From the serene district of Ganderbal, nestled in the heart of Jammu and Kashmir, my name is Showkeya Qadir Bhat. Today, I wish to share the profound journey that has been my life in the world of Yogasana sports. It’s a journey marked by dedication, resilience, and the continuous pursuit of inclusivity in a community where the practice of yoga is still evolving.
From the quaint town of Repora Lar in Ganderbal, my passion for yoga sprouted and has been nurtured since a young age. I am proud to be a state medalist and a participant in numerous national championships. Currently, my role as the General Secretary of the District Ganderbal Yogasana Sports Association and a prominent member of the J&K Yogasana Sports Association is a testament to my commitment to the art.
My journey in yoga education has been equally rewarding. Having completed a Teaching training course from J&K Yogasana Sports Association, affiliated with Yoga Alliance International, I furthered my knowledge by completing a certificate course in the same field from NIS in 2021. Presently, I am pursuing a Diploma in Yogasana sports from NSNIS, Patiala, Punjab, with aspirations of obtaining an MA degree in Yogasana Sports from a leading university in Rajasthan.
Overcoming Geographical Challenges:
However, the path to these achievements has been fraught with challenges. My training centre is situated 40 kilometres away from my residence, translating to a daily commute of 80 kilometres. The journey, taking up to three hours at times, is not only physically demanding but also raises safety concerns, especially for a girl. Yet, supported by unwavering encouragement from my family and coach, Mr. Shabir Ahmad, I have persevered.
Navigating Cultural Identities:
Being a girl in a conservative society brings its own set of challenges. Wearing a hijab, a symbol of my devotion to Islam, is a choice I made consciously. Despite societal expectations and occasional skepticism, my hijab has become a source of strength, allowing me to maintain my comfort zone, both within and outside the yoga studio. It has become a symbol of courage and resilience, guiding me through challenges and keeping me grounded in my beliefs.
Yoga and Religion:
Yoga, for me, transcends religious boundaries. It is a universal practice that embraces individuals irrespective of their cultural, religious, or gender backgrounds. While some may view yoga through a particular lens, it is crucial to understand that yoga is a holistic approach to wellness that unites individuals with themselves and, ultimately, with their spiritual selves through meditation (dhyana).
Dispelling Misconceptions in Kashmir:
Living in the Kashmir Valley, where misconceptions about yoga abound, I find it essential to clarify that yoga is not a tool for promoting any particular religion. Instead, it is a pathway to a peaceful and harmonious existence. Through my journey, I aim to enlighten my community about the countless benefits of yoga, not just physically but also mentally and spiritually.
The Universal Nature of Yoga:
Yoga, as I see it, is a therapy that extends beyond physical well-being. It has proven effective in treating various serious diseases, including diabetes, hypertension, cancer, asthma, and mental health disorders like stress and anxiety. It promotes a sense of patience, which, when cultivated in individuals, has the potential to enhance the overall quality of life and reduce conflict in communities.
Recognizing the lack of diversity in yoga, I am committed to fostering inclusivity. As the only girl wearing a hijab in most circumstances, I have faced challenges related to different customs and views. However, I believe in the power of diversity and the strength it brings to any community. I advocate for treating all students with respect and equality, fostering unity, and creating an environment where people from all backgrounds feel welcomed and valued.
The Role of a Yoga Coach:
Looking ahead, I aspire to be a yoga coach who not only imparts the physical aspects of yoga but also educates students on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Every yoga coach should strive to create an environment where all students, regardless of their race, ethnicity, body type, age, gender, or sexual orientation, feel valued and included. Knowing names and greeting students warmly can significantly impact their confidence and, consequently, their performance in the sport.
The Transformative Power of Yoga:
Yoga, for me, is not merely a physical exercise; it is a way of life. It teaches individuals to live happily, removing negativities and promoting overall well-being. Physically, it enhances flexibility, coordination, and strength. Mentally, breathing practices and meditation bring calmness and focus, leading to greater awareness and reduced anxiety.
From a spiritual perspective, yoga enables acceptance, access to inner peace, and a connection with something greater than oneself. Each yoga practice involves a specific combination of movements, stillness, and breath, mirroring the ebb and flow of life itself.
Yoga and Mental Health:
Regular practice of yoga brings the body and mind together, focusing on movement, breathing, and meditation. The benefits extend beyond physical improvements, encompassing improved posture, flexibility, strength, balance, and body awareness. It soothes the nerves, calms the mind, and develops a sense of peace and calmness. Yoga acts as a therapy for various mental health issues, including stress, anxiety, phobias, and fears.
Yoga has been a blessing in my life, bringing about a profound transformation. It has helped me embrace a healthier lifestyle and develop a positive mindset. Yoga has been a source of peace, contentment, and inner guidance, allowing me to navigate life’s challenges with a smiling face.
I often find myself explaining my choice to pursue yoga as both a subjective and a sport. Initially, there were challenges as people questioned and sometimes laughed at my chosen path. However, with time, I gained clarity about my journey and developed the confidence to proclaim my passion for yoga proudly.
Being a Role Model:
As I tread the initial phases of my journey, I am determined to work not only for myself but also for others. I see myself as an innovator in my community, urging fellow individuals to adopt practices that benefit our society as a whole. I believe yoga is a study of wellness that can transform lives if approached with an open mind.
In concluding my narrative, I want to emphasize the transformative power of yoga. It has shaped my physical well-being and has been instrumental in fostering mental and spiritual growth. My journey represents a dedication to breaking stereotypes, challenging societal norms, and paving the way for inclusivity in Yogasana sports.
About the author:
Showkeya Bhat is pursuing her diploma studies at the Sports Authority of India(SAI), NIS Patiala.