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Season 1 - Episode 6

Global Sangha: Turkey

20 min - Conversation


Alana sits down with Zeynep, a passionate yogini and teacher in Istanbul, Turkey. Through this conversation, they discuss the yoga scene in Istanbul and explore how the practices of yoga can serve as a tool for inner peace and help to unite us during times of political unrest.
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Apr 07, 2016
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Welcome. I am so delighted to be here today with my dear friend Zeynep Celin from Istanbul, Turkey. Zeynep and I first met back in 2008 in Eric Schiffman's teacher training in Santa Barbara. I remember we were sitting in the front row and she was sitting to my right. It was one of those moments where we just turned to each other and we were like, yeah! And it turns out I had been to Istanbul in Turkey the year before so there was this sort of natural connection and curiosity that evolved into a friendship over the years. So welcome, thank you so much for being here. I remember that time actually you said, why don't you come to Ojai and you might stay with me and I'm like, oh okay, maybe, but I didn't think it was going to be real and then it happened over and over and I'm so happy. Thank you. So help us, for those of us that have never been to Turkey, help us understand, is Turkey an Eastern or a Western country? I'm setting the tone for... So I would call it a mix of both. First of all, there are no camels and I know sometimes there's like this, is there a desert and are you on camels there? No, we're in cars, we're in buses, like any metropolitan city, especially in Istanbul. So I would call it a mixture of both. There's a lot of yoga happening and especially Istanbul is such a metropolitan city and you can find anything there and many other cities in Turkey, in and around Turkey. There are some open-minded people, some not so open-minded, like any other country, but I would call it both, I think. So as a yoga teacher in Istanbul, can you paint a picture for us of like the yoga scene in Istanbul and what's that like in the midst of everything there in the city? So there's a lot of people doing yoga, which is great, and it's been going on for years and now there are many yoga teacher trainings going on, so many people are becoming teachers and it's a way of becoming more sensitive for many people and a way of expressing themselves more fully and that's why yoga has helped, including me, a lot of people in Turkey and it's going on helping a lot. It's very open-minded in the yoga community, I would say. People are very open-minded and I hope that's going to get even more with time. We were talking the other day, like our local news in Carpentaria is that we have sharks right off the coast and in Istanbul right now there's unrest and that's very real and just the other day we were discussing how the government had banned religious icons, buddhas, incense, in yoga studios. So can you kind of speak to that and the general reaction to that?

