Tripoli women find a far-fetched escape in seaside yoga sessions

Breathing easy: women escape the realities of conflict-torn Libya at seaside yoga. (AFP)
Breathing easy: women escape the realities of conflict-torn Libya at seaside yoga. (AFP)

Escorted by a police car, a group of women set off every Thursday to a seaside yoga session attempting to find a vent out of the current tensions prevailing in their war-torn homeland.

“Here I feel free, yoga releases the pressure we live under. Here I can escape reality,” one participant, Mawadda, told AFP before the afternoon class.

This kind of practice is a bit dangerous in Libya in general, as it is considered a conservative country with people judging females according to the way they behave, dress, and even walk outside.

Abeer Ben Yushah, who owns a gym in her family house, found the idea of yoga classes worth taking the shot after consulting other women.

She told the AFP that she and her friends were sure that Libyan women were in need for practicing their hobbies and letting it out through sports and exercise.

“After Zumba courses, Arabic and Indian dance classes, and fitness programs, we decided to start yoga on the beach.” She added.

The new thing about this yoga course, however, was to do it on a beach in broad daylight without upsetting conservative members of the society.

“To be honest, I was a bit scared about the reputation of our club and that people would reproach us for being more free and open than necessary,” Abir says.

“I do worry about the reactions of husbands and fathers but at the same time people need new things and new activities just like the rest of the world.” She added.

Libyan women, like many others in conservative Arab countries, have respect for religious and societal codes but this has not kept them from adopting the latest trends. They also enroll in universities, work alongside male colleagues, drive themselves and travel abroad if they can afford it.

“Practicing yoga on the beach is, for us, proof that we want to change our lifestyle,” says Mawadda, while Abir admits that attendance at her first class was low.

“Women came to see how the session went and to make sure it was safe,” she said, adding that they felt reassured when they saw the police car, the absence of men and that the place was secluded.

Abir admits that not everyone will agree, but to those still reluctant she says: “Try before you judge.”

 

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