LUMUT: She may be four months pregnant but her body was flexible enough for her to perform all the yoga movements demonstrated by the instructor.
Even the poses, or asanas in Sanskrit, appeared effortless for her – from the basic to the more intricate ones like the formidable-sounding “scorpion forearm stand”.
Aishah Razak, 38, was among the participants of the recent Wellness Week 2015 programme at Pangkor Island Resort, organised by Reebok Malaysia, and the Women’s Health and Men’s Health magazines. Among the activities were a yoga workshop conducted by international celebrity and founder of Strala yoga, Tara Stiles.
Watching Aishah confidently going through the various movements did make fellow participants wonder if yoga was safe for her and her unborn baby.
SAFE FOR PREGNANT WOMEN
“It’s perfectly safe,” declared Aishah, who helps her husband run his oil and gas business. “The important thing is for me to know my limitations. I know I shouldn’t go beyond my limitations.”
Aishah fell in love with yoga three years ago, having taken up the practice after the birth of her second child.
“During my confinement period, I came across some pictures of my friends doing yoga, which they had uploaded on their social networking sites. It so happened that I was on the lookout for ways to shed my excess weight and get back my stamina.
“After my two-month confinement period was over, my doctor gave me the green light to exercise. I managed to find a yoga video on the Internet and started doing it at home,” she told Bernama.
Aishah said she was motivated to continue doing yoga well into her pregnancy because it involved mainly stretching exercises and helped her to keep fit and retain her stamina, besides boosting blood circulation and reducing the incidence of backache and leg cramps.
“Yoga also improves our breathing and has a calming effect on us, helping us to cope with the stress associated with pregnancy. It can also beat post-natal blues, which some women tend to experience.
“The yoga movements are also said to be beneficial for the unborn baby. It can also help to strengthen the muscles concerned and make the child delivery process easier for me,” she explained.
She also said yoga has helped improve her relationship with her children, pointing out that her eldest child, who is four years old, shared her interest in yoga and could already do the head stand.
THE RELIGIOUS FACTOR
Yoga came under public scrutiny back in 2008 after the National Fatwa Council ruled that certain yoga practices were deemed unIslamic as they contained spiritual elements that contravened Islamic teachings.
However, the ruling made it clear that Muslims could practice the physical movements associated with yoga, as long as they were not accompanied by the chanting of mantras or worship.
The same year Perlis Mufti Dr Asri Zainul Abidin said although he realised that certain yoga practices incorporated elements of other religions, it was not too complicated to separate the physical exercises from the religious portion.
“Take a look at tai chi or martial arts like judo and taekwando. They don’t have their origins in Islam but are practised by Muslims as well because they are good for health and self-defence. Just leave out those that are in conflict (with Islam) – it can be certain movements, chantings or beliefs,” Asri was quoted as saying then.
Last year, Indonesia’s Ulama Council had passed a ruling prohibiting Muslims from practising yoga which promoted meditation and the chanting of mantras, as well as spiritual elements and rituals belonging to other religions. The council, however, condoned the practice of yoga for purely health-enhancing purposes.
PHYSICAL EXERCISE ONLY
Aishah said throughout her practice of yoga, not once had she been exposed to other religious beliefs and rituals.
“To me, yoga is 100 percent physical exercise… I do it to be healthy and to reduce my weight, as well as build my stamina and strength to enable me to do some running,” she said.
Meanwhile, yoga instructor Dominikan Karan, 33, a Polish, said these days a number of modern yoga practices were available, not just the traditional ones.
“Some people have the wrong idea about yoga. They think it’s a religious practice that requires you to dedicate your life to a set of mystical rituals. This is simply untrue.
“Yoga is a gentle form of exercise that helps you to lose weight, detoxify your body and energise yourself,” said the author of Yoga For Weight Loss For Beginners, who moved to Malaysia eight years ago.
She has created her own workout, featuring a fusion of yoga, weight training, squats and lunges, which was mainly aimed at those wishing to lose weight.
“I learnt traditional Hatha Yoga six years ago and after one year of practice, I started to teach yoga and also introduced a high-intense yoga workout,” she added.
For Loh Chee Khoon, 26, who was among the participants at the recent yoga workship at Pangkor Laut Resort, the lack of a limb has not stopped him from practising yoga and participating in marathons.
Loh, who was born without his left hand, started indulging in yoga about one-and-a-half years ago
“It’s much more challenging and difficult for me to balance my body on one hand but yoga taught me how to do it properly. I also learnt how to control my breathing, become more calm and not to give up easily,” said the graphics designer, who is also brand ambassador for Reebok.
Loh, who started participating in marathons two years ago, said he used to be obese but started losing weight after he became physically active.
“Due to my physical disability, I used to dislike sporting activities and ate a lot too. Then, about two years ago a friend encouraged me to join a gym and go on a diet
“At the same time, I also took part in marathons and obstacle races and later, I started learning yoga techniques to make my fitness regime more complete and efficient,” he added.– BERNAMA