Yoga in Amman Versus Yoga in DC

Harper's Ferry, West Virginia

Yoga in Amman is like everything else here–DIFFERENT, not bad, not good & EXPENSIVE (no values here!). Let me preface this comparison by acknowledging how THANKFUL I am to have found a place to go to practice yoga. I won’t call it a yoga studio, but a fitness club that offers classes twice a week. Here’s the shakedown of how yoga at home differs from yoga in Amman.

Yoga at Home in Old Town, Alexandria:

  1. I could WALK to the studio from my house, a short jaunt down a quaint street of historical, perfectly manicured homes, with GRASS, lots of dogs, cute boutiques and plenty of people out enjoying their day, regardless of the weather.
  2. I’m welcomed into a peaceful, serene space that smells like lavender or incense.
  3. I’m surrounded by like-minded people in fashionable, enviable yoga clothing–very unyogi-like , I know (that make me want to go home and order more Lululemon).
  4. The instructors are NICE and COMPLIMENTARY (and fit!).
  5. The music is hip and cool (similar to my musical tastes).
  6. People speak and smile to each other and the studio offers tea and cookies.
  7. Laughing is encouraged and practiced.
  8. Instructors encourage you to move at your own pace.
  9. You feel great after class: calm and collected.
  10. Although yoga is expensive, you don’t mind because you feel like it’s a value for the benefits you receive.

Yoga in Amman:

  1. I have to drive to the place (not a big deal, but driving here is DANGEROUS).
  2. There is no welcome. You enter, walk down a staircase into the inner sanctum of the gym that smells like a gym.
  3. No one wears yoga clothes.
  4. I was told and even asked to demonstrate how I do a pose the wrong way (Did I mention that I’m a certified yoga instructor? No one else has ever pointed out that I don’t do chair pose correctly. Shame on you former teachers of mine!) She told me that I’ve formed a bad “habit” and have to fix it.
  5. There is NO music! No sound, just the instructor’s voice.
  6. No smiling, no talking, no treats after class.
  7. No laughing allowed. This is very serious business.
  8. We all do the same pose, regardless of our level. Apparently, we are ALL beginners, plus there are long breaks in between the poses (we only did THREE, one of which was mountain pose).
  9. We practice Iyengar style yoga. Need I say more?  Iyengar is a form of yoga, which I’m sure is fabulous, but extremely strict about alignment. I prefer vinyasa-style yoga, active, energetic classes where you feel like you’ve gotten a workout. After class I asked the teacher if this was a beginner yoga class and she told me it was a “mixed level” class. We did THREE poses in one hour and fifteen minutes and used chairs as props. God help me. Breathe! I also asked if she ever teaches vinyasa classes. She said, “No, ALL teachers in Amman teach Iyengar.”
  10. I paid more per class than I do in DC.I expect to pay a lot in the land of milk and honey–it’s a big city with lots of options. Here in Amman there are NO options and the price should reflect this.
There you have it. Yoga in Amman is NOT fun or even fulfilling. I came home and did some more. Perhaps someday I’ll even learn to do chair pose correctly. Inshallah. Namaste.

Striking a Pose in Jerash

The Lonely Yogi doing Yoga Graffiti

We ventured out to Jerash on Friday. It’s one of the best-preserved Roman cities in the eastern Mediterranean. It was founded around 170 BC, focused around the Temple of Zeus. Jerash (or Gerasa, the ancient name for Jerash) briefly became the center of the Roman Empire in 129-130, as Hadrian wintered in the city. In his honor, the Gerasenes built a monumental arch on the southern walls.

The place is amazing and it’s very explorable. We watched the Roman Army and Chariots Experience reenactment show. I’m not much for reenactments or “interpreters,” but the chariot racing was kind of cool to see, especially in the Hippodrome.

