Yoga has no religion or race, says Indian diplomat


Saudi Gazette

HUNDREDS of yoga enthusiasts of various levels of skills, ages and nationalities laid down their mats, relaxed and communed with nature as part of the celebration of World Yoga Day in the Kingdom on Thursday.

The International Day of Yoga, which is now its fourth year, was celebrated at Indian International School Jeddah.

Indian Consul General Md. Noor Rahman Sheikh in the presence of many consuls general including China’s Tan Banglin, South Korea’s Lee Sang-Kyoun, Nepal’s Revati Podal, Sri Lanka’s Justice Abdul Wahid Abdul Salam, and Uzbekistan’s Ulugbek Maksudov formally inaugurated the event.

Several Saudi, Arab and other nationals, as well as volunteers belonging to Saudi and Arab Yoga Foundation participated in the event by performing yoga asanas (postures).

The moment of the day was when Indian Consul General Sheikh surprised all with his clinical performance of the headstand posture, where he put his head down and slowly raised his legs up. In yoga, it is called as “sirsasana” and regarded as the highest among all yoga postures.

Speaking on the occasion, Sheikh, who is a yogi and has been practicing yoga for over 25 years, said, “Yoga is the best method for relaxation of human mind and also body.”

He revealed that he began practicing yoga when his father brought home a poster of 32 yoga postures, and “for over 25 years now I’ve been practicing yoga regularly.”

“Yoga offers health benefits and is a system of postures that offers wellness. My best wishes to those who have opted to practice yoga. It is a very positive practice, and a good way to balance life,” he said, adding, “Yoga has nothing to do with religion and race as it is purely a breathing exercise that manages human body.”

“Yoga is not about just exercises, but it is about synchronizing mind and body... in this world which is full of stresses and ailments in our daily lives, yoga is one way of finding solutions to those problems,” he said.

“It’s a very edifying experience I would say for the kind of participation we’re seeing this year. I would say it is the highest so far, and the fourth edition has turned out to be the best, considering that several nationalities have joined in, including consuls general of other countries.

“It basically shows that the mission that our prime minister has started has certainly picked up momentum. Thanks to the efforts of Nouf Marwaai, yoga has been popularized here. The Saudi government’s permission to practice yoga as a sports activity has certainly added to this, and we are happy at the large turnout of the community to make it a huge success,” Sheikh said.

He added, “For example yesterday (Wednesday), we went to the Corniche and in front of the Ritz Carlton area we held a ‘yoga vistar’, did some yoga postures in the Red Sea beach area with the iconic 300 meters King Fahd Fountain in the backdrop. This was a great experience, and lots of Saudis and onlookers joined in, and some were curious and asked us what we were doing... and we explained that this is yoga and lot of them joined us. This kind of thing will only aid to make yoga more popular and be accepted by all sections of society. It is a great movement toward making it a truly universal phenomenon.”

When asked whether yoga will be a force to better relations, Sheikh said, “Today you saw Dr. Alaa Alsharif, a community medicine doctor, talking about yoga. She is a Saudi lady practicing yoga for many years now. She also practices medicine and combines both in projecting wellness. And we are very happy to see that it has got universal acceptance, and as I said, yoga has always been a unifying force and we have seen the development of yoga in the last four years and the kind of positive movement is certainly amazing. It is sure to have only positive growth in the days to come.”

Sheikh said the Indian Consulate has been in the forefront in promoting yoga in Kingdom for the last three years. He also highlighted the fact that Indian government has honored Nouf Marwaai, the first Saudi woman and certified yoga instructor, with the Padma Sri, one of the highest civilian awards of India for propagating yoga in the Kingdom.

Dr. Alaa, one of yoga instructors, briefed all about yoga activities taking place in Jeddah. She emphasized that several Saudi men and women have immensely benefited. She added, “Proper breathing is very important and with constant practice, around one hour each day, one can become an intermediate yogi in no time.”

Video messages from Prime Minister Modi, from Dehradun where he led thousands of volunteers to perform yoga asanas to mark the day, and Marwaai were screened at the venue.

In his message, the prime minister said: “Yoga is a set of equilibrium and equanimity. Yoga fosters oneness through oneness, it brings oneness in mind, body and soul. Practicing yoga helps boost one’s lifestyle and also helps one achieve wellness....

“Yoga knows no boundaries of age, gender, caste, creed or religion... yoga helps people focus inward and helps people attain peace, and this makes them be at peace with others too.”

Sharing his opinion upon yoga, South Korean Consul General Lee Sang-Kyoun said, “Yoga is practiced by many people in Korea which is good for health and mind”.

Echoing a similar theme, Sri Lanka Consul General Abdul Wahid Abdul Salam said, “I have learned yoga five years back in Bangalore in India by staying in an ashram.”

Nepalese Consul General Revati Podal said it was his third year in row to participate in yoga day here in Jeddah. “Yoga contributes not only to physical fitness but also to mind fitness, it has nothing to do with any religion or region,” he added. Revati also said that he often practices yoga postures and he does feel more relaxed and comfortable immediately.

Yoga cured me immediately: Sri Lankan consul general

Sri Lanka Consul General Abdul Wahid Abdul Salam said to Saudi Gazette: “I was in Makkah for the last six days and was suffering acute cough problem and not able to speak until this morning. However, after practicing some postures at International Yoga Day at the Indian school, I feel relaxed and am able to speak more freely.”

He said yoga exercises have helped him overcome breathing problem without any medication.