Singapore group teaches yoga in Kashmir

V.K. SANTOSH KUMAR

Youth in Kashmir in India were treated to free yoga classes run by instructors from Singapore over four days.

Singapore citizens Anand Goyal, Muhamad Hafiz Sazali and Roxanne Gan and permanent resident Sarah Manning - all from Yoga Library Singapore (YLS) - taught the nuances of the ancient Indian practice to about 80 young people in Srinagar city and Pahalgam town from Oct 7 to 10.

"We have been doing regular yoga courses and retreats for our students in places such as Bali, Bangkok and Vietnam and this time decided to venture beyond South-east Asia," said Mr Goyal, who founded YLS in 2017 with his wife Ruchica Patni.

"Very few know there is a history of yoga in Kashmir and it is a good place to do yoga. Our intention was to promote yoga there as the locals suffered a lot during the Covid lockdowns and are slowly emerging from it.

"Yoga is therapeutic and we often conduct classes for those suffering from diabetes and asthma at senior citizen homes and the Institute of Mental Health in Singapore."

It is well-established that Kashmir Shaivism Yoga is 1,200 years old and its origins can be found in several sacred texts. But yoga's influence in the state dwindled in the past few decades due to militancy and the disruption connected with it.

"We contacted the Yoga Society of Kashmir and they helped arrange the classes," said Mr Goyal.

"We taught the basics of yoga in the morning and tougher asanas in the evening."

According to him, the ratio of boys and girls who attended the classes was 50-50. Almost all were local Muslims.

"Yoga is not frowned upon in the Kashmir Valley (which is predominantly Muslim)," said Mr Goyal.

"The thinking and dressing are modern and the people spoke fluent English, which was quite surprising."

Mr Hafiz said the people in Srinagar and Pahalgam were very welcoming and the youth were enthusiastic during the yoga sessions.

"They asked us questions and tagged us in their photos," he said.

"Kashmir is a good place for yoga and YLS will go back in future with more instructors and students.

"India is a country of Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita, and we will do many more retreats there after this. Our next destination will be the Shankaracharya Temple in Srinagar, where yoga is linked with meditation."

Ms Gan, who spent two months in India 11 years ago to learn yoga, said she enjoyed her first visit to Kashmir.

"India is rich in culture, food and traditions. There are many places to visit. I really love experiencing how the locals live," she added.

"Kashmir is beautiful. There is so much nature and delicious food. Just to be connected with nature was superb. I don't think any other place can match it.

"Kashmir is also good from a spiritual point of view and helps reduce mental stress."

santosh@sph.com.sg

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