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This Egyptian College Student Is Challenging the Patriarchy by Doing Yoga in the Streets of Qena

Women defying cultural norms and societal stereotypes has become a rising phenomenon all around the world, but this Egyptian yogi has taken it to another level.

At the risk of getting ridiculed and being targeted by fanatic violence, college student Rehab Ossama took to the streets of Qena, her essentially rural Upper Egyptian home governorate, to perform yoga asanas in the spirit of defiance, and as a way of raising awareness about the importance and benefits of the practice, according to Alarabiya.

Osama told Alarabiya that she does not mean to offend or undermine her culture's traditions, unless they are outdated and no longer make sense. She undertook the performance primarily as a collaborative project with a photographer, and as a way of introducing the practice of yoga to her hometown. "I meant to highlight its positive effect on one's physical, mental and spiritual well-being, and its marked benefit in increasing one's ability to deal with the external world in an efficient and effective manner. People usually think that the practice of yoga provides a state of mental calm during the time of practice only, but that is far from the truth," she says. She goes on to say that she does, however, mean to challenge anyone who judges or condemns women for taking up yoga, or sports of any kind, solely on the grounds that they are women.

During the photo shoot, Osama received harsh criticism from passersby. Some of whom asked her to stop because what she was doing was at odds with their customs and traditions, and, even after the shoot, the photo album received a lot of negative comments. Thankfully, she did not give in to the pressure and completed her project, rolling out a set of striking photos that are sure to capture anyone's attention.

"My friends and family support what I'm doing," she bravely concludes. "And I will continue to encourage other girls and women here in Qena to take up yoga as a way of achieving a state of focus and calm, regardless of any attacks that might come my way".

Photos by Alarabiya.