Re­lax, breathe: Yoga gain­ing fans in Yun­nan

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE -

chen­liang@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

In a room with closed cur­tains at the cen­ter of Green Lake Park in down­town Kun­ming, cap­i­tal of Yun­nan province, Ra­jesh Bhan­dari — in white robe and trousers — sits cross-legged on the floor in med­i­ta­tion. In front of the 25-year-old from Rishikesh, Ut­tarak­hand state in In­dia, are a dozen Chi­nese women sit­ting or ly­ing mo­tion­less on mats.

Bhan­dari is one of three In­dian yoga in­struc­tors teach­ing the tra­di­tional In­dian phys­i­cal, men­tal, and spir­i­tual prac­tice to Chi­nese at a yoga club in Kun­ming. Ev­ery day he teaches three classes at the club.

“I’m happy to be here, teach­ing yoga, Harta yoga, Ash­tanga yoga (dif­fer­ent styles of yoga),” he told China Daily at the park. “Many of my Chi­nese stu­dents are very good prac­ti­tion­ers and very sin­cere.”

He doesn’t know any other In­dian yoga in­struc­tors in the town ex­cept his col­leagues, or that his coun­try has helped a Yun­nan univer­sity open a yoga col­lege in Kun­ming, which could turn it into one of China’s cen­ters for yoga ed­u­ca­tion.

Dur­ing In­dian Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi’s visit to China from May 14 to 16, the Yun­nan Minzu (Na­tion­al­i­ties) Univer­sity and the In­dian Coun­cil for Cul­tural Re­la­tions signed a co­op­er­a­tion mem­o­ran­dum to es­tab­lish the coun­try’s first yoga col­lege at the univer­sity on May 15. The mem­o­ran­dum was listed in the China In­dia Joint State­ment.

The col­lege in China was of­fi­cially es­tab­lished at the univer­sity on June 12, though it will not start en­rolling stu­dents un­til Au­gust, ac­cord­ing to Fan Jing, di­rec­tor of the univer­sity’s in­ter­na­tional af­fairs of­fice and in­ter­na­tional stu­dents school.

At her of­fice on the out­skirts of Kun­ming, Fan told China Daily why her school was cho­sen to be the Chi­nese part­ner of the joint pro­ject.

“First, we have a long history of co­op­er­a­tion and cul­tural ex­change with In­dia,” she said.

As one of eight in­sti­tu­tions in China, the only one in South­west China that of­fers a Hindi lan­guage ma­jor, Yun­nan Minzu Univer­sity has sent about 30 of its Hindi lan­guage stu­dents to study in In­dia, ev­ery year since 2011. Ini­tially, they stud­ied at the Entrepreneurship De­vel­op­ment In­sti­tute of In­dia in Gu­jarat state. Naren­dra Modi, an avid yoga fan, was chief min­is­ter of Gu­jarat from 2001 to 2014.

“The com­ing of our stu­dents was cov­ered by the lo­cal media, and Modi met our stu­dents then. So he knew our school,” Fan said. “The Chi­nese stu­dents Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping met dur­ing his In­dia visit last year were mainly from our school.”

Over the years, the univer­sity has es­tab­lished a good re­la­tion­ship with the In­dian Con­sulate. Stu­dents and teach­ers from the univer­sity, which is a com­pre­hen­sive in­sti­tu­tion of higher ed­u­ca­tion for all Chi­nese eth­nic groups, can get their In­dian visa as quickly as in two days, Fan said.

Sec­ond, its Col­lege of Eth­nic Mi­nor­ity Sports has of­fered stu­dents yoga cour­ses for sev­eral years. Two yoga teach­ers, trained in the United States, have in­structed about 6,000 stu­dents in the univer­sity. “Our ex­pe­ri­ence of yoga ed­u­ca­tion has also given us credit and con­fi­dence in the co­op­er­a­tion,” she said.

Ac­cord­ing to the pro­fes­sor, the In­dian Coun­cil for Cul­tural Re­la­tions will send two teach­ers to de­sign the cur­ricu­lum and to of­fer short-term (as three to six months) and long-term (as one year) cer­tifi­cate and diploma cour­ses.

En­roll­ment of three classes — ele­men­tary, in­ter­me­di­ate and ad­vanced — will be open to the public, Fan said. One class can ac­com­mo­date 30-50 stu­dents. Those in the ele­men­tary, in­ter­me­di­ate or ad­vanced classes will need re­spec­tively 120, 240 or 360 class hours to earn a cer­tifi­cate. Be­sides yoga, there are also cour­ses on In­dian cul­ture and phi­los­o­phy.

All stu­dents who en­roll at the col­lege will have the chance to study at the Mo­rarji De­sai Na­tional In­sti­tute of Yoga in In­dia, and those who qual­ify will be granted with in­ter­na­tional yoga train­ing cer­tifi­cates. “Stu­dents can also ap­ply for schol­ar­ships from the ICCR,” Fan said.

China still lacks a com­monly ac­cepted yoga stan­dard, Fan said. The In­dian teach­ers will help stan­dard­ize yoga tech­niques in the coun­try. “When a stan­dard cur­ricu­lum is set up and our diploma is rec­og­nized by our ed­u­ca­tion author­i­ties, we will start en­rolling fresh grad­u­ates from high schools,” she said.

Bhan­dari has prac­ticed yoga for seven years. Be­tween 2008 and 2013, he spent five years study­ing yoga and earn­ing his master’s de­gree of yoga at an In­dian univer­sity. Be­fore com­ing to Kun­ming last year, he in­structed yoga prac­ti­tion­ers from all over the world in In­dia.

He said that it will be good to have more In­di­ans to pro­mote yoga in China and he will not worry about any com­pe­ti­tion. “Yoga means unity. So yoga con­nects us with each other. Yoga bal­ances our body, mind, thoughts,” he said. “Yoga makes you beau­ti­ful, makes you healthy. It’s for ev­ery­one.”

AN BAIJIE / CHINA DAILY

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