Last year in November, Saudi Arabia officially introduced yoga to its lists of sports activities, with the Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Commerce and Investment permitting citizens to practice or propagate it by getting a license. Now, in a period of less than six months, more Saudis are opening up to the benefits of yoga, seeing it as an important part of not just exercise but mental health as well.
According to Gulf News, doctors and physicians across the Kingdom are increasingly advising patients to opt for yoga because of its numerous health benefits. While no official statistics for the number of yoga centers in the country exist, this ancient Indian “art of living” has definitely gained popularity among Saudis and expats alike, with both men and women choosing it as a main part of their active lives.
Speaking to the news site, 28-year-old Saudi yoga instructor Amani Alandejani explained that yoga “is an addiction. Once you know how it beautifully unites the mind, body and soul, you can’t stop doing it.” She also went on to explain that because Saudis believed yoga to be associated with Hinduism, not many considered practicing it initially. However, ever since its official introduction to Saudi Arabia, it has quickly gained popularity in a short period of time.
Alandejani, who credits yoga for strengthening her mind and body, started out with an underground women-only studio in her house in Jeddah, offering classes to family and close friends, including prenatal yoga classes for expectant mothers. As word began to spread, more and more women approached her and her classes began to fill up fast.
“Yoga is highly beneficial for women because it makes them aware of how their body functions and understand the many changes it goes through during the different phases of her life,” Alandejani explained.
Nouf Al-Marwaai, founder of the Arab Yoga Foundation and Saudi Arabia’s first yoga instructor, agrees. Last year in an interview with Saudi Gazette, Al-Marwaai expressed her excitement in seeing sports evolving in Saudi Arabia, particularly yoga.
“Yoga is a wellness sport and the approval is going to legalize yoga practice in the country which is good for better services and practice,” she said.