Nouf Mohammed Al-Marwaai: Saudi yoga instructor

Discussion in 'International Politics' started by ejazr, Oct 10, 2010.

  1. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    Nouf Mohammed Al-Marwaai: Saudi yoga instructor - Arab News

    The quest for knowledge has not ended for yoga instructor Nouf Mohammed Al-Marwaai, even though her bachelor’s degree in clinical psychology from King Saud University took her to Australia and later to India to learn about yoga and Ayurveda.

    Thirty-year-old Al-Marwaai is the first certified Saudi woman yoga and Ayurveda expert and the co-founder of the Riyadh-Chinese Medical Center in Jeddah — the first center providing alternative medicines and treatments in the Kingdom. She is also the regional director of the Gulf Yoga Alliance.

    Yoga was not a new concept to her, unlike the rest of the Saudi society, as her father Mohammed was founder of the Arab Martial Arts Federation in the Kingdom, Tunisia and Egypt before the 1980s.

    She started practicing yoga at the age of 19, but remained dissatisfied with the meager resources and experts in the Kingdom, which persuaded her to travel abroad.

    “I started to practice yoga just because I was interested in some slow and therapeutically exercises. I desperately searched for yoga classes or teachers but couldn’t find any,” she said.

    “So, I started self-practicing with the limited resources I could access. I found an Indian teacher and started practicing with her for a year. Very soon, I realized its benefits for the mind and body.

    “Continuing the practice regularly for years, I found that the practice and the knowledge are linked with many facts in psychology and science. Practicing it is not just an exercise, but its effects are far reaching, more than our brain can imagine.

    “This made me serious and I wanted to study the science behind it, for which I started traveling and educating myself in different colleges, medical centers for yoga and Ayurveda clinics in different countries at the age of 24.”

    So, why India?

    “I traveled to many places like Australia first to obtain a graduation diploma in physiology and anatomy. I also studied Hatha yoga practically and theoretically with two other types of yoga, weight management and stress release therapy,” she said.

    “Also, I studied some of the Ayurvedic medicine theories and its nutrition. This gave a deep insight about yoga and its functions in a body. After that I felt the need to go to India — the original land of this knowledge and learn more about the philosophy and therapy of yoga, where there are many colleges and universities of yoga and access to Ayurveda medical training and teachings.

    “While studying yoga, I found it interesting to study Ayurveda because they are sister sciences and they use the same theory of mental and body energies, physiology and psychology. I heard and read about Ayurveda a long time ago before I start practicing yoga. I went to India to study more about both.”

    In India, she also studied the management and diagnosis of disease through yoga and Ayurveda. After that she did higher studies in yoga therapy and medical approach, yoga psychotherapy research and higher academic studies in the field. Also, she wanted to understand the conflict between yoga and Islam.

    For a long time, Muslims had shunned yoga because of the perception that it is linked to the Hindu and Buddhist religions. She argues that yoga was the practice of people living in the pre-Buddhist era, over 5,000 years ago.

    “It is more a lifestyle and a science than a religion. Especially Hatha yoga, which involves physiotherapy, lengthening and stretching exercises with breathing techniques which affects and stabilizes the nervous and endocrine systems deeply and creates harmony in the brain,” she said. “Treatments should be taken without considering the religious background. There are many books which Muslim scholars translated from other cultures and made use of and vice versa. There is nothing that involves worshipping anyone other than Allah in yoga.”

    However, Al-Marwaai claims she was lucky in getting good media exposure, which helped her get established. She received a breakthrough opportunity when she was invited by the King Abdulaziz University to hold a three-day stress buster yoga workshop, which was a big hit among female students.

    She also conducted mental enhancement programs for gifted girls under the supervision of Ministry of Education from time to time. This brought her into media spotlight and many television channels including Saudi Channel 1, Rotana, Iqraa channel, Oyoon Jeddah and others interviewed her.

    She then started receiving frequent invitations to address seminars and lectures about yoga and Ayurveda. She also received offers to spearhead awareness programs from multinational companies like Unilever and Proctor and Gamble in the Kingdom.

    “After I was made the regional director of Yoga Alliance International (YAI) in 2009 in the Gulf region by Swami Vidyananda, the founder of YAI in India, people started to know more about yoga and enquired more about it and its health benefits,” she added.

    In Dec. 2009, she started her center for yoga and other alternative medicines. She also conducts a certified professional yoga-teaching program. So far, 40 women have completed this diploma in and outside Jeddah.

    “Around 20 of them are very active in teaching others yoga,” she said. “I also have more than 400 women students in Jeddah alone. I have a kids’ yoga program too and my five-year-old boy is one who has learnt many poses!”

