By Arshad Ali
In what can be seen as a shift in the established practices of the society, health conscious Muslim women in south Kolkata have started coming out to do yoga in the open every morning. Burqa-clad women of different ages from nearby Muslim-majority areas gather at Park Circus Maidan off Dargha Road in south Kolkata.
“There were a few women who came every morning for a walk here. As the number grew, few organisations engaged some yoga instructors here. There are both male and female instructors. We have been greatly benefitted,” said 30-year-old Noorie Samim.
The women abstain from ‘Surya Namaskar’. Instructors had initially tried to make them understand the benefits of Surya Namaskar but later decided against it. “I tried to tell them that there was no harm in doing a Surya Namaskar but later realised that their religious sentiments might be hurt and that might lead to some women not coming at all. So I decided to let them go on without doing Surya Namaskar or chanting Om. The turnout has increased from the initial 10-12 to about 70 now. They have told me that it has benefitted them,” said one of the instructors, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Every morning, the group of women divides into two. The younger lot is trained separately in the all-women group where the workout session is a little vigorous, including jumping and fast-paced spot-jogging. The other group of slightly elderly women join men at another side of the park, where they do milder exercises under instructor Md Rashid. “I have never seen so many women in burqa and sports shoes at the same time. It is a good sign that women are realising the importance of good health. Women of all faiths are welcome but it is seen here that mostly Muslim women come to work out. I mostly make them do stretches and breathing exercises,” Rashid told DNA.
Participants, suffering from various ailments, admitted that they feel better thanks to the exercise. “I have diabetes and high cholesterol. My doctor said regular exercise is better than taking medicines. I decided to give it a try and within a month the effect is showing. My sugar level is under control now. We avoid doing the Surya Namaskar as it is forbidden in Islam but the rest looks fine,” said 60-year-old Asiya Bibi, who lives nearby.
Another woman, Iffan Parveen, said that for people from the lower middle class, going to a gym is a luxury and that the free workout sessions have been tremendously helpful.
Ailments Dealt With
Participants, suffering from various ailments, admitted that they feel better thanks to the exercise. “I have diabetes and high cholesterol. My doctor said regular exercise is better than taking medicines. I decided to give it a try and within a month the effect is showing,” said Asiya Bibi, 60.