What does it take to be happy?
According to Egyptian lifestyle consultant Sandra Shama Kaur, happiness rests on four pillars: Achieving balance to be free of stress, communicating effectively, eating mindfully, and mastering our thoughts.
Shama Kaur, which is Sandra’s given name, means “the one who shines the light of her inner soul.” She first began practicing yoga five years ago, when she left Canada to return to Egypt to be with her mother, who was battling cancer.
However, she quickly found that trying to help her mother during her last months and experiencing the chaos of Egypt in the wake of the 2011 revolution were draining and she found herself feeling emotionally unwell.
“To help someone else, you have to be strong enough to help yourself,” Shama Kaur says.
Shama Kaur began practicing yoga religiously at home, guided by online tutorial videos and instructions from virtual teachers. She also joined a Kundalini yoga class in Egypt, which she considers a turning point in her journey.
She later traveled to New Mexico, where she immersed herself in training at an ashram. Armed with new knowledge regarding Kundalini yoga and the importance of pranayama – Sanskrit for the practice of controlling one’s breathing – Shama Kaur decided to start her own yoga center in Egypt, Yalla Yoga.
Five years after her first experience with yoga, Sandra led a two-day retreat at the Mövenpick hotel in Ain Sokhna by the Red Sea, where two dozen media executives and journalists gathered to learn about the benefits of yoga and how to achieve the four pillars of happiness.
Surrounded by the serene beauty of Ain Sokhna’s clear blue waters and mountains, Shama Kaur held two different sessions to de-stress and to heal. Each session included several breathing exercises that encouraged the attendees to pay close attention to their breathing, which is referred to in Sanskrit as the “life force,” and to expel negative thoughts to “master the mind.”
Sandra also discussed the importance of achieving a balance between stress, vitality and relaxation – the three pillars of balance – in order to remain motivated but refrain from pushing ourselves beyond our maximum threshold for stress.
“Stress is good for us because it pressures us to act, move and think,” Shama Kaur says. However, she warned that exposing ourselves to too much stress is when things go awry.
“Physically, the stress triangle is expressed in your shoulder, neck and head, which explains the aches we get when we are stressed,” she says, adding that understanding our stress personality can help us recognize when we are overly stressed and take the necessary measures to wind down.
Shama Kaur also led a communication workshop to discuss the different ways men and women communicate and methods to bridge the gap and achieve more effective communication in different situations.
Finally, the consultant preached about the benefits of making mindful food choices, emphasizing that “you are what you eat.” Workshop attendees gained hands-on experience in preparing a healthy and hearty meal with all-natural and raw ingredients to understand that we don’t have to sacrifice taste for wellness.