By Rula Wardeh Sakkab, Yoga Instructor
In this instalment of The Yoga Café, we catch up with a pillar of the yoga scene in Amman, Samira Dajani, who brought yoga to Jordan more than 40 years ago. At 86, she still practices a daily routine of yoga for half an hour at six in the morning, with her cats looking on, Dajani teaches five classes of yoga a week (two hours each) including prenatal yoga!
Who was Samira Dajani before embarking on her
I came to this country in 1954 when I was 23 after meeting my late husband in London where I was studying nursing. Before I came to Jordan I was studying and practicing nursing, but here in Amman, back then, I was not allowed to work. The only thing I was allowed to do was sit all day, put a cocktail dress on and all the women in ‘high society’ would come to see the new blond and blue-eyed bride. In1967, there was a German exercise teacher in Amman doing classes to a small group I joined. Then I was approached to teach group fitness as a fundraiser for a local charity foundation.
How did you get started teaching yoga?
In 1970, I was introduced to a Moroccan lady named Kabira who had been practicing yoga in the United States. She started teaching informal classes. Before she left Jordan, she urged me to continue teaching the classes. But in Jordan back then, I didn’t have access to books about yoga came across Yoga & Health magazine where I learned about a yoga course I could complete from Jordan. The British School of Yoga sent me the manuals and the tests and this opened the door for me to teach yoga professionally. Since I was the only one offering yoga in Amman, I got a flood of people interested. They were of all ages, with 20 to 30 people in every class.
What keeps you going on your yoga journey?
I love to help people. So, when I started with yoga and found people loving it and benefiting from it, this really kept me going. Now I’m parctices yoga as physical and mental therapy. My aim is always for my students benefit. I have studants who have been with me for 30 years. They might not be able to do all the things we used to do, but they keep coming for the relaxation and mental and physical benefits. We start with relaxation and breathing. I tell my students to forget everything outside our classroom for two hours.
How do you see the Amman community nowadays? What is your advice to new teachers?
It’s great to see more yoga in Amman. There is more awareness and more teachers, but we have to keep reminding ourselves and educating ourselves about the true essence of yoga. Yoga cannot be taken as an exercise class; it is a physical and mental therapy. You have to be careful how you practise it and if you do it well, it will keep you fit and healthy.
What are your recommendations for being able to stay healthy and active well into our 80s just like you?
Keep moving! You don’t have to exercise but at least
walk daily. Don’t sit at home for long – the body will put on weight and then your joints will not handle this. Modern life is already busy and complicated so keep it simple when it comes to your health and wellness.
Stay tuned to Rula’s series of interviews with yoga experts
Dajani’s rule of yoga
“To relax and accept. Look after yourself physically and mentally, avoid complaining and being negative through speech and actions”