I think you’ll enjoy the excerpt below. Besides this excerpt, the remainder of the article does an excellent job describing what it’s like to have a spiritual practice in a Communist country, which really sucks for some people (just ask Falun Gong members…at least the ones that are still alive…or not being tortured in a tiny dungeon…), but apparently yoga has not been blacklisted yet. As a lover of Chinese language and traditional Chinese culture, I have no doubt that the Chinese will put their own twist on the practice of yoga. All I can say is bring on the kung fu yoga classes!
When China’s first yoga studio opened nine years ago, its founders were a couple of women from California. Robyn Wexler had been teaching asana in the gym of a luxury Beijing hotel while looking for a space more conducive to holistic practice. Her partner, Mimi Kuo-Deemer, took photos for a living but was eager to devote more time to yoga instruction. Together, they decided to create what they had sought in vain: “a clean room with a simple wooden floor.”
“We got the idea on holiday in San Francisco,” Kuo-Deemer recalls. “I mean, how hard could it be to create that in Beijing?” They found it in a Qing Dynasty residence. Secluded from busy traffic in a quadrangle, Yoga Yard was a haven of tranquility. To Wexler, it epitomized “consistency, stability, and continuation in a city undergoing so much transformation and change, building up and tearing down.”
Initially, classes were in English. Though Kuo-Deemer and Wexler speak Mandarin, most students were expatriates. That didn’t last long. Across Beijing, Shanghai, and other metropolises, more and more gyms were offering yoga, hiring instructors who’d learned from DVDs and hyping it as the hottest trend in fitness. Practicing was the acme of modernity: a way of channeling energy to succeed. “It’s a symbol of the outside world,” Kuo-Deemer explains. “Like thin women on the beach.”
In less than a decade, yoga studios have sprouted all over China. They’re dotted along urban sidewalks, and classes can even be found in the hinterlands. They’ve spread so fast that no one’s keeping count. Estimates suggest that 10 million Chinese now practice regularly, compared to about 16 million Americans. Long before it displaces the U.S. economy, let alone its military, China will be the world’s new yoga superpower.