Yoga in China

“Yoga is such a wonderful gift from India to China,” Chen says. “Chinese society is ready to understand another oriental philosophy. What you saw in America is nothing compared to what will happen here.”

The first yoga studio in China opened only nine years ago and there are already around 10 million people that are practicing. It’s very interesting considering there are 16 million Americans who practice yoga and it arrived in the U.S. in the late 1800s and became widely known in the 1960s. Two women from California, Robyn Wexler and Mimi Kuo-Deemer opened the first yoga studio in China. Wexler was inspired to set one up in Beijing because “ it epitomized ‘consistency, stability, and continuation in a city undergoing so much transformation and change, building up and tearing down’.” After their studio, across Beijing, Shanghai and other cities, more gyms were offering yoga and there were people training to become instructors by DVDs. It started to become the hot new trend. Yoga brought a new relaxing vibe into the busy city. It made people feel more connected to the outside world. Yoga studios are now everywhere in China and it is believed to be the world’s new yoga superpower.

Although yoga may be everywhere in China and very popular, it is the American version. At first a lot of Chinese are grabbed to yoga and continue with it because ‘they see it from an American point of view. At the beginning, they’re attracted by the byproducts: to be handsome, to be pretty, to digest well, sleep well, have a nice body, be intelligent, unstressed. It’s hard work to take them toward the deeper aspects’, explains Faeq Biria (one of B.K.S. Iyengar’s leading disciplines). Yoga in China is very Westernized and is focused on the physical practice. It is very expensive and can be higher than classes in L.A. In big cities in China the company Yogi Yoga charges $1.000 for a year of yoga. There is a huge market in China and is greatly influenced by celebrities like Madonna. There are now magazines like Yoga digest with 200,000 readers. When Chinese focus more during yoga practices they become connected to the stronger connection of yoga though because “there are internal connections to indigenous arts, from Taoist tai chi to Traditional Chinese medicine”. Once they see the energies of yoga they begin to realize the culture, but younger generations are having a hard time doing this because of their materialistic minds.

Chen Si, a journalist trying to promote classical yoga, organized a conference with Iyengar and a dozen of his protégés to Guangzhou, China with 1.300 students. It was named the China-India Yoga Summit and was made by officials in New Dehili and Beijing. They haven’t had a great relationship since the 1950s when “India opposed China’s seizure of Tibet and gave refuge to the 14th Dalai Lama” and there were border wars since. The Dalia Lama and Falum Gong are banned in China unlike yoga which is being embraced. This shows how yoga can be used for peace and brings societies together.

Simpson, Daneil. “The New Yoga Superpower.” Himalayan Institute RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2013. <>.


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