Three years ago Mohan came to
Beijing to teach
yoga. Sitting upright, in his mid 30s, he projects a prudence and
steadiness seemingly beyond his years. Yet his eyes seem to sparkle
with an almost childlike sincerity.
Mohan's hometown, Rishikesh, known as the "world capital of
yoga," is home to many schools and renowned masters. Mohan was
first introduced to yoga at the age of 12, and he began to practice
professionally under a master at 17. He went on to study the
specialized discipline at three universities.
Mohan came to China by accident. It was three years ago during a
summer holiday when he was invited to teach yoga in Beijing and he
fell in love with the city, he says. Before then, the little he
knew of China was gleaned from books and in his imagination China
was an ancient nation; conservative and exclusive. But soon after
his arrival he discovered things were very different. The modern
ambience, open-minded people and diverse culture exceeded his
expectations. What's more, Mohan formed a strong attachment to
Beijing. He relished in the city's melding of antiquity and
modernity, and though he returned to India, soon he was back in
Beijing teaching yoga to Chinese and Westerners alike.
As for the reason for the popularity of yoga in China, "China
has taiji. Yoga and taiji go with the same
principle and share a similar philosophy: to make harmony among
body, breath and mind. In terms of this kind of similarity, Chinese
people readily accept yoga. Especially for young people,
Taiji is a little bit slower and yoga is more dynamic. In
India, we also have some who teach and learn taiji," says
Mohan's life in Beijing is simple and constant. Most of his time
is occupied by yoga classes and lectures. A vegetarian, he enjoys
Chinese cuisine, Sichuan food in particular, with its spiciness
that reminds him of his hometown. "I like bean curd very much.
There was no bean curd before in India, but now we have it, and it
was Chinese people who took it there." Mohan never drinks anything
alcoholic and never goes to bars. So what strikes his fancy is not
the prosperous and bustling bar streets of Beijing. "I am fond of
Beijing's historic places which are the mirror of ancient
civilization. Beijing is a huge city and you can experience much of
China in this one city.
Mohan's love for China partly stems from his students. "Chinese
students are curious and hard-working. Although yoga has a
time-horned history in India, it is something new in China. They
start practicing yoga from a base of no knowledge, so they ask many
questions in great detail. I feel that they learn yoga by using
their hearts, just like my Indian students.”
As an Indian in China, Mohan has experienced the hospitality and
helpfulness of the Chinese people. "I feel a connection with my
students. They are considerate and cooperative. When I first moved
to Beijing I had to rent an apartment. My students worried I would
have problems with communication, so they provided housing
information and helped me find a nice apartment. They are very
helpful." Mohan’s gratitude is expressed not only in his words, but
also on his face.
And Mohan sometimes plays the role of goodwill ambassador. "In
early October, we organized our students to have a yoga trip to
India. We could not get the tickets to India because now so many
Chinese are traveling there. Still I am very happy to see that,
although our schedule was to be postponed."
As for future plans, Mohan offers a definitive answer "I will
teach yoga in China. I will visit other countries for a couple of
weeks on holidays," says Mohan with a shy smile. "I feel most at
home in China."
(China Pictorial 11/2006)