People practice Yoga at a local sports club in Damascus, Syria, Jan. 13, 2020. Stress and depression are modern illnesses in Syria due to the long-standing war, which pushes Syrians to search for alternatives to release the stress without the side effects of pills. (Photo by Ammar Safarjalani/Xinhua)
by Hummam Sheikh Ali
DAMASCUS, Jan. 21 (Xinhua) -- Stress and depression are modern illnesses in Syria due to the long-standing war, which pushes Syrians to search for alternatives to release the stress without the side effects of pills.
The Yoga in Syria has been around since 2003 but it was on a very low scale.
In 2011, the Syrian war erupted and brought in stress, anxiety, and depression. For many people, popping pills due to their side effects is not a long-term solution and here comes a way out of stress through Yoga.
In a sports club in Damascus, dozens of people practice Yoga twice a week.
They greet each other with a bow of respect like in the ancient times. Some of them even bring their Yoga mats and start doing the Yoga gestures, known as Mudras, and body stretching moves.
They have a coach, who instructs them what to do and this coach has assistants who are also licensed Yoga instructors.
They also play Indian music for Yoga while lighting candles to calm their minds and achieve the balance between the mind and body.
Abir Maya is a school teacher, who was first introduced to Yoga through a free course offered to school children in the same school she is teaching at.
She told Xinhua that Yoga helped her to control her emotions during the war and to mute the loud noise inside her.
"We have learned how to control our emotions particularly now during the war because we all have suffered from sadness, anger, and pain," she said.
She noted that she also learned how to balance and control her emotions and how to focus and think quietly.
Her Yoga classmate, Salam al-Khatib, was also introduced to Yoga during her humanitarian work and said she decided to carry on with this sport that helped her with the stress and pressure of life during the war.
"Yoga is very good as it raises our awareness, regarding our bodies and our breathing because sometimes we breathe wrong," she told Xinhua.
She said Yoga also helped her synchronize her movement with her breathing.
"This gives us a lot of relief and relaxation. This relaxation helps us to deal with the stress and pressure and the hasty rhythm of life around us," she said.
Abu al-Kheir al-Khatib is a pharmacist who has been practicing and teaching Yoga for years.
The man seems so peaceful and calm when he talks and he seems to be a faithful Yoga practitioner through his energy while moving around the students to correct their moves.
He also wears various colored crystals, which he said, has energies that benefit the body and help through meditation and Yoga.
As a pharmacist, dealing with depression and stress through medication is not a favorable thing, saying he advises those who suffer from the stress of war to resort to Yoga as a healthy alternative.
"During the crisis in Syria, the treatment of stress and depression is not only through medication but through mental means such as Yoga. Many of the elderly people who came here to practice Yoga have been healed from different health issues, mainly the psychological ones," he told Xinhua.
Another coach, Wafa Shadid, said Yoga has helped many people with symptoms of depression and anxiety, particularly during the war, saying more people are showing up at the Yoga classes to benefit from this ancient sport.
"We have worked a lot on the subject of healing through Yoga so many of the sicknesses have been dealt with through Yoga such as depression, stress and back pain and all stress-originated illness we have suffered during the crisis," she said.