In addition to seeing the sights, another high point of the day was haggling amongst the ruins for earrings by a young Bedouin salesman (about 10 years old) . I noticed some beautiful turquoise earrings that I fancied. I asked how much for the earrings and the next thing I knew, the earrings,  a matching necklace, and a chunky silver Bedouin bracelet appeared on my body. The young salesman held a mirror out for me to gaze at the splendor staring back at me while he offered me fabulous deals, solely because I was “such a nice lady” (in perfect English I might add). I only wanted the earrings, but they were $10 JOD and too much for Raj. After much bargaining, the young salesman wouldn’t budge. He really wanted to sell the ensemble, not the piddly earrings. Raj walked away and I followed, despairingly. Two minutes later, the salesman followed us down the path and offered to sell them for $7. Raj said, “No, $5.” To which the salesman responded, “7 is only 2 more than $5.” We got the earrings for $5. I felt guilty (poor kid). Raj felt triumphant.  I got over it.

After walking around the ruins for a couple of hours, we headed west out of Jerash to Ajloun castle, a former isolated Christian monastery home to a monk named Ajloun. By 1184, in the midst of the Crusades, the monastery had fallen into ruin, and an Arab general took the opportunity to build a fortress on the ruins.

This place was interesting to see, but someone who shall not be named was getting ‘hangry’ (hungry/angry) so we had to speed up the tour so that we could get back to Amman to get some food into someone’s belly.

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The Dead Sea

We just got back from two nights at the Dead Sea, the lowest point on Earth. The resort was amazing and the sea was mesmerizing. It was 105 degrees or so, but at least it was dry heat, and not a dry resort (plenty of alcohol).

This would be the PERFECT location for a yoga retreat with the amenities and spa selections available…

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Moving to Amman

Since October R and I have been planning our sojourn from the comfort of Northern Virginia, to Amman, Jordan. Moving abroad is something R has discussed since we met and being the super wife that I am, I’ve agreed. Perhaps I’m nervous, unsure, and selfish in my assessment of what life will be like there, but I’ve come up with a gripe list to vent my frustrations:
Top Ten Reasons I’m Annoyed with Moving:

  1. I have to give up my job: I love this job, my students and the administration. Raj owes me BIG time for this one alone!
  2. I cannot find ANY yoga studios in Amman. I practice yoga five days a week. I’m also certified to teach it (and I do teach one yoga class a week at my school), but as a lazy yogi, I prefer to be led through a practice instead of leading myself in one. Herein lies the problem. If I can’t find a studio, I’ll have to commit to a personal practice. Good god!
  3. People–men or women–do not run outside (nor do they walk much). Translation: If I want to maintain my exercise regimen of running twenty miles weekly, I’ll have to run INDOORS on a TREADMILL. Shoot me!
  4. We will be living in an apartment. There’s nothing wrong with apartment living. However,  at my age, I never imagined I’d be living in an apartment with my husband and my dog, in a place that I cannot decorate or even furnish with my own belongings (I’ve been severely limited as to what I can and cannot ship). Additionally, there’s NO DISHWASHER and the appliances are circa 1980.
  5. Furry children are not considered family members. Shanti our miniature Schnauzer is a sweet and adorable dog. He looks like a teddy bear but barks like a beast. No one likes a barking dog–especially in areas of the world where dogs are not considered babies.
  6. My hairdresser will not accompany me to Amman. As a bleach blond, the fear of leaving your hair dresser, whom you visit religiously every four weeks, is paralyzing. Who will be able to highlight my hair as well as my current stylist? Who will understand the intricacies of bleaching my hair in a land where the majority of women do not bleach their hair blond?
  7. I have to find a job. This is not a monetary concern (Raj may disagree), but rather a psychological one. If I have nothing to do (and granted, I have lots of stuff that I’ve mentioned over the years that I complained I never had time to attend to, i.e. writing, reading, cooking…), I will go crazy. I need to occupy my time with some type of work for my own sanity.
  8. My clothing is mostly inappropriate to wear. Although I’ve lived in the DC area for the last three years, I was born and raised in southern California. The laid back, summer styles of sunny California do not translate well in the conservative climate of northern Virginia, but I can only imagine how inappropriate they are in a conservative place. Most, if not all of my summer clothes are sleeveless, tight fitting, neck baring…
  9. I can no longer secretly buy stuff and stash it away before Raj gets home. All of our mail will be delivered to his work address meaning that he will pick up ALL packages, thus requiring me to explain purchases.
  10. Lastly, independence. Moving to a foreign country requires patience, practice, and reliance on someone else. I hate having to be codependent.
There you have it. The top ten reasons that I’m annoyed to move.