We spoke to the UAE-based Palestinian yoga teacher Nancy Zabaneh who also calls herself Hari Darshan Kaur. Based in Dubai for 20 years, Nancy is a pioneer of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual fitness in the Arab world and an active Kundalini Yoga Teacher.
So fascinated by Yoga culture and India that her guru gave her an Indian name around 8 years ago. She spoke to Story of Fitness about her love for Kundalini yoga and why being a Palestinian herself, she relates to the family system and values prevalent in India and observes many at home with her children.
How different is Kundalini yoga from the standard yoga that we do?
Kundalini yoga is a sequence-based practice where no two classes are alike, mirroring the unpredictability of life and catapulting us out of our comfort zones. These sequential movements help practitioners manage stress by challenging and extending endurance. Having survived and adapted each movement, a healing response is elicited so that we are ready for the next challenge. The practice combines dynamic movement and postures, conscious breathing, eye-focus, the chanting of mantras and meditation to strengthen the nervous system, balance the glandular system, purify the body and calm the mind.
Unlike Hatha and Vinyasa for example, which focus primarily on the physical postures, there are no levels in Kundalini yoga. The repetitive, dynamic movements and accompanying breath work are numerically precise. The duration of how long you do each movement in a sequence is also very precise (e.g. 11 minutes). Kundalini yoga is known as the “yoga of awareness.” It is designed to slay your ego and trigger you. If you find the exercises confronting this is precisely the point.
What are the advantages of doing Kundalini yoga?
Kundalini yoga shows you how you react when you are in a difficult situation and as such serves as a mirror. The process of growth through this practice is a natural unfolding of your true nature. Kundalini yoga helps to increase self-awareness by silencing your mind and unblocking your chakras so that your vital energy can flow freely.
Which age demographic would benefit the most from Kundalini Yoga?
This school of yoga can be practised at any age. We work at our own pace, be it with the movements, the breathwork or the mantra.
What’s the best time to practise Kundalini yoga?
You can practice Kundalini yoga at any time of day, however, there is something to be said about the ambrosial hours of Amrit Vela before sunrise. The hours from 4 am to 7 am, before the coming of the light, are particularly potent because of the angle of the sun to the earth. Rising in the Amrit Vela is considered a particularly potent for meditation given the emptying of the subconscious mind that can take place at this time and while the planet Earth and the Self pass through the twilight zones of Time and Space.
There is some interesting science around how solar activity affects geomagnetic activity which is believed to potentially impact on human health.
Meditating consciously during the Amrit Vela is a process by which we daily, consciously open and clean the subconscious mind.
What food is recommended to eat before or after practising this kind of yoga?
In the teachings, we promote whole, simple, fresh, nutritious food. The yogic diet does not include meat, fish, poultry, or eggs. We do not recommend that you eat within 2 hours of practising, so as not to obstruct the flow of energy.
Why do you go by the name Hari Darshan Kaur? We would love to know the entire story behind this.
The name was given to me around 8 years ago and is based on a series of biographical, numerological, astrological and spiritual indicators rooted in Eastern and yogic tradition. A spiritual name is a vibration and a tool that helps to elevate our energy through the power of NADH (inner sound current). It is said to be our spiritual, soul identity, challenging us to live in our highest consciousness.
Hari is the creative aspect of Infinity or Divine Consciousness.
Darshan is the vision bestowed to us by the blessings of the Divine.
Kaur is the Lioness who walks with grace and strength throughout her life.
To use the vibrational power of the name Hari Darshan Kaur is to fully express the soul’s gift – in this instance – of divine compassion, creativity and prosperity on earth. Recognizing the sacred Infinite in all.
Do you use Hari Darshan Kaur for official purpose as well? Have you been to India?
Among members of the spiritual community, I am known by my spiritual name but for official purposes, I use my legal name – Nancy – which means grace.
Indeed I have had the privilege of travelling to India many times. I have spent time in Rishikesh studying in the Himalayan foothills. I have also travelled throughout the country with my husband who spent a big chunk of time there in the early 90s as an aspiring young journalist. My deep connection to the land and its people is what prompted me to take my 3 teenage children to Rajasthan last year. We did everything from exploring, eat and shop in the colourful city of Jaipur, to enjoying game drives and traditional culture & music at Ranthambore National Park.
Apart from yoga, what are the other aspects of Indian culture that you practice in your daily life? Do you have Indian friends and do you give back to the country in anyways?
The Sacred Sound Current – Naad – Mantra – Shabad Guru are a daily part of my life. This is the technology that uses sound to invoke an experience of communion with the Divine, the source of which is rooted in sacred Indian & Eastern tradition. I chant mantra daily. I love Indian clothing and tend to teach in a white cotton kurti or kurta style. The spices, curries and dals are very much a part of our weekly menu at home.
Being originally Palestinian myself I very much relate to the family system and values prevalent in India, observing many at home with my own children.
Indeed, we as a family have many Indian friends and several of my close friends originate from the country.
This year, I was meant to take a retreat group to Kerala however this activation got cancelled against the backdrop of a pandemic. Whenever I take groups on retreat, we incorporate some kind of service component into our activation – including collaborating with local charities. Smile Foundation and Give Foundation are two of the charities we have in mind. God willing there will be new opportunities to give back in a myriad of ways, not least of which when COVID restrictions ease.
You can follow Nancy here to know more about her classes and retreats
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