A yoga journey from illness to happiness

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A woman in one of her yoga poses. (Shutterstock)
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Saudi Arabia has approved Yoga as a sporting activity. (Shutterstock)
Updated 29 July 2018
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A yoga journey from illness to happiness

  • Nouf Marwaai’s health was one of the keys for entering the yoga world
  • Marwaai, an entrepreneur, is also the founder of the Arab Yoga Foundation

“Yoga is just a well-being system that has a traditional background. The values of the yoga tradition are not different from our culture’s values,” said the first Saudi certified yoga instructor, Nouf Marwaai.

Marwaai, who enhanced awareness of yoga in the Kingdom, was awarded the Padma Shri award, India’s fourth highest civilian award, by President Ram Nath Kovind in March this year. She was given the award, which is rarely given to foreigners, because of her efforts to make yoga accepted as a sports activity in Saudi Arabia and to popularize it. The event was held in New Delhi at the president’s house.

“The celebrations we had on the yoga day this year and previous years were organized by the Consulate General of India in cooperation with us, the Arab Yoga Foundation group. We started in 2015, when the UN approved the international day of yoga based on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He is the greatest promoter of yoga and wellness for the welfare of people and society. I and the entire yoga community are very thankful to him for this initiative, as the whole world celebrated yoga on that day,” she said.

Marwaai is an entrepreneur who has lived between Saudi Arabia and India for almost 11 years and has some businesses in both countries. She is also the founder of the Arab Yoga Foundation.

After practicing yoga for seven years and being certified, she started teaching it and founded SAY school, which became the Arab Yoga Foundation by 2010. She has been practicing yoga now for two decades.

Her health was one of the key reasons for entering the yoga world. Since her birth Marwaai has suffered from many health issues and was not diagnosed properly until she was 17. During that year she was diagnosed with undifferentiated connective tissue disease and possibly rheumatic disease.

She said: “I was underweight, tired, and suffered from malnutrition due to the extreme diets they put me on for my allergies and digestive problems. Symptoms that I had suffered from were joint pain, weakness, chronic fatigue, skin rash, allergies, loss of focus, sleeping problems and stiffness.”

Marwaai had to leave school because of her constant fainting and illness. She decided to search for a sport that fitted in with her health condition.

She found one of her father’s books which talked about yoga. Her father was founder of the Arab Martial Arts Federation in the Kingdom, Tunisia and Egypt from the late 1960s. She continued her yoga learning process by buying books as well as DVDs.

“I also started a vegetarian organic diet. I was anyways vegetarian due to my severe allergies. I went back to finish high school in 1999, then went to university and graduated with high honors,” Marwaai said.

Her college years were a turning point for her while she was studying psychology and learning more about yoga.

“I could see a lot of connections between sports and well-being. Mental and physical health connections, the effect of gentle exercises and breathing control while performing exercises and relaxation. I understood the effect of stress on the health development of diseases, especially immunity and psychosomatic diseases. I decided then to study yoga, not only to read and practice,” she added.

Marwaai traveled to India for treatment and study. Today, she has a master’s degree in psychotherapy from India and a bachelor’s in psychology from King Saud University.

She said: ”The kindness of people in India impressed me. I felt at home. I also studied Ayurvedic medicine there while getting treatment for my disease. I was diagnosed with (lupus) finally after a septic shock in 2001, when I was admitted to hospital and my survival was at risk. I learned yoga and fell in love with the Indian culture. Living in Kerala taught me how to take care of my health. The culture is somehow similar to Saudi culture in family aspects and values. I felt at home and I can easily say that India is my second country.”

When Marwaai was asked about the struggles she faced during her journey of discovering yoga, she said it was difficult to find a yoga teacher or a center, so she decided to make people aware of yoga.

“Another struggle that I faced was the confusion of what license I can apply for to open a yoga center. But luckily now things have changed a lot when it comes to women’s sport, and thanks to Princess Reema bin Bandar, the president of community sports federations, who guided me and helped my initiative,” she added.


BTS’s agency apologizes over K-Pop band member’s A-bomb shirt

Updated 14 November 2018
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BTS’s agency apologizes over K-Pop band member’s A-bomb shirt

SEOUL, South Korea: The agency for K-pop superstars BTS apologized Wednesday for members wearing a T-shirt depicting the explosion of an atomic bomb and a hat with a Nazi emblem.

Japanese TV broadcasters recently canceled planned appearances in that country after images went viral of the musician wearing the shirt. The South Korean band ran into more trouble after news surfaced that another member wore a hat featuring a Nazi symbol in a magazine photo book and band members flew flags with what appeared to be the Nazi swastika during a past concert.

“We would like to again offer our sincerest apologies to anyone who has suffered pain, distress and discomfort due to our shortcomings and oversight in ensuring that these matters receive our most careful attention,” the band’s agency, the Big Hit Entertainment, said in a statement

The T-shirt portrayed an atomic bombing juxtaposed with the celebration of Korea’s 1945 liberation from Japan at the end of the World War II. The United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki before Tokyo’s surrender.

Before its division into North and South Korea after the liberation, the Korean Peninsula was colonized by Japan from 1910-1945. Many in both Koreas still harbor strong resentment against the Japanese colonial masters. But in South Korea, it’s extremely rare for anyone to publicly celebrate or mock the atomic bombings.

BTS’s agency said the A-bomb shirt’s wearing was “in no way intentional” and that it wasn’t designed to “injure or make light of those affected by the use of atomic weapons.” It said it still apologizes for “failing to take the precautions that could have prevented the wearing of such clothing by our artist.”

Regarding the hat furor, it said all apparel and accessories used for the photo book were provided by a media company involved in its publication. It said the flags in question were aimed at symbolizing South Korea’s restrictively uniform and authoritarian educational systems, not Nazism.

“We will carefully examine and review not only these issues but all activities involving Big Hit and our artists based on a firm understanding of diverse social, historical and cultural considerations to ensure that we never cause any injury, pain or distress to anyone,” the agency statement said.

The seven-member band, which has worldwide following, was the first South Korean artists in May to top the Billboard 200 albums chart with “Love Yourself: Tear.” The band began its Japan tour earlier this week.

South Korean K-pop and movie stars are extremely popular in Japan and other Asian countries.