The Yoga Café

By Rula Wardeh Sakkab, Yoga Instructor

I’m happy to support you on your yoga journey! In this instalment of The Yoga Café, we journey across the border to meet up with a pillar of the yoga scene in Bethlehem, Nahed Bandak, who first brought yoga to Palestine.

Who was Nahed before yoga?

I was 30, married and busy with four kids; it was a full time job raising them. I rarely thought about myself and lost touch with my body and my emotions- I was unhappy. I didn’t love myself or my life. I became very judgmental, ungrateful and indifferent. I looked for something to help me connect again with my body and appreciate the blessings I have to manage difficult situations with ease and less stress and to feel love and compassion toward myself and others. I found all this and more through yoga and healthy nutrition.

What attracted you to yoga?

When I started my practice 26 years ago, I was attracted to the asana (yoga postures) which made me feel stronger and increased my self-confidence, not to mention the relaxing and calming feeling I would experience after each session.

When did you find yourself inspired to teach yoga?

After 13 years of practice, I had the opportunity to teach in a wellness centre in Bethlehem. It took me a while to seize the opportunity because l felt it was a big responsibility. I took the chance in 2005 and my students’ positive feedback motivated me to deepen my practice. So in 2013, when my kids were older, I went for my first Yoga Therapy and Training (YTT) in India with my teacher Prasad Rangnekar, followed by my second YTTC in 2016 in the United States.

What is your advice to someone looking to do their Yoga Therapy and Training (YTT)?

YTT is not just for people who are willing to teach. It’s also for anyone seeking self-transformation. If someone decides to try this experience, he or she alone will know if teaching is their mission or not. Having my YTT helped me become more confidant and comfortable in my teachings. From my experience, it’s better to listen to other teachers’ experiences in yoga training and to practice for a couple of years with different teachers before deciding which YTT to attend.

What has been the response?

I’ve been reaching out to women in the refugee camps in Bethlehem. Along with private sessions, I hold five sessions a week. Hearing the women in the camps say, “I practice what I’ve learned with my family and it makes us happy”, “I’m aware more of my posture” or “I feel calmer” motivates me even more to continue teaching.

What are your recommendations to new teachers?

Practice. Practice. Practice! Your daily practice is your true and best teacher – not just asana, breathing and meditation; it also includes your behaviour toward yourself and others…to live yoga.   

Stay tuned to Rula’s continued series of interviews with interesting people in the yoga scene