Anyone can yoga

Atilia Haron yoga

As the crowd made their way onto the golf course, Shireen Salleh was busy conducting a yoga class on stage.

It was just one of the lifestyle events at the Maybank Championship at Saujana Golf and Country Club.

The yoga classes by Shireen and her partner actress Atilia Haron have been quite a hit among the crowd and even caught the eye of physical trainer Engku Akmal.

The tough and well-built Akmal joined Shireen on stage for a demonstration and was amazed how difficult it was.

“Being a physical trainer, I do work out a lot and reckoned I’m in pretty good shape. But man, yoga is tough,” he laughed while rubbing his aching arms.

“It tests different parts of the body and muscles and I’m glad I finally tried it.

“Some of my clients have asked me to do it before but I wasn’t interested as I thought the movements were too slow and boring. I have changed my mind now!”

Shireen, who has been teaching yoga for four years, joined Atilia at Yogaonethatiwant Studios. They have been conducting classes at the Maybank Championship since the inaugural event in 2016.

“I’m glad Akmal enjoyed the short demo. I helped him do a headstand – something most Malaysians assume is the hardest thing to do in yoga – but it isn’t,” said Shireen.

“I guess visually, it looks really hard but trust me when I tell you, there are many more difficult positions!”

Shireen said Yogaonethatiwant has several studios around Klang Valley but also does weekly corporate classes for clients including Khazanah Nasional, Petronas and telecommunications companies plus events such as the Maybank Championship.

The company, founded by Atilia in 2013, also conducts free classes at the KLCC park on Saturdays.

“It’s completely free and that’s the only form of advertising we do for our studio,” said Shireen.

“We usually get 30-40 people, many of whom are first-timers.

“Some are joggers and runners who pass by and see what we are doing and then join us the following week.”

Shireen also said more Malays are taking up yoga.

This is a far cry from 2008 when the National Fatwa Council considered banning yoga for fear that it could deviate from the teachings of Islam.

Then Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi stepped in and said Muslims could carry on doing yoga but minus the chanting.

“There is more awareness now. You don’t have to do the chanting. It is about breathing and stretching,” explained Shireen.

“About 70 per cent of our students are Malay and we even have an instructor who teaches in hijab,” she added.