Saudi Arabia’s first yoga festival took place to much fanfare in the commercial center of Jeddah on Saturday. The festival was organized by the Saudi Yoga Committee (New Saudi Yoga Federation), a body under the Saudi Olympic Committee, Ministry of Sports. Nouf Marwaai is chairman of the committee, which was formed on May 16, 2021.
Speaking to WION, the 2019 Padma Shri winner said, “The idea behind holding the event was to bring together yogis (yoga instructors). The Saudi Yoga Committee’s strategy is to promote yoga in society and encourage people to participate in yoga activities.
The event was held at Juman Park, King Abdullah Economic City, Jeddah. It saw the participation of a number of top Saudi yoga teachers including Marwa Khairudeen, Lana Nazer, etc. vision 2030″ and “the response from people is amazing and it’s very popular.”
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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 owns a yoga center in Jeddah, was seen performing Sirsasans and other asanas. Irum Khan, an Indian national, who has been teaching yoga in Saudi Arabia since 2008 and yoga master Murali Krishna also participated.
Asked if yoga faces a backlash from religious connection, she said: “I don’t think there’s anything in yoga that conflicts with religion like some people think. Of course the antecedents of yoga go back to Vedic philosophy and sanatana dharma I don’t think that conflicts because there are many practices in yoga that do not conflict with religion like asanas…breathing techniques.”
She explained: “I have never seen anything that conflicts with religion or that Muslims cannot practice yoga. It is for health and well-being. Yoga is also a kind of cultural exchange.”.
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Indian Consul General Shahid Alam, Saudi Yoga Committee CEO Ahmad Alsaady were also present on the occasion.
Recall on the last day of yoga, 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. It was also the first such bilateral cooperation between India and Saudi Arabia on yoga.
Yoga has been permitted in the country since November 2017. Amid the pandemic, yoga has gained popularity in the West Asian country as it was seen as a supportive practice that reduces anxiety.