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A 17-year-old boxer is fighting all odds to teach yoga to about 40 women of her community in Haldwani town of Nainital district.
Hailing from humble family background, Rehnuma Mikrani's father is an autorickshaw driver while her mother works at an Anganwadi centre. Just when the lockdown got announced, Rehnuma decided to teach yoga and other exercises to the women in her community. She is a state-level boxer and has been previously training at Sports Authority of India's day-boarding extension centre in Uttarakhand's Pithoragarh district.
Initially, she began by teaching yoga to just four women. Now, she has a batch of around forty women of her community. The classes are conducted every morning in the local playground.
However, the initiative was not an easy one to start with. For this, they had to face all sorts of odds including criticism from some members of the community. They would also be receiving lewd comments from local boys.
Rehnuma said that it started in July when my mother and a few other women asked her to teach them yoga. Being a sportsperson, she was trained in such things and it was also helpful for her to train others in yoga.
Her daily routine included working out at a nearby playground near her home even in lockdown. She used to observe a few Muslim women doing some basic exercises near their houses but not in a proper way. After discussing it with her mother, she decided to ask them about training them properly. Three women agreed and then she started with her daily practises where her mother also joined her for the classes.
The small group then started gathering early at 5.30 am to practise yoga and other exercises till 7-7.30 am. Rehnuma said that it was not at all an easy for them initially as "men would stop on their way just to stare at them".
Not only would people just stop to see what we are doing but some of them would also pass lewd comments and body shame them. They were asked to rather sit at home by many people who saw them doing yoga. Initially, they didn't pay any heed to people who passed comments about them. But when it crossed a limit, she confronted them, after which they stopped remarks.
Many women wear Burqa when they come to practise yoga. Another yoga practitioner who has been with Rehnuma since the beginning is Samreen Khan. She said that as most women don't have freedom, and are expected to be in veil or burqa, both of them decided to teach these women yoga in burqa only.
"Most of the women are practising yoga with us in a burqa and they have absolutely no problem with that. They say, by doing so they are able to uphold the customs and practise yoga also for their health and fitness." Samreen told Hindustan Times.
She also said initially many women were hesitant in joining them but once they joined they were able to understand the benefits of yoga. After joining the group, they have learnt many yoga asanas and exercises through which they could improve their health. The initiative has been appreciated by many prominent members of the community.
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