On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia officially approved the practicing and teaching of Yoga with the Saudi Ministry of Trade and Industry listing it under sports activities. So now anyone who wants to practice or propagate yoga can do so through licensing.
Nouf Marwaai, an Arab woman has been credited for this development. Marwaai is the first certified Saudi yoga instructor from the region who strongly believes that Yoga and religion are not in conflict with each other.
Speaking exclusively to Republic from Saudi Arabia, Nouf Marwaai emphasized on the role Yoga played in helping her not just survive cancer but also in recovering from it. She expressed her gratitude to God for "putting Yoga in the path of her life". She further stated that
"I started teaching Yoga in Saudi in 2004. After a few years, yoga started gaining in popularity. It wasn't classified in our system, and neither were women's sports, so it was very hard for me to get approval for one particular sport. In 2010 I formed the Arab Yoga Foundation and two years later an Indian national Mr. Manoj Koshy from Delhi joined and supported the growth of the organisation. Now, the yoga community in Saudi is very big and in each city," says Nouf.
Marwaai explained that Yoga in her country received a major boost after the UN declared Yoga Day celebrations around the world. She pointed out that after this, yoga gained both in terms of respect and attention from the people of Saudi Arabia.
Pointing out its benefits, Marwaai says, "yoga is very important for health, physically, mentally and emotionally. Yoga is different than other sports due to the control of movement (asanas) combined by breath control (pranayama) which results in great regulation of the function of the nervous system and improving brain chemicals. The effect of yoga on each system of the body is vast, muscular, cardiovascular, nervous, lymphatic, endocrine and reproductive. Scientific researches has shown that different styles of yoga can control high blood pressure, stress and psychosomatic disease, diabetes and weight."
Marwaai also busted the myth that Yoga has anything to do with religion, and insists that it's a man-made practice. "Just because yoga was originally one of the Indian darsan (6 schools of Indian philosophy) which was later explained by Patanjali yoga sutras and practiced widely in ancient times as part of the civilization during the vedic times, many people mistakenly judge it as a Hindu practice. Yoga is a man-made system of the old times and the sports of that time," she added.