Beijing: When Manmohan Singh Bhandari, who has turned yoga into a multi million dollar business in China, visited the country in 2003 to conduct yoga classes he was shocked to hear questions like how the spiritual practice originated from the US.
"That was the first question I was asked when I was invited to conduct yoga classes way back eight years ago as yoga was taught by western expatriates here for fashion and physical exercise," he said.
"His visit was a game changer as far as Yoga was concerned and it never looked back," Yin Yan, former Editor in Chief of the Chinese edition of the ELLE international fashion magazine who left her high profile job and married Mohan told.
"It was love at first sight when I met him at Rishikesh, where I went for a spiritual journey and my life changed", Yin who later established the famous Yogi Yoga academy in China which now has emerged as famous India-China cultural joint venture with a turnover of USD four million.
The Academy recognised by the Chinese Sports Ministry has several branches in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou backed up 37 franchise units.
"Mohan is the spiritual head of Yogi Yoga and I am the corporate brain behind it", Yin said as the academy on Sunday celebrated its eighth anniversary attended by few hundred enthusiasts.
Mohan performed fast paced Suryanamasakar today before few hundred followers backed by Gayatri Mantra music ending with prolonged meditation session.
His disciples included journalists from television and print media, writers and professionals caught up in the race for success in fast paced China.
"They needed a spiritual back in a highly materialistic society where success does not necessarily bring happiness. Yogi Yoga provides that support for them," Yin said.
The Academy has so far trained over 6,000 yoga teachers besides publishing numerous books in Chinese by top Indian yoga teachers.
The study of the students from all ages included a visit to Rishikesh for a spiritual experience.
Yin says despite all the success, Mohan remained spiritual maintaining a spiritual detachment with money matters.
"I take care of all the financial issues. He is the spiritual guide and I am the corporate boss," the Founder, Chairman of the academy said.
Over the years he earned admiration of many Chinese yoga enthusiasts.
"I admire him because he brought true spiritual yoga and meditation all the way from Rishikesh. Many of us in China are immensely benefited by it because he was the first exponent yoga in China we know," Zheng Xiaowen, who married Indian restaurant owner, Meharnosh Pastakia in Beijing said.
Besides being yoga enthusiast, Wen is also in practices meditation and made a pilgrimage to Rishikesh.
Yoga has caught up very fast in Chinese emerging middle and upper middle classes.
Hundreds thronged to attend the yoga sessions of well known yoga exponent, B K Iyengar during his recent visit here.
Before that Art of Living Guru, Shri Shri Ravishankar had opened his Chinese centre at resort in the outskirts here.
Recognising its popularity, the Chinese People`s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, a government organisation held a two day international conference on Yoga early this week here.