Rishikesh, the yoga capital of India, is also emerging as one of the biggest exporters of yoga teachers to Southeast Asia as well as China where demand for yoga is at an all-time high. An estimated 1,500 Indian yoga teachers, for instance, are believed to be teaching in China.
Of these, 70 to 80 per cent hail from Rishikesh and Haridwar, home to various yoga schools where these teachers have honed their skills.
Ashish Bahuguna, who has been teaching yoga in China for over a decade now, learnt his asanas at the Parmarth Niketan ashram in Rishikesh. Last year, he was conferred the title of ‘The Most Beautiful Yogi of China.’ Bahuguna, who runs his own studio ‘WeYoga’ in Beijing, says that even though there are others who are teaching yoga, Indian teachers are the most preferred. “The Chinese prefer us since we have a grip over the basics of the science,” he told TOI over email.
According to a report by Beijing-based Daxue Consulting, yoga is growing rapidly in China with the number of people involved in its practice rising from 4 million in 2009 to 10 million in 2014.
China has seen a surge in the number of yoga teachers in the country. While in 2009, about 1.1 lakh professional coaches — both local and from across the globe —were active here, the number had jumped to 2.3 lakh by 2014, as per a report by Beijing-based Daxue Consulting.
Mohan Bhandari, one of the first yoga teachers from Rishikesh to settle in China, says that the Chinese are very particular about learning yoga “the right way.” “It is a characteristic of the Chinese that they want to learn things from people who they consider as subject natives. That is why the demand for Indian yoga teachers is high in the country.”
Bhandari, who went to China in 2003, now has a chain of ‘Yogi Yoga’ studios across that country and claims to have over 9,000 students enrolled with him. In Rishikesh currently, along with a few of his students for the International Yoga Festival being held at the Parmarth Niketan ashram, Bhandari told TOI that the surging demand for good teachers — he estimates the yoga industry in China as growing at an annual rate of 20% — has prompted many youngsters to follow in his footsteps.
“I have seen a sizeable number of well-qualified boys from Rishikesh come to China to teach yoga. All of them are earning upwards of Rs 1 lakh per month.”
Although there are several types of yoga styles being taught in the various studios, Iyengar Yoga (which uses props) is a big hit with the Chinese. Manu Rana, another Rishikesh lad who now teaches yoga in the Fujian province of southwest China, says that Iyengar Yoga despite being tough “gives great results and has impressed many of my students”.
David Li, a Chinese yoga practitioner, told TOI over email that “yoga has given me great benefits and rejuvenation.
Last year, I got the opportunity to visit the International Yoga Festival in Rishikesh and became completely enamoured with the practice. I soon enrolled in an Indian yoga studio in my city. I think I must have done some good deeds that I am able to learn this ancient practice from traditional teachers”.