Saudi Arabia’s first yoga festival took place on Saturday with much fanfare in the commercial center of Jeddah. The festival was organised by the Saudi Yoga Committee (new Saudi Yoga Federation), a body under Saudi Arabia Olympic Committee, Ministry of Sports. Nouf Marwaai is president of the committee, which was formed on May 16, 2021.
Speaking to WION, the 2019 Padma Shri awardee said, “The idea behind holding the event was to bring yogis (yoga instructors) together. The Saudi Yoga Committee’s strategy is to promote yoga in the society and encourage people to participate in yoga activity.”
The event was organised at Juman Park, King Abdullah Economic City, Jeddah. It saw participation of a number of top Saudi yoga teachers including Marwa Khairudeen, Lana Nazer, etc. Nouf Marwaai lauded the leadership of Saudi Arabia, saying that they have been “very supportive on health and wellness, and sports activities. This is part of vision 2030” and “response from people is amazing and it’s very popular.”
Also Read: India Budget 2022: Economic Survey projects 8-8.5% GDP growth for 2022-23
Two famous yoga teachers, who were seen at the Yoga Festival in Jeddah, were Saudi national Dana Algosaibi and Lebanese national Natalie Kriedeih. Khaled Alzahrani, a Saudi yoga teacher, who has a yoga center in Jeddah was seen performing Sirsasans and other asanas. Irum Khan, an Indian national, who teaches yoga in Saudi Arabia since 2008 and yoga master Murali Krishna also participated.
Asked about yoga facing any backlash over religious connect, she said, “I don’t think there is anything in yoga that conflicts with religion like some people claim. Of course, yoga’s background goes back to vedic philosophy and sanatana dharma. I don’t think it conflicts because there are lot of practices in yoga that doesn’t conflicts with religion like asanas..breathing techniques.”
She explained, “I never seen anything that conflicts with religion or that Muslims can’t practice yoga. It’s for health and well-being. Yoga is a kind of cultural exchange too.”.
Also Read | India: Madras HC orders CBI probe into alleged ‘forced-conversion’, suicide of minor girl in Tamil Nadu
Indian Consul General Shahid Alam, Saudi Yoga Committee CEO Ahmad Alsaady were also present at the occasion.
Remember last yoga day, Saudi Arabia had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with India for the establishment of a formal “yoga protocol (standards)” for the promotion of yoga in the country. This was also the first such bilateral cooperation between India and Saudi Arabia on yoga.
Yoga has been allowed in the country since November 2017. Amid the pandemic, yoga gained popularity in the west Asian country as it was seen as a supportive practice that reduces anxiety.