Ahymsin Newsletter: Yoga is Samadhi

Yoga Approved in Saudi Arabia

by Swami Ritavan Bharati

Yoga is now an approved sports activity in Saudi Arabia

Due to the conscientious efforts of Nouf Marwaai, an initiate and student of Swami Veda Bharati, yoga has recently been legalized in Saudi Arabia.

We thank Nouf for all her efforts towards spreading yoga in Saudi Arabia and making available the yoga teachings for many. As Swami Rama writes in his book - Living with the Himalayan Masters:

“We do not believe in conversion, changing cultural habits, or introducing any God in particular. We respect all religions equally, loving all and excluding none. Neither do we oppose any temple, mosque, or church, nor do we believe in building homes for God while ignoring human beings. Our firm belief is that every human being is a living institution or a temple.”

“We strictly abstain from politics and from opposing any religion.”

The United Nations General Assembly in 2015 recognized that yoga provides a holistic approach to health and well-being and that wider dissemination of information about the benefits of practising yoga would be beneficial for the health of the world population. It also underscored the fact that global health is a long-term development objective that requires closer international cooperation through the exchange of best practices aimed at building better individual lifestyles devoid of excesses of all kinds, before declaring the International Day on Yoga on June 21.

This was a much needed move since Malaysia's top Islamic body, the National Fatwa Council, had banned yoga for Muslims in 2008, claiming that elements of Hinduism in the ancient Indian exercise could corrupt them. The Fatwa Council chairperson, Abdul Shukor Husin, said many Muslims failed to understand that the ultimate aim of yoga is to be one with the God of a different religion - an explanation disputed by many practitioners who say yoga need not have a religious element.

Since then, it became difficult for Muslims around the world, and not just in Malaysia, to practice, teach, or propagate the yoga teachings.

Nouf Marwaai, who teaches yoga to thousands of people in the Islamic nation, has had an uphill task to make the profession official. "My illness made me interested in yoga," said the 37-year old Nouf, who has been on the forefront of the yoga campaign in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  "I do yoga and naturopathy. My disease is stable and my doctors are surprised. That is I became committed in learning and promoting yoga in Saudi Arabia," Nouf said.

Her journey was a long and painstaking one. She started approaching the authorities in 2005 but to no avail. She finally approached Princess Reem bint Bandar Al-Saud, the deputy president of Saudi Arabia’s Women’s Sports Authority. "Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud was chosen to be the deputy of the General Sports Authority and she welcomed all leaders in any sports for women to approach her directly. Sports have been allowed for women this year, and driving as well," Nouf said. The princess assured Nouf that things were changing and they will soon approve sports for women.

Finally, her efforts have paid off, when Saudi Arabia on November 14, 2017, officially approved yoga as a sporting activity under its Ministry of Trade and Industry. So, any Saudi citizen who now wishes to practice, teach, and propagate yoga in Saudi Arabia can do so by applying for and procuring a license from the government.

The leadership in Saudi Arabia, King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, are changing the history of Saudi Arabia. The crown prince, known as MBS, launched the new Vision 2030 that focuses on development and investing in youth.

His vision includes focus on health and wellness of the nation as well. On September 26 this year, Saudi Arabia officially allowed women to drive cars. This move came after the kingdom was widely criticized for years for its conservative attitude towards women.

It was the concerted efforts in campaigns throughout the nation and fighting conservative as well as fundamentalist forces to reach out to the government for a change in the mindset towards women that led to this decision by Saudi Arabia.

Editor’s Note:

The Himalayan Tradition of Yoga Meditation is not a religion. Having cultivated an authoritative knowledge of the religious writings and meditative practices of the world, and being versed in 17 languages, Swami Veda Bharati used to teach meditation to people of different faiths – Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians, Hebrews, Hindus, etc. – from within their own rich scriptural and meditative traditions.



The Himalayan Tradition of Yoga Meditation

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