With Saudi Arabian Government, Ministry of Trade and Industry, listing Yoga under “sports activities”, Saudi citizen can now practice and propagate it without fearing any crackdown. While media world is hailing the decision as a landmark step, it is a 37-year-old Saudi woman Nouf Bint Mohammad Al Marwaai who is credited for this. In an interview to Organiser, perhaps the first media exposure she had in India, on International Yoga Day this year, Nouf spoke about her eventful life in pursuit of Yoga. Fighting many odds and challenges, she has finally clinched the victory as her persistent efforts to legalise Yoga came to fruition with the government giving a positive nod. Against this backdrop, Nouf is speaking to Organiser Sub-Editor Ganesh Krishnan R. Excerpts:
Saudi Arabian Government has now approved Yoga. What was the situation in Saudi Arabia before this new decision came into existence?
The situation prevailed was different. Yoga was practised there but in gymnasiums and at different places privately. There was no government approval or license for Yoga centres. Still, Yoga community was growing bigger day by day.
Was there any restriction for practicing Yoga before?
In fact, there was no such restriction. But there was no approval as well. There was no legal structure for it. And women sports were not allowed yet. It was mainly because a few people who campaigned against Yoga. They had created a bad image of yoga.
What is the importance of this government decision?
The importance of this decision is that Yoga is now a legal sports activity in Saudi Arabia now. It's listed on the official website of the Ministry of Trade and Industry listed as a sports activity. As a result, License is now available for yoga centres and studios. See, it is a government decision and it is because of the new young leadership we have in the country. Yes, of course, it will bring a lot of change.
What are the changes likely to happen in the country by this decision?
What has happened now is that it is a government decision and it is a great moment for Saudi Arabia especially when we are now working towards the Vision 2030. And honestly, we, in Saudi Arabia, are very proud of this vision. Because its focus is on development and investment. And of course, a major part of it is also focusing on health and wellness (mental, physical, psychological, social etc.). Princess Reema Bint Bandar Alsaud was chosen to be the Deputy of the General Sports Authority and she welcomed all leaders in any sports for women to approach her directly. Sports and driving are now allowed for women this year.
How do you view the new progressive policies of the crown prince?
Of course, the new policies of Saudi Arabia are very progressive and promising. Actually, it has a lot of potentials in it. We are also very motivated to work towards a better society. We all are part of vision 2030. And to be honest, the Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman didn’t launch this vision, all these developments would not have happened in Saudi Arabia. The new leadership is changing the face of Saudi Arabia. They are open for youth. The government is now giving more importance to wellness and health. It aims at making a new generation and enabling them to grow to a better situation.