Fakhria Momtaz knew even as a child that she, somehow, was born knowing yoga. Even though growing up in Kabul, Afghanistan, there was no connection with yoga anywhere. Now she runs the only yoga centre in war-torn Afghanistan. She told her incredible story to Grin.
1. How did you get interested in yoga?
From the time I remember and have memories, I have been practicing different yoga moves without even knowing it. I didn’t have any mentor or teacher but was persistently doing yoga without any gap and discovering the moves through my imaginations. In my migration period to Pakistan, I studied medical for three years and when twelve years ago I started learning about yoga, my knowledge about physio anatomic helped me enormously to better understand yoga.
2. Who taught you go?
No one have taught me yoga. I have my first memory of doing yoga is when I was only three years old.
3. What did you study and where?
I have never attended yoga anywhere and me and my team have only once attended a 72 hour yoga sessions in International Yoga Festival in India.
4. What were your family’s response to your interest in yoga?
They were always encouraging me and were trying their best that I should never leave my practice. Most importantly they were highly concern about my diet and food intake.
5. How did you decide to start a yoga studio in Kabul?
This was never a sudden decision to start a yoga studio. Around 3 years ago, I started providing yoga classes for my female employees in a small office room. Seeing the results of these classes in my employees, about two years ago I decided to establish the first yoga studio in Kabul.
6. Was it difficult to start it?
Of course It was a difficult decision. First of all, there was no yoga culture in Afghanistan and so there was no yoga federation. The public also did not have knowledge about yoga and some that a has a little knowledge, they are linking it with religion.
7. How did you start getting customers?
We never had a class of yoga more than 15–20 participants. However, we have never expected much of profit or warm welcome of our initiative. We are in a stage to introduce yoga to Afghan public and make culture of yoga here so we are attracting customers slowly and gradually. Mostly our customers are bringing new customers and other than that the media has helped us to attract customers. Besides yoga sessions in our studio we have yoga sessions in organizations which supports their female staff.
8. How many customers do you have?
We have registered around 100 customers who are coming time to time in our classes.
9. What has been your most memorable experience while teaching yoga?
One of the memorable experience was that when we were planning our initiative, we were thinking that our work is about advocacy and peace building and when I received an award of advocacy from embassy of United States in Afghanistan, our belief was proved to us.
10. Do you think if the Taliban comes back to power, your studio will be shut?
We don’t think Taliban would come to power as they were before but if they would come, they are compelled to accept us and the changes in society and it is in their own interest.