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Women pushing the popularity of yoga in China, says govt research on the subject

One of the authors of the book said In India, many practise yoga because of its philosophy and spirituality, while in China, it is more about staying healthy and fit and looking young.

world Updated: May 21, 2017 12:48 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Chinese high school students practice yoga at a schoolyard in Chongqing city on Friday.
Chinese high school students practice yoga at a schoolyard in Chongqing city on Friday.(Reuters)

More women than men in China practise yoga and the urge to stay healthy and look young is pushing its rapid popularity in richer cities across the country, according to government-sanctioned research.

China’s first “Blue Book” or official research on the ancient Indian tradition found that old links between “pure” yoga from India and traditional Chinese culture, including Tai Chi and traditional Chinese medicine, have aided the spread of the practice here.

The country now has about 10,800 registered yoga teaching centres, the Blue Book titled China Yoga Industry Development Report said. It was published by the top think tank, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS).

Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen top the list of cities with most yoga centres, said CASS’s Yongjian Zhang, who was among the dozen scholars from different universities who worked on the book from May 2015.

Yongjian was among the delegates present on Saturday at a conference organised at Diaoyutai State Guest House by Yogi Yoga, a Beijing-based training centre that has branches across China. A number of experts from India are attending the conference.

Comparing the practice in India and China, he said: “In India, lot of men do yoga but in China it is mostly women in the age group 25 to 40 who practise... In India, many practise yoga because of its philosophy and spirituality. In China, it is more about staying healthy and fit and looking young.”

Research found the incidence of yoga centres increased in cities where average income is high.

“The spread of yoga is closely linked to the average income of the people and the speed of economic development in China,” Yongjian said.

Bucking that trend are three northeastern states of China – Jilin, Lioning and Heilongjiang — which are relatively less developed economically.

“In the provincial capitals (in these states), yoga has spread rapidly because women from these provinces have been traditionally considered beautiful. So, the trend among women here is to keep looking beautiful,” he said.

In provinces such as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and Tibet Autonomous Region, yoga is not popular, the study found.

The trend to keep fit in China is also tied to the spread of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and heart conditions.

“This has led many to have more healthy life styles and yoga is considered one way to keep fit,” Yongjian said.

He said the research on the subject would continue, adding that scholars are yet estimate the number of practitioners or the total worth of the industry in China.

“There is interest to continue (the research) because half among us practise yoga,” he said.