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How yoga became a tool to beat cancer for Saudi Arabia’s Nouf Marwaai

Nouf Marwaai prefers to call yoga a “wellness sport”. Saudi Arabia’s first woman yoga master was awarded India’s civilian honor, Padma Shree, on 15 August 2018.

However, Nouf’s story goes beyond yoga. She has had a long struggle with health conditions and has defeated lupus as well as cancer, all armed with yoga. Nouf sees yoga as a liberating factor that rids one of mental disturbances (Chitta Vritti) and other psychological stress factors.

“If the Individual is free from physical ailment and laziness and mental disturbances they will create a healthy and free society,” Nouf told Al Arabiya English.

When Nouf’s yoga journey began, she was motivated by her determination to fight ill-health. “In the year of 1998, I was not allowed to do a lot. I had excessive joint pains, muscles pains, body pains and much more,” she said.

It was then that Nouf discovered yoga asanas (positions). “I thought may be if I can practice yoga I can do something without hurting my joints and my body. That’s how this journey started,” she said.

The second big struggle for her was finding a yoga instructor in Saudi Arabia from whom she could learn to practice the right way.

“I had to travel a lot to learn and practice and then obtained a license to open a yoga studio. There was no classification of yoga in those days,” says Nouf.


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