." Impressive by any stretch, but consider Nobieh's achievements as a woman based in the Islamic Republic of Iran, and you may be shocked.

Nobieh experienced her first ever BaliSpirit Festival this year and says she has fallen in love with Bali as a result. She is already planning to rejoin us for next year's Festival. We asked her about life in her homeland and some of the misperceptions about Yoga, Iran and Islam.

How did you start out? I was once a computer scientist and took my first yoga class in France in1998. I then practiced Iyengar Yoga in Iran and traveled to India to train as a teacher. My first classes were with children and I loved their ability to live in the present moment. I later studied child psychology and established my own Yoga for Kids teacher training program in Iran.

What's it like teaching yoga in Iran? Iranians receive yoga beautifully. Yoga is legal, popular and growing fast in Iranian urban centers like Tehran-- especially among women. There is a national Iranian Yoga Association and they do great work. They have festivals and conferences there too. You can feel the appreciation from just about anyone who gets involved.

What is Dance of Life? Sufism and Yoga are my two passions. I am from a country of Sufis, and I believe a Sufi is in the heart of every yoga practitioner. Dance of life is neither but it incorporates both. It's mostly about mindful release of energy—you start with yoga postures and end with finding your personal dance in your body. It's a blissful experience.

Is Iranian Islam compatible with yoga? Yoga is not a religion and I don't believe it conflicts with Iranian culture or Islam. Sufism and Zoroastrianism are present in Iran and fundamentally no religion is about going against your nature. I once debated an Iranian cleric about this point and told him, "I am a Muslim, but let me connect with God in my own way." He accepted me. More people could be open to respecting and understanding yoga rather than judging.

Do you encounter any misperceptions about life in Iran? All the time! Many internationals misjudge Iranians. First of all, Iran is not an Arab country. Women are liberated, college educated, and powerful there—they are the center of many movements. Also, Iran is not a dessert—we have many beautiful varieties of environment and a rich ancient culture.

How has yoga most benefited Iranians? The threat of violence and sanctions against Iran have made it impossible to live a comfortable life there. Unemployment and depression is prevalent, people cannot celebrate—but yoga gives us an opportunity to experience joy and vibrancy and to feel connected from the heart. I see the changes happen from person to person in my community of students—we can support each other through this community, even if it's with just a smile.

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