“When we are mentally and emotionally blocked, our energy becomes unbalanced. Trauma happens when the pain of past hurts leaves emotional scars on the body. When a painful memory arises, it triggers cells that have stored this pain,” Shama Kaur, the first Egyptian Kundalini yoga teacher and Aquarian teacher trainer in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, explained in an interview with Al-Ahram Weekly.
Even her first name, Shama, is inspired by the Arabic words shamaa (candle) and shams (sun) in a reference to the idea of light. She’s an Egyptian health and wellness mentor who grew up in Egypt until the age of 17 and then travelled to study abroad, earning a Business degree from McGill University in Montreal and a Masters from King’s College, London, in the UK.
She started her spiritual voyage in 2012 when she tried holistic practices like yoga and meditation as a remedy when she was struggling with her mother’s illness. She chose to focus on mentoring relationships and separations, whether divorce, breakup or losing someone dear, and she works with people on healing abusive relationships, coping with narcissistic partners, or any kind of other abuse, as well as helping people to find joy in their lives through replacing negative thoughts with positive ones.
The term “Kundalini” in the variety of yoga Kaur practices comes from the Sanskrit word “kunda,” which means “circular”. According to practitioners, Kundalini energy is like a coiled snake; it sits at the base of your spine, sleeping until aroused. Kundalini yoga has been practised for millennia in India, and it combines dynamic movement, sound vibration, meditation and conscious breathing to dive deeper into the authentic self.
“Its essence lies in enhancing your own self-awareness, allowing you to move beyond limiting beliefs and to tap into a higher consciousness,” Kaur said.
“In Kundalini yoga, we chant mantras, special permutations and combinations of words that alter the energetic make-up of the cells in the body, so that old scars are healed as they have been imprinted with new layers,” she added. Kundalini training also helps people to overcome physical and mental blocks. When we experience tension in our body or mind, such as feeling drained, tired, frustrated, stuck, procrastinating or even suffering from psychosomatic symptoms, this is a reflection of an energy block. Kundalini yoga opens up these blockages through movement in a combination of meditation and breath work, Kaur said.
“When the Kundalini energy rises to a higher degree than in an average person, we experience a feeling of openness. Our mind expands, and we see the multiple possibilities around us. We have more creativity and can come up with more solutions. We are more able to overcome obstacles and move beyond limitations in the mind,” she added.
Kundalini energy rises in the body a little like a river flowing. If there are rocks in the way and the water stops flowing, this is like an energy block in the body. However, when the Kundalini energy is rising, it’s like a river that carries a tremendous amount of speed and energy, moving such rocks away. This translates into more energy, creativity, a better focus, more efficiency in completing things, and in summary more excellence, Kaur said.
AQUARIAN TRAINING: “There was a major shift in 2011, when the world entered into an Aquarian Age. Aquarian training means training every person to give more weight to his knowledge from his own experience rather than through established beliefs. It’s about empowering individuals to listen and to learn from their own experiences,” Kaur said of another technique she uses.
“The objective is for people to become more aware of their own experiences and then begin to make changes that will bring them to be close to their higher selves.”
Another thing Aquarian training teaches us, according to Kaur, is to live in a way that “honours the we” in our lives. “Life is more than just about me,” she said. “It is about being conscious of how my work, my efforts, can make an impact in the community, so it’s like moving away from the ‘I want’ and towards how my actions serve the ‘we’,” she added.
Aquarian training helps people to be their true selves, since most of the time we may be more the products of our family, school and community, with these things shaping what society expects from us and not what we expect of ourselves. The idea is to feel more comfortable and confident in expressing our true selves without the fear of judgements from others, she said.
She focuses on health and wellness mentoring for individuals and groups, using these and other techniques. She is currently working with Al-Fanar Venture Philanthropy as an adviser to women who want to run small businesses, and she is in the process of setting up a financial literacy programme to pave the way for the establishment of the Widows Savings and Loan Association (WISLA) in the Fayoum governorate and Upper Egypt.
“I’m looking forward to contributing to empowering Egyptian women by supporting the less privileged, particularly in rural areas,” she said.
Her guidance plays a spiritual role as she guides people to connect with their inner selves, being the path towards realising their hopes and dreams. As they learn how to use their emotions to learn more about themselves, they become better able to achieve their goals, Kaur said.
“I am passionate about helping people to discover who they truly are, what serves them and what drains them, and how they can make conscious choices that are aligned with their destiny and purpose, as well as empowering and motivating people, especially women and refugees, to become their own experts by fostering a positive mindset around health and wellbeing,” she explained.
She is particularly keen on working with refugee communities suffering from truly awful circumstances that have caused many traumas. She has visited refugee camps in Palestine, Jordan and Greece, her first being in 2016 to the Lesbos Refugee Camp in Greece, which housed almost 2,500 refugees from 14 countries. Then came her first visit to Palestine three years later in 2019, when she connected with a training centre in Bethlehem in Palestine that was searching for volunteers.
She has visited many refugee camps in both Palestine and Jordan, including the Aida, Nahhaleen, Dheisha and Arroub camps. “NGOs in Palestine sponsor activities and programmes for refugees including yoga, so I have given sessions and yoga practice to many refugees in a very modest and basic set-up... Sometimes on the roofs of buildings,” Kaur concluded.
How to heal
All of us can draw on lessons to heal our bodies, souls and minds from the collective trauma caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, while maintaining the emotional and mental resilience required to survive stress, anxiety, depression, illness or loneliness.
The first lesson we need to learn is how to manage the information that we receive from the media and elsewhere so that we are not easily impacted by negative news.
This leads to the second lesson: when we receive negative news, we need to learn to manage our emotions effectively rather than jump to conclusions and react without any forethought.
Third, we need to learn to create a protective shield around ourselves so that even in the most stressful times we can operate from a calm and peaceful space.
Finally, the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us that we need to learn to “be OK even if we are alone.” In our culture, social connections are very important, but the pandemic may have been an opportunity for us to learn how to make better connections with ourselves, and through our souls to connect more with God, our creator.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 8 July, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly