Activity is no longer simply an American phenomenon
San Francisco, CA -- (SBWIRE) -- 04/23/2013 -- Sara Ishaq's first week offering classes in the Yemen Capital of Sana had her teaching yoga to only four women. By the start of the second week, however, she had more than 25 women all told.
Yoga's overall popularity has increased in the United States within recent years, and a 2012 study showed the number of participants within the country rose from 15.8 million in 2008 to 30.4 million last year. Those numbers indicate that 8% of U.S. Adults now practice yoga. The two largest motivators for the activity is flexibility and overall general conditioning, according to the study.
Now it is becoming clear that the interest in yoga is not merely a United States-based phenomenon. Ishaq notes that she had never seen yoga within Yemen, and furthermore, the few gyms that allowed women to exercise were not accepting of outdoors exercising.
"Women can't exactly put on their running shoes and go outside so yoga appeals to them because it is a full package, they just need a mat and comfortable clothing," Ishaq explained to CBS News.
The Yemeni women that attend Ishaq's classes range from 20 to 50 years of age. Many came to yoga with a weight-loss aspiration, according to the teacher. However, after attending a couple of classes, many state that they feel more calm and posses a new sense of bodily ownership. Yoga provided an outlet for for the physical and the mental, it seems. Within a country that does not always allow such concepts for women, it certainly is a treat for many women.
Ishaq was 13 when she began her venture into the activity. As an preteen she suffered from severe migraines that left her bedridden for nearly three days a week. She was living in Yemen, and moved to Scotland where her migraines continued.
"Doctors came to the house and gave me morphine and explained that the problem was genetic," Ishaq says. But the morphine and other medicines did not help.
She then discovered yoga after finding videos of the activity when she was in Washington D.C. To visit family. She found that a mixture of running and following the yoga instruction assisted her in handling her migraines.
After that, she was determined to bring yoga to Yemen. After she became certified, he brought the practice with her and is now happy to share it with the local women.
Yoga has not simply caught on in Yemen, but has also been seen as a tool for change in other countries, such as Kenya. "We are trying to create a value system around well-being," Paige Elenson, the co-founder and director of Africa Yoga Project (AYP) in Nairobi Kenya, explained.
Elenson has trained many yoga instructors, and also provides 300 free outreach classes in community centers, women's groups, and even prisons. Instructors for the AYP are becoming role models for the children in the poorest parts of the country, as well as those in the richer commercial regions. The wide spread interest in the activity is a possible catalyst for change when it comes to socioeconomic groups.
"We are trying to recreate the yoga industry," explains Paige.
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