Bahrain's fitness fanatics stretched out their limbs and breathed deeply in harmony with people from around the globe yesterday, marking International Yoga Day.Yoga, an ancient practice that originated 5,000 years ago in India, was proclaimed by the United Nations to be celebrated annually on June 21 to raise awareness worldwide about its health benefits.
“It improves strength, flexibility, organ functions and reduces stress, anxiety and depression,” said Weam Zabar, a 38-year-old Bahraini yoga teacher and founder of Namaste. “The less obvious and less spoken about benefits relate to personal development. Yoga is currently prescribed as one of the top five trauma treatments in the world.
“From personal experience, yoga serves as a mirror that uncovers our thinking habits, pain, internal narrative and limiting beliefs. Once that’s done, transformation and growth becomes possible in all areas and relationships in our lives.”
According to Zabar, ‘there is something very special about the sense of community that comes with yoga’.
Many yoga enthusiasts grabbed their mats in Bahrain to join the global movement that was themed this year as ‘Yoga for Humanity’.
Hundreds of the sport’s aficionados, along with members of Indian and Bahrain yoga centres flocked to Isa Sports City in Isa Town, to join a mass yoga event organised by the Indian Embassy in association with the Youth and Sports Affairs Ministry and the National Health Regulatory Authority (NHRA).
The event was attended by the Ministry’s operations re-engineering head Mahmood Abdulsamad and NHRA’s Allied Medical Profession adviser Namat Al Subaie alongside diplomats from other countries.
Carousel Aerial Arts and Fitness Academy also staged a women’s only event with yoga and pole instructor Walaa Alawi to motivate people to take up the practice developed to connect the mind, body and soul.
“Yoga is a group of mental, physical and spiritual practices and that is exactly what I taught in my class,” said Alawi, 26, from Sanad, who started practising yoga five years ago. “We started the class with a physical practise to move our bodies while bringing the awareness within the movement. After that, we completed pranayama (a breathing exercise) to balance our emotions and energies. We then ended the classes with a small meditation to find some mental clarity.”
Dina Elhifnawi, the owner and lead instructor of Carousel, was delighted with the turn-out and thrilled to take part as she said ‘yoga gives her mental clarity and calmness’.
“I hope my class has encouraged people to live a healthier lifestyle and helped them take the first step toward their healing or self-care journey,” added Alawi.
Schools and centres from across the kingdom, such as Sneha’s recreation centre for children with special needs, also staged a series of yoga sessions in the lead up and on the day.
Yoga has brought people together since its inception as an international day. The idea was first proposed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 27, 2014, during his speech at the UN General Assembly in which he said that ‘Yoga embodies unity of mind and body, thought and action ... a holistic approach [that] is valuable to our health and our well-being’.
The resolution to establish the day was then introduced by India’s then permanent representative to the UN Asoke Kumar Mukerji.
A year later, nearly 36,000 people, including Prime Minister Modi, and many other high-profile political figures from all around the world, performed 21 asanas (yoga postures) for 35 minutes in New Delhi, in what was the first International Yoga Day, and the day has been celebrated in around 175 countries ever since.