03/09/2023, 17.47
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Both sport and healthy practice, yoga arrives in Saudi universities

A plan to teach and practise yoga is part of a series of upcoming agreement that will be signed by Saudi Arabia and India. The president of the Saudi Yoga Committee stresses its benefits and expresses hope that it will develop further in the future. In January, Riyadh hosted the first festival related to the discipline.

Riyadh (AsiaNews) – India and Saudi Arabia plan to sign several agreements in the coming months, including one that will see yoga introduced to major Saudi universities, this according to Nouf Al-Marwaai, head of the Saudi Yoga Committee (SYC).

Ms Al-Marwaai made the announcement at a forum held in Riyadh titled " The Role of University Sports in Supporting the Kingdom’s Vision in Sports,” which was organised by the Saudi Universities Sports Federation in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, as part of Vision 2030, a plan developed by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to "modernise" the country.

Ms al-Marwaai, who spoke at the event, underscored the efforts underway to introduce yoga in universities, emphasising the benefits for students’ health and personal well-being.

For her, “one of the most important pillars of achieving Vision 2030 is to enhance participation in sports activities, and to achieve sports excellence locally, continentally, and internationally.”

She went on to explain that yoga is more than meditation and relaxation, as some might think, for it “includes Asana posture practice, Pranayamas breathing techniques, Bandhas muscle control (and) then comes Dhayan and Yoga Nidra meditation and relaxation.”

Al-Marwaai noted that the committee’s aim is “to discover the talent of distinguished yoga practitioners  in all types of yoga” and help them “to hone their talents, and support them to participate and represent the Kingdom in local and international tournaments.”

Last January, Riyadh held its first yoga festival, at Juman Park in King Abdullah Economic City, Jeddah, drawing some of the top athletes and teachers.

In 2021, Saudi Arabia signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with India to set up a “yoga protocol (standard)” to promote the activity in the country, the first example of bilateral collaboration in this domain.

Meanwhile, amid contradictory tendencies, Saudi Arabia continues the silent revolution pursued by the crown prince to deradicalise its religious life, and, ultimately open up the country to the international economy.

Recent reforms have touched several domains, from worship itself to rights, such as granting women the right to drive and access (albeit under certain conditions) to stadiums.

Yet, the detention of senior officials and businessmen, the crackdown on activists and critical voices, not to mention the Khashoggi affair have cast a long shadow on a process of change that is still far from the Dubai model.

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