28 May 2011, page 14
Next month, yogacharya B K S Iyengar and the oldest Chinese martial artiste alive, Master Lu Zijian, will come together at an ambitious China-India yoga summit to be held in Guangzhou. The agenda: a dialogue on the traditional fitness regimens of the two countries. Not just that, Iyengar will lead a packed, three-day programme to guide around 1,000 yoga enthusiasts from China and abroad on the many interconnecting layers of the system. ‘‘I will go from the scratch to the ultimate,’’ says Iyengar, who is generously allowing beginners and veterans to take his classes.
Yoga reached China around 40 years ago and caught on like a wildfire despite the fact that the country has its own indigenous systems of mindbody regimens. There are about 15 millions yoga practitioners in China today.
This summit will see the entire yoga industry spread across neighbouring Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau converge at Guangzhao. ‘‘Tai Chi is now not as popular as yoga in China. Yoga is definitely more popular among the educated youth, especially the women—95% of the learners are women,” says Zhiyong Chen, who is directing the
event that has the backing of the Indian consulate and the Ayush (alternate health) department of the ministry of health.
Lu Zijian, who is fondly referred to as the Yangtze River’s Great Chivalrous Man, lives in Chongqin and practises the evolved Tao-based martial art and healing system, bagua zhang. He has lived through China’s historical decades and is today celebrated as China’s most healthy centenarian.
With some help from interpreters, the two masters will “compare Tai Chi and yoga, their principles and similarities, how they look at the human body, mind and spirit, and how they work to improve them”, says Chen.
Senior Iyengar teacher Birju Mehta, who will be among the team of six from India, says the Indian and Chinese systems perhaps have parallel end goals though they follow different processes. Iyengar has held large-scale yoga summits across the world—the last in Russia two years ago. But this one is generating a lot of buzz because it sees the coming together of people who have inherited similar systems. And also because Iyengar has declared that this will be his last foreign yoga tour.
The yogacharya remains a staunch classicist in a world where yoga has acquired some really outlandish forms.But he is also open to dialogues with other traditions and last year had a public interaction with the Dalai Lama over Indian and Tibetan traditions.