When you pick up and move 11,165 km from home you feel a little lost for a while. It’s kind of like starting school, a new job, or walking into a yoga studio for the first time, only amplified about 100 times.
I have lived in a country that is not my own, for more than 12 years now. It is a place filled with sunshine most every day of the year. Having one of the fastest growing economies in the world its population has doubled since I’ve been here and the city has more high-rises under construction and straining into the skies than you’ll probably find anywhere else in the world at the moment.
But I can never become a citizen here. I have a residence permit but will never be offered a Qatari passport and it is likely that if I happen to still be here at the age of 60, I will be sent home. In a nation with 1.6 million people, only about 20% are Qatari nationals. This leaves me with a strange sense of it being home, yet never being home.
I have, however, found community here.
When first arriving in the country we lived in Al Khor which is about 20 minutes north of the main city, Doha. To be specific, we lived in a place called the Al Khor Housing Community. A housing compound built by two large corporations with families from around the world from different cultures, traditions, backgrounds, colors, religions residing here. Together through the schools, socials and our employers we learned to celebrate our differences and somehow forged a sense of community out in the desert.
Our family then moved into the city of Doha. From about 2001 to 2006 there were many on our housing compound that were Canadian like us so it felt familiar, though there were other nationalities as well. Many had children similar to ours in age. Each Friday we would gather at the pool, connect with each other and talk about our week, our children. We would listen to newcomer’s frustrations, offering advice to ease them through the many difficulties they encountered upon arrival.
Around 2006 there was a spike in the economy at home and lots of our friends moved back to take up new opportunities there. Many more moved on for various reasons throughout the years. Our children grew to become teenagers so we were no longer needed to supervise at the pool or the playground. More and more time was spent indoors and subsequently many of our connections were lost.
When I wrote about yoga being much more than asana the other day, what immediately came to mind as well was the word community. The studio where I first learned of yoga, where I did my teacher training, where I continue to practice and now teach at, is all about community. In this city, it is a place unlike any other I have found.
Where our streets are busy and bursting, where there is construction, growth, money and consumerism abounding, it, our yoga studio, is a reprieve. A gathering of like minds. Warm and welcoming. Safe and non-judgmental. Calm and quiet. Somewhere a little introspective. In this city that doesn’t stop, it is a place for friendship and learning. For encouragement. For commitment to one another and acceptance of each other’s unique place along this journey.
Throughout the year, workshops are on offer providing us variety and excellence in learning. This weekend John Scott (Ashtanga) will be here so we are brimming with anticipation. Last year we were fortunate to have many others such as Jonas Westring (Anusara), Yogeswari (Jivamukti), Julie Martin (Ashtanga and Vinyasa), all who help to expand our knowledge and diversify our experience.
There are more and more yoga classes on offer all the time in this growing country. In five-star hotels and gyms and fitness clubs. I’m not sure if they offer the same kind of quality or experience and even more importantly for me, this community.
We all want to feel connection. Yoga is about our mind, body and spirit connection for sure, but it’s also about our connection with others. In finding this here, this community, I am truly grateful.
Published in Elephant Journal, 9 November 2011