Name & Hometown: I was born Najwa Sara Merchawi in Monastir, Tunisia, a small country on the Mediterranean shore of Northern Africa. I have been living in North America (US and Canada) for about 36 years, and in Troy, Michigan for about 22 years.
Who or What inspired you to be a Yoga Instructor: After experiencing so many benefits from practicing yoga, I wanted to take the next personal growth step and took Yoga Teacher Training. It was an amazing personal transformation experience. I felt a duty to share it with others and help bring health, peace and balance back to life.
Describe your style of yoga: I practice and teach the LifePower style of yoga taught by Johnny Kest. This style combines breath and movement, as well as periods of pure breathing meditation. It includes a Slow Flow format, a Yin format and a Vinyasa Flow format. I also practice and teach the ancient standard Ashthanga sequence and variations on it.
What’s your favorite yoga pose ? Upward facing dog ( and all back bends). We spend so much of our time hunching forward, whether it is driving, cooking, working on computer, taking care of others, etc. Upward facing dog gives some relief to the muscles and spine, but also allows us to open our hearts and hold our head up high.
What brings you to the mat? I come to the mat with a desire for calm, peace, re-centering and regaining a sense of gratitude. I am grateful for every pose I can do. Every pose brings a feeling of connectedness and wholeness, and with every stretch, I feel my mind letting go of negative thoughts and feelings.
If you teach, where I teach at my home studio, and was working on teaching outdoors in public parks until the pandemic hit.
How has being a member of YAGD helped you in your yoga career:YAGD membership gave me exposure to many different styles of yoga and ways of teaching, and taught me that in yoga, there is no limit of what poses you can do. If you can imagine it and your body can do it, it is a yoga pose. Also, YAGD membership gave me opportunities to teach and meet other great teachers.
Do you have a favorite yoga story, from your teaching experience ?
A few weeks after I finished my YTT back in April 2017, I accompanied my daughter to Tunisia where she volunteered to teach English at an activities-based English language kids summer camp. I thought I could take the opportunity to introduce the kids (and the whole country really) to yoga and put my teaching skills into practice. I thought a 20-minute session would be great and that is all I could fit into my schedule at the time. However, the camp director misunderstood my offer and schedule me to teach a whole 2-week camp session, and…. I accepted! It was a most wonderful experience to teach these kids yoga. I can still feel their hugs at the end of the camp and can still hear their “I will miss you”. On their evaluation forms, they had to rate their activities, and many of them rated yoga at the top, right up there with swimming (it is really hot in Tunisia in the summer ). The picture above is a picture of me with the kids I taught in Tunisia. I plan to return to Tunisia for a two-year period starting September 2021 and one of my goals is to keep introducing yoga to the country.
Is there anything else you would like to add… like Family.. Hobbies.. Karma Yoga..or, other professions ?
In my effort to make yoga accessible and affordable to everyone, everywhere, I created a website called yougopia.com. Yoga teachers all over the world can list their yoga offering on the website, with just a few clicks. People looking for yoga classes can search and see what is available around them. Students can then reach out to the teacher, or simply sign up and attend the offering. Payment is directed to the teacher’s linked bank account. This service is totally free to teachers. If you are interested in getting involved with yougopia.com please contact me.