So there's so much happening in Turkey right now and I hope with time it's going to be more restful, it's actually very heartbreaking for everyone. So it's just heartbreaking, I think that's the first thing I would want to say and I just hope and pray that things are going to get better and that people are going to be more sensible, I would say. The government doing this banning is very new news, it was just on yesterday and the yoga studios haven't done anything right now and there's a yoga federation so there's like an NGO full of yoga teachers and they're going to be talking against it or trying to change it and nobody, I don't think it will stay along for a long time, I hope it's not real like it won't stay because yoga is not a religion and it's not practiced as religion in Turkey at all like nobody's into that, it's just bringing a peace of mind to the people and we really need that because it's not an easy country to live in like I like how the only problem here is the sharks and maybe sometimes it's too hot. The drought. But still you have everything and it's very nutritious I would say, nauching. Turkey is like that too, it's an amazing country, it's got lots of like foods and it's got lots of plants and lots of people and so much culture and so much history and it's a pity that it's going through this but I was thinking about this maybe you know how a sick body raises its temperature to get better so it's like a fever and I hope this is like a fever that's happening and then at one point it's just going to go into healing but it's going to take time and I don't know how much yoga is going to help but definitely time is going to help I think. Now can you tell us about the unrest in 2013, the protests? One question I have is for the yogi or the yogini what how do we know what is the correct action? Is it to sit still and listen or is it to respond and take action? So can you share with us a little bit about that experience and maybe offer some kind of what's true for you? So what happened back then was it was symbolic but there was this park that was trying to be turned into a shopping mall by the government so everybody got together and the groups that are fighting right now is was actually kind of like in harmony back then and we were like all together as a group saying no we want our parks and we are not taking this anymore like all this rules like all these rules we don't want them this is a democracy and we want our parks and we started doing yoga classes in the park and it was like a big festive area until it got until they sort of raided us out of it. Now there's nothing happening in that sense in that park but back then what was happening was every day there was a protest in the city and you would get a gas you would totally get tear gassed or like some people even had plastic bullets aiming at them so I once had a student in my class who was sharing this like I got hit by a plastic bullet how do I deal with this and it's a very hard place for a yoga teacher to be in and to answer that so my view on this is the yogi and the yoginis have to just meditate and just center and see what they have to do some of my friends they were in every protest possible that was their truth and they went for it and they were like in the gas in the running in the hiding whatever it was it took for me it was more centering after the first tear gas event I had to go through it was like I need to center and going on with my classes not cancelling them and just being a support to whoever was going through that so in my view it actually your yoga practice comes out in events like that so you're like what do I do now and you really have to tap in to what's right for you and that might be actually running and doing all the protests and being in front of the line and just saying what you have to say if that's your truth and if it's not your truth then you don't do that kind of a thing so I wouldn't be able to say a yogi definitely does this what I can say is a yogi in my view can quiet down and just ask what do I do now what do I want to do what can I do about it and then just take action from that I don't believe in not taking action at all but I I believe in taking the right action for you and that could be anything so sitting still or meditation can be a complete action in itself it is it is and then you realize what you have to do right after that but you know how yoga can be viewed as non-violence you know vegetarianism and all these like rules and then once there's unrest like what do you do do you stay out of it and say this is not happening I don't believe in that it is happening right there so rather than believing in this you know pink world and that's at that moment you just have to do what you what you have to do like you don't stand back so yoga brings you more into your skin it makes you more alive and like you have you just take action and for some people this could be being in an NGO for some people it could be surfing out there with the sharks or without the sharks I don't know but for me it was doing some protests but then again centering for others it was other things and I respect any kind of action anything and I think the Bhagavad Gita also talks about that where Arjuna is confused what shall I do and then Krishna tells him this is like you have to live your truth and whatever you're are supposed to do so clearly there's a need to practice yoga here and now and you mentioned that earlier that there's a lot of people practicing yoga in Istanbul do you have a sense or in Turkey do you have a sense of why here and now well there are several aspects to that but I think firstly Turkey is where Sufism originated from and I think it's in the blood or it's in the land or something so this awareness or this awakening that yoga brings is also in Sufism and it's not very we can't really I would say I didn't know how to reach the Sufis but I knew how to go to a yoga studio it was easier and it generated those feelings of what I needed to calm down to be more aware it's very easy to find calmness through yoga or like you're just tapping into your truth through yoga I think that's why a lot of people they're already ready to be in that space they just need a little kick and yoga gives that so that's why it's amazing and that's why I really like teaching there as well and another thing is yoga and I love how Eric says this it's not a religion but it brings up religious feelings so it's not a religion at all I don't see it like that either but it's it brings up religious feelings and in Turkey we I was brought up as very secular and we didn't talk about religion we didn't you know mention it even because of all of the history of Turkey which I will not go into and there are lots of people who are like that who are very secular but then there's this need for like like this oneness like you you can't put your put words to it like what it is really but you need this you need something you need something more than just maths and just chemistry and just like politics and yoga is giving that to us and even though if we don't we don't talk about it in class it's just you're lovely you're beautiful you're wonderful like you're one it's it's already happening wherever you are it's already you know there this is it yoga is happening now kind of like relaxes you and gives you what you need that's why I think it's being practiced a lot in Istanbul and in Turkey in the parts of Turkey and it's already in the flesh I would say so it's ready to be take off and I hope it will take off like whenever there's more teachers coming out I'm very happy like there should be even more teachers and I say one yoga person in a household is enough like it's a lamp that lights the whole household and I think every house needs one so and then it's gonna change things are gonna change I would say it there's definitely a need for a practice and I think we're guided into it my friends who was protesting quite a lot in the 2013 protests he's just a you know computer guy and he'd never did yoga he doesn't like yoga but after those protests he realized he needed something and then he started going to Sanghas where there was like Zen meditation you know some talks Buddhist talks and he was like amazed by it and he really felt comforted by it so it's a way it's like we're drawn into it anyway with all that's happening people are drawn into finding the way I would say finding the truth or whatever it is and what I also hear you saying it's like a remembering of the mystical exact tradition that you're already a part of yeah I think I think if everybody like taps in deep enough it's in everything you know even those flowers have that mystical energy it's like the you know breathing living event that's happening it's everywhere but there in that land I would say yes there's people are prone a little bit more maybe and also there's a need at the same time so it's like we're being pushed into it bit by bit and everybody's coming to it one way or another and I'm very happy about that and I right now I wish more than ever for just sanity to come back you mentioned the word Sangha and so can you tell us the importance of Sangha in your life and what you see flowering where you live yeah so I was reading Rumi a little bit it remembering him who's also a Sufi I guess you can call him and he says like burn fire and like be with people who like ignite your fire even further and I totally believe in that and I think we pull people towards us who are going to ignite us and then sometimes in a sad way say sorry to the people that don't so that's what is very important and in Turkey I was happy enough I was so lucky enough to have a Sangha that was supportive and recently I've decided to study in Geneva on a field that will support yoga but it's also like different because I feel the need to be fired up in a different way and I think when you close your eyes tap in it shows you the way but it's very important it's actually human communication is what takes us one step further it's easy to be great in the mountain by yourself it's where you when you're here with others and that's the biggest challenge and I always tell my students like you're feeling yourself and once you're able to look at yourself then you will be able to look at another and then then you'll be able to communicate but if you're like not looking at yourself then you're not seeing anything and so it first starts here and then it's definitely here and we need it so much thank you so much for being here and lighting my fire thank you I'm so lit up too and the flowers lit me up. Thank you for joining us. Thank you thank you.


Kate M
Such an inspiring talk! So wonderful to hear Zeynep's inspired and inspiring perspective. Shanti, shanti, shanti.
Zeynep Celen
1 person likes this.
Kate Thank you so much for your message Kate, I really appreciate it... sending you love..

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