The long-running series in which readers answer other readers’ questions on subjects ranging from trivial flights of fancy to profound scientific concepts
Iunderstand the principle of why stretching sets off pleasure receptors; it keeps our bodies strong and supple, and so we are rewarded with a satisfying sensation. But I’m still unsure exactly why it feels so wonderful.
Thom Harris, Kent
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Today, yoga-based practices are integrated into community centres and gyms, not only among the elite of cosmopolitan Ramallah, but also in the small villages.
It’s used in health clinics in crowded refugee camps, and in classes at small private studios led by new teachers trained by international volunteers.
Palestinians living under the Israeli occupation face stresses that affect their psychological and physical health. The merging of the 4,000-year-old tradition of yoga with the modern science of stress relief is giving West Bank residents the tools to manage their day-to-day wellbeing.
“It’s grown in popularity because of social media,” says Nahed Bandak, who has been teaching yoga for 10 years and has seen classes increase from a handful of students to full capacity in recent years. “People are reading and seeking alternatives to ease what they’re suffering.
They want comfort. When they read and see reviews, they want to try yoga too.”
The growing popularity of yoga was not without resistance in more conservative areas, with some seeing the practice as being part of Buddhism or Hinduism. But over and over, new teachers who are practicing Muslims came to the conclusion that yoga postures helped them with their own prayers.
During training they spoke about the similarity between the bowing and kneeling in both practices and found themselves more supple for the five-times daily prayers. Many said they also benefited from the focus and stillness of the meditative aspect of yoga, connecting more with the intention and sentiment of their prayers.