Chandigarh: While Prime Minister Narendra Modi will practice yoga with some of his Cabinet colleagues on June 21 at Rajpath in New Delhi to mark Yoga Day, across the border in Pakistan is the country’s lone yoga guru. Shamshad Haider, known as Yogi Haider, teaches yoga and stress and anger management to personnel of the Pakistani armed forces, corporate professionals and politicians in his country. The 45-year-old in Islamabad has 10,000 students and intends giving yoga lessons to Pakistan’s cricket team.
His expertise includes all forms of yoga, including hatha yog, Kundalini yog, meditation and pranayam yog. “It all started in 1991-92 when I was in Saudi Arabia with my elder brother in our family construction business. Once I was rushed to a hospital where doctors said that I had to be operated for appendicitis pain. I refused. Then a doctor from Somalia told me that if I can control my mind and body, I can get relief from this pain,’’ says Haider.
He tried yoga and the pain disappeared after two days. He then started researching and reading books on yoga. In 1996, Haider went to Nepal to learn yoga and came to India in 1997, where he stayed till 2004. He learnt yoga from vipasana meditation teacher S N Goenka. “In 2004 I went back to Pakistan and started teaching yoga there. Initially, I didn’t have any students. My younger brother, who is lawyer in the United Kingdom, wrote about my yoga skills on the Internet, after which some people from mind sciences contacted me. My first student was a psychologist and then it was no looking back,” says Haider.
Haider is the founder of Yoga Pakistan and Way of Nature, organisations that teach yoga and meditation in Pakistan. “With yoga and meditation one can achieve self insight and cure all physical and psychological disorders,’’ he says.
Till 2013, he did not take money from his students. Now, he charges Pakistani Rs 8,000 for a one-month yoga course in which he teaches for an hour each day three days in a week. For stress and anger management classes he charges Rs 3,000 for three days from each student. He takes five classes everyday, starting at 5 am and has 5,000 students in Lahore and another 5,000 in Islamabad and Rawalpindi. He also does television and radio shows.
He says that his wife “Shumaila is also a yoga teacher. She used to learn yoga from me and later we got married. Now she teaches yoga to women”. He has taught many prominent personalities, and some who are his students include Chief Minister of Sindh Province Syed Qaim Ali Shah and Malik Ghulam Mustafa Khar, former governor of Punjab province.
Haider has written to the chairman of Pakistan Cricket Board, Shahryar Khan, saying that he wants to give yoga lessons to the team to raise their productive potential.