During Ramzan, yoga makes a mark in Pakistan
With the ongoing fasting for the Ramzan month of penance, yoga is taking the backseat in Pakistan but there is no denying that the ancient practice to spiritually conjoin the body and soul is taking P
With the ongoing fasting for the Ramzan month of penance, yoga is taking the backseat in Pakistan but there is no denying that the ancient practice to spiritually conjoin the body and soul is taking Pakistan by storm.
Shamshad Haider, 49, who runs a leading yoga school in Lahore, and often called the Baba Ramdev of Pakistan, told this newspaper on the phone: “Yoga is immensely popular in Pakistan and more so in Lahore. There are about 50 clubs in Lahore alone of about 70 in entire Pakistan. In 2006, I started teaching yoga to a couple of people and now I have more than 20,000 members in my yoga club who are taught by 50 assistant teachers.”
Asked how he marked International Yoga Day, Mr Haider said: “On Monday, I went to a place called Tilla Yogiya, the highest point of elevation in Jhelum district at about 3,000 feet, and felicitated the few yogis who stay there to meditate.” Lahore locals believe that in the past, Tilla Yogiya was a centre of yogic learning where thousands of people practised the ancient art together in the assembly hall amid the pristine mountain surroundings.
On the exceptional popularity of yoga in Lahore, the yoga teacher said: “People in Lahore are early risers. The city has lots of public parks and spaces. Moreover, yoga is universally suitable for both men and women, and Lahore people have embraced it with open arms.”
On PM Narendra Modi’s statement on Monday that yoga belongs to entire humanity, Mr Haider said: “Modiji is absolutely correct and it is very good of him to say that. No one opposes yoga in Pakistan. The problem starts when it is politicised. When Baba Ramdev added fuel to the Bharat Mata controversy, people in Pakistan came to me. I told them these are not the words of a true yogi.”
Noted Pakistani yoga exponent, Yogi Wazahat of Karachi, the first to telecast yoga programmes on Pakistan national TV since 2002, said: “I marked the event by visiting an old-age home called Dar us Sukoon (place of peace). It is difficult for people to exercise while fasting.” On the need for yoga in Pakistan, he said: “There are many problems, including insurgency, in Pakistan. Moreover, with increased connectivity and mobile phones, there has been greater receptivity to yoga. The number of yoga students is therefore growing by the day.” Lauding Mr Modi’s statement stressing on the universal and secular identity of yoga, he said: “Our foremost religion should be humanity and it is good that the number of secular people is growing in Pakistan. Being a Muslim, I visit Kali Mata and Hanuman temples too.” On what yoga can do, he said: “For at least once let the people of the two countries decide. Since yoga essentially means ‘union’ why cannot Indians and Pakistanis unite and show the world what we can do or are capable of.”
Yogi Baqer, a leading exponent, said: “In every gym and in small places, people in Pakistan have started practising an detaching yoga. Practising yoga daily in Ramzan gives us strength to celebrate. People here don’t make excuses of Ramzan and roza, we do our routine works and yoga practice too.”