On the 29th of January, Saudi Arabia conducted its maiden Yoga Festival at Jeddah that was attended by more than 1,000 people aged between 10 to 60 from all over the country. The response and fanfare have stunned not just the event’s organizers, the Saudi Yoga Committee but also Islamists spread across the world. While a Saudi native Sara Alamoudi led the children it was Murali Krishnan who directed the adults teaching them different yoga styles and the art of mindfulness.
Yoga classes were conducted on the lawns of Juman Park in the city. Participants from all over the middle-east got a chance to practice yoga, watch different performances, enjoy demonstrations by yoga studios and learn about the assistance they provided. The one-day event saw eight hours of classes delivered by top international yoga masters from around the globe.
Saudis relished the positive energy as they lounged in the shade where mats, pillows, and rugs were made available. Nouf AlMarwaai, the president of the Saudi Yoga Committee said that she was overwhelmed by the positive response.
Nouf who is a 2019 Padma Shri awardee added that people have started to understand that yoga is a therapy that can be used to maintain good health and helps relieve multiple illnesses. She thanked the Saudi government for the ‘great support’ that was provided.
She plans to promote yoga among families and encourage it in her country. Since it takes less than 20 minutes, Nouf felt that like crores in Bharat, Saudis too will start their day with yoga. Citizens too responded positively and were seen encouraging the instructors while praising the attendees. Everyone said that they were looking forward to the same event, next year!
Local pediatrician Uday Qurashi said that he began practicing yoga during the lockdown and now he is hooked to it. He added that he was happy to watch yoga being practiced in Saudi Arabia and was delighted to be a part of establishing yoga in the Kingdom.
Saudi Arabia’s Olympic Committee and the Ministry of Sport have recognized yoga as a sports activity with health benefits and the ancient meditation method is fast gaining popularity in the country. Saudis concluded that apart from its obvious physical benefits, one of the best motivations for taking up yoga is that it helps control stress, which is known to have harmful effects on the body and mind.
Yoga was introduced into Saudi Arabia in November 2017 and just like in most western countries it gained popularity almost immediately. People started using yoga as a tool to reduce anxiety, particularly during the lockdown.
On June 21 last year (World Yoga Day), Saudi Arabia and Bharat had entered into a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to establish formal yoga protocol (standards). It was also the first bilateral cooperation between the two countries on yoga.
PM Narendra Modi has worked tirelessly and now the world seems to recognize the benefits of yoga, something our ancestors understood thousands of centuries ago. Interestingly, opponents on social media were mostly disgruntled and Islamists from Bharat/ Pakistan, who blindly oppose anything that Modiji or the BJP/ RSS puts forth were disillusioned to say the least.