    When asked what made her explore yoga despite achieving a bachelor’s degree in clinical psychology, she explained that the link between yoga and psychology is very strong and known by every practitioner.

    Yoga is a body and mind exercise involving control of the central nervous system, somatic system and autonomic nervous system and harmonizes all three together.

    The central nervous system controls the mind, the somatic system governs the body and the autonomic nervous system controls the emotions.

    Practicing yoga improves stability and endurance for the three systems, resulting in strong physical health, a focused and balanced mentality and balanced emotions. Physical, mental and emotional endurance improves, so practitioners experience less diseases and pain, less mental disturbances and disorders, plus enhanced and insightful emotions.

    Talking about her family and background, she said that her father has been her biggest source of inspiration.

    “Being an achiever himself, my father believes in achievements. He received the King Fahd Prize in 1990 for his self-defense program, which was implemented in almost every military force in the Kingdom,” she said.

    “He is now an adviser to the Interior Ministry and the government has been very supportive to him for his services to the Kingdom by introducing martial arts here. My parents are my biggest supporters who are always there for me. My husband was with me for a year in my three-year trip and traveled with me twice. My sisters and mom take care of my child when I am at work or traveling.”

    Al-Marwaai asserts that her stay in Southern Indian state of Kerala was a comfortable one. “I love the people there for their kindness, hospitality, sincerity and friendliness. Their food, culture, music and dress are lovely. I miss the family I lived with in India, who were so caring and treated me like their daughter so that I never felt homesick. I would love to thank them so much for all they had done for me,” she said.
     
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  3. Iamanidiot

    Iamanidiot Elite Member Elite Member

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    Ejaz are the Saudis and the arabs in general really this progressive? I always thought Indian Muslims,Turkey muslims and Iranians are the most intelligent and progressive people in the islamic world.This article seems to break some stereotypes which i have about arabs and especially saudis in particular
     
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2010
  4. pmaitra

    pmaitra Moderator Moderator

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    Arabs are typically intelligent and liberal. I have known people from Middle East (Saudi, Palestine, Jordan), as well as non-Arabs from Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Turkey who are very liberal and open minded. However, note that these people are the ones who have come to the US for job, business or education. I cannot say much about all Arabs though.

    Note: Apple's Steve Jobs' father is also an Arab.
     
  5. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    Well you can't generalise societies and I'm fundamentally opposed to having such a view. You have secular Arab republics like Syria, Lebanon, Algeria, Iraq before and under Saddam, Egypt under Nasser. Some of these regimes were pretty progressive in many aspects until they boiled down to dictatorships. The Emiratis have been quite intelligent and enterprsing and have turned around the UAE economy becoming a Singapore of the middle east.


    The case with the Saudis is that until about 70-80 years ago this was an extremely impoverished country who use to live on subsistence agriculture and led a nomadic life. Tribal loyalties were the only governance structures they had. Also this happened to be one of the few places that never got colonised and had minimal interactions with the west. With the coming of oil wealth, people living in the 9th century were suddenly forced to move into the 21st. It was bound to cause problems. You can see in India itself were this clash still happens to a lesser extent though.

    The new generation, is ofcourse much more well adapted to the 21st century. There may be negative sides to the royal family, but some Kings have played a considerable role in modernising the Saudi society--Faisal and the current King Abdullah in particular. Ofcourse modernisation does not necessarily mean westernisation. And Islam still plays a central role in most affairs and probably will continue to do so. But the King's have been able to cut through the male chavinism and move forward on modernisation.

    Just as an example, in the 1950s, Faisal setup the first girls school in Saudi Arabia, there was huge opposition against it ofcourse but Faisal stuck to it and got some of the ulema on his side. Finally it was decided that going to school would be voluntary and all teachers will be female. For the first year, the only two girl students were daughters of the teacher and headmistress, all of whom were transported and protected by natinal guard troops. There were some protests and even a small scale attacks at the school during the year but all thwarted. This gave way to more girl students being added next year and so on. So basically from single digit literacy rates for females in the 40s in Saudi Arabia, you have over 70+% literacy for females,while male literacy is around 80%. Ofcourse other smaller GCC countries have even higher female literacy rates.

    Its just that the Mainstream Media is not a reliable indcator for forming opinions on foreign countries until you get info from different perspectives.
     
  6. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    [​IMG]
    Nouf with Swami Vidyananda the founder of Yoga Alliance International in India. (AN photo)
     
  7. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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  8. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    Nouf Marwaai Interduces Ayurvedic Medicine in Saudi Arabia
     
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