JEDDAH: More than 1,000 people from across Saudi Arabia flocked to Juman Park in King Abdullah Economic City on Saturday to take part in the country's first yoga festival.
The event was organized by the Saudi Yoga Committee, with the participation of people aged between 10 and 60 delving into a variety of activities, yoga styles, and the art of mindfulness.
It began with yoga classes on the lawn. Murali Krishnan led the adults, while Sara Alamoudi led the children.
Festival participants had the chance to practice yoga, watch different performances, and enjoy demonstrations by yoga studios and learn about the services they provided.
There were more than eight hours of classes on offer during the one-day event from Saudi and international yoga masters, and lectures.
The day was filled with positive energy and acceptance, with many people choosing to sit and relax in the shade where mats, pillows, and rugs were available.
The president of the Saudi Yoga Committee, Nouf bint Muhammad Al-Maroui, said she was overwhelmed by the number of visitors and the energetic, positive response.
She said yoga had become an increasingly widespread therapy deployed to maintain wellness and alleviate a range of health problems and ailments.
In her address to visitors, she said that Saudi Arabia was witnessing a remarkable development in all sectors and also in the quality of life due to great support from the government.
“The festival was a great success and I am happy that not only Saudis welcomed but also embraced our thoughts on yoga, which was the sole purpose of the event,” she told Arab News. “We want to promote yoga to families and encourage it in the country. We want Saudis to start their day with yoga, which does not take more than 20 minutes a day, which anyone can easily spare.”
People’s reactions to the event were also positive.
“What a great festival!” 38-year-old Sara Al-Madani commented. “So well laid out and organized, with excellent instructors! (I) praise everyone, including all who attended this great day. I look forward to next year!”
Pediatrician Uday Qurashi, who began his yoga journey purely for fitness purposes during lockdown, expressed his delight with the festival. “I am so happy to see this happening here in Saudi Arabia. It is so nice to hear that yoga has been established in the Kingdom.”
Jana Masoudi described the festival as “an excellent opportunity to explore ourselves” through venues that offered healthy, alternative, and mindful “not to mention fun” events. “Thank you for this. So much gratitude!”
Certified yoga instructor and owner of Zen Zone studio Samah Dyab said: “I am super excited to participate in this festival, which is being held for the first time in our country. Nowadays, the attraction of yoga is booming and, as a trainer, I see many people practicing yoga. I am so happy with the awareness that’s happening now among Saudis.”
Nada Shaalan, 27, raved about the setting, instructors, and facilities. “All was ideal for a treat of a yoga experience. They thought of everything. It was easy, wonderful, and diverse. It was a very relaxing day for me and my friends,” she said.
With Saudi Arabia’s Olympic Committee and the Ministry of Sport recognizing yoga as a sports activity for health benefits, the discipline is fast gaining popularity in the country.
Aside from its physical benefits, one of the best motivations for taking up yoga is that it helps a person to control stress, which is known to have harmful effects on the body and mind.