MAZAR-E-SHARIF -- In a bid to overcome mental pressure and release stress brought on by the growing restrictions on their freedoms, women in Balkh province are hoping they can find relief again in sports and physical activity.
A yoga group that used to bring together about 400 women and girls at the Indian consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif has now moved its meet-ups to a residential house after their numbers were slashed to a mere 15 members over the past year and a half.
Asal Salahshor, 24, said they started the yoga group four years ago with the support of the consulate.
"In the past, about 400 girls used to practice yoga in Mazar-e-Sharif, but now that number is reduced to 15, and we exercise secretly in a residential house," she said, without providing further information about where and when they practice for security reasons.
Yoga, which originated in India thousands of years ago, has seen its fan base grow in Afghanistan in recent years.
"Yoga is very effective at alleviating mental and psychological pressures," said Salahshor.
"I felt a lot of mental and physical changes in me while practicing yoga, and it gave me complete mental peace," she said.
Now that women are not allowed to practice yoga openly anymore, Salahshor said her mental health has suffered.
"Yoga is a great sport. It improves self-esteem and is very important, especially in our society, in which men have a traditional view towards women and think women should be obedient to them," said Habiba Jasoor, 25, another yoga practitioner in Mazar-e-Sharif.
"Women and girls should be able to work and progress," she said, adding that they must change men's "very narrow view towards women".
"Sports do not contradict Islamic and Afghan values," she said. "We want to have a role in society while still observing the Islamic hijab."
Sports improve lives, society
While girls and women are under immense mental and psychological pressure, sports, and yoga in particular, can help them overcome social challenges, said Khalida Najmi, 32, one of the yoga instructors in Mazar-e-Sharif.
"Afghan women and girls who are interested in sports face numerous social and cultural restrictions," she said. "[But] we will never surrender and want to defend our legitimate rights."
Practicing sports can help the approximately 90% of women who spend their days at home, inactive and unemployed, she said.
It can achieve positive changes in their lives, Najmi said, calling on the authorities to allow women more opportunities to engage in sports and social activities.
Women's role in society is critical and they too have the right to play sports, said Khuda Bakhsh Rezae, 36, a bodybuilder in Mazar-e-Sharif.
"Women have made great achievements in sports for Afghanistan. That's why women's sports are a necessity and must continue," he said.
The progress of women leads to the progress of society and a country as a whole, Rezae said, calling for alleviating the restrictions on women's freedoms.
Pardes Dehqanzoi, finance manager of the Balkh Department of Sports, said his department has been trying to create appropriate opportunities for women's sports.
"We are trying to build sports stadiums and gymnasiums for women in Mazar-e-Sharif so that they can continue to practice sports like they used to," he said.
"Men are currently busy playing sports for different sports federations every day. If we create better opportunities for women, their sports activities will resume as well," he said.
Sport is an important aspect of living and survival. If it's any sport, it's good to do it. Many people in India practice yoga. It's a good sport. I like it too.Reply
Women's personal activities are not restricted by the Taliban rulers. The Taliban's restriction on women is not to work in the government offices and not to study and educate women. Women can exercise freely, they can buy and sell freely in the markets of Kabul city and provinces. Women's activities are the same as before. There is no difference in the clothes compared to that of the past. In my opinion, the theory of the Taliban is that women should not only get education. However, there is no proper facilities for men's education either. Interfering in someone's personal life is not a good thing. Ruining the lives of half of the Afghan population because of a cruel decision is not a good work. They are allowed to go to the market, they are allowed to exercise, and they are allowed to do their personal work, but they are not allowed to teach and study. The question is why? We are subject to the laws of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, but the Islamic Emirate must respect the women of Afghanistan because the victims of these wars are mostly women who lost their sweet children. Most of the poor women are the breadwinners of their families and they provide food for their children from their monthly income.Reply
Yoga, like other exercises, is beneficial for the skin, breathing, and body movements. It is now a matter of bans and restrictions, it is not that yoga requires a particular place, but the teachers can give their students practice anytime and anywhere by changing the place. I read somewhere that once the mind gets used to something, even if it is not useful, a person breathes a sigh of relief by doing/eating/smelling/drinking it. Example: I have a habit of consuming energy. I am also convinced that its loss is more than its benefit for me, but I feel headaches and discomfort if I don't drink it daily. As I am used to it, I feel good drinking it. So is yoga. So, if there is no possibility of doing yoga, it is good that this woman should exercise at home for her excellent health, which will keep her healthy and free from depression.Reply
Drinking energy drinks is very harmful to health. If you have such a habit, stop it. Once upon a time, I also used to drink Red Bull Energy, about 5 years ago. At that time, I used to drink a bottle of Red Bull or Monster Energy after work in the late afternoon, but one day a friend told me not to do that anymore. I told him that I was used to it. He told me that if you spend a few days suffering, your body will create such strength that your tiredness will disappear within an hour or two. After that, I also stopped drinking energy. Now I don't drink it even once a month. When it comes to yoga, yoga and other sports like football, volleyball, cricket, gym, karate... all these are very useful for health. Thanks to Salaam Times for writing on useful topics from time to time.Reply
Yoga and other sports are essential not only for women but also for men. With sports, the body grows, the immune system becomes stronger, and as a result, the body's resistance to diseases increases. Some people think walking around at work during the day is a substitute for sports, but this is not true. In normal work, for example, in walking, only the legs are active; while moving objects, the hands and feet move, but this movement is limited. While in regular sports, all body parts move and become stronger, and resistance increases. It is hoped that the government will provide opportunities for men and women to play sports. One issue that seems stupid and disrespectful to me is the gathering of Afghan women in the Indian consulate. This is contrary to Afghan traditions. They could have found another place and practiced yoga there, but sitting and gathering in the embassy or consulate of a foreign country is imperfect work.Reply