Ten years ago, Joshna Ramakrishnan sat down on the streets of Nanchang with her world in a suitcase.
“I was 21, had just been cheated out of a job as a teacher in a yoga studio there. It was my first time outside India, I did not have a place to stay, and I didn’t speak the language,” she recalls. Today, she runs her own yoga studio, Atma Yoga Shala, in Guangzhou, China. The Chennai-born is now back in city with a two-part teacher-training course that she will be hosting along with practitioners of the Krishnamacharya Yoga tradition: Savithri Ravikrishnan, Anupama Das and Shanbhag.
“Though I’ve conducted workshops before, this is the first time I’m doing a teacher-training course here,” says Joshna, who learnt to be a trainer at Thiruvananthapuram’s Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Dhanwantari Ashram. She now shuttles between Guangzhou and Chennai. “I have taken classes in different cities across China and India,” she says.
After her bad experience in Nanchang, she says she relied on the kindness of a stranger to get back on track. “I met an Indian student at the yoga studio where I was supposed to work, and she offered me a place to stay,” she says.
Joshna went on to work for six months at another studio in Guangzhou, followed by a four-year stint in Chennai’s 136.1 yoga studio. Her work in Guangzhou took her back to the city in 2017, which is how Atma Yoga Shala was born. “Ten years ago, yoga wasn’t very popular in China. Just some strange exercises wearing tight pants!” she jokes, “But eventually, the spiritual aspect of yoga became interesting for them. People started coming to India as well to learn pranayama.”
The similarities between the meditative cultures of China and India fascinated her. “China has Taoism and Tai Chi. Tai Chi is generally practised by people who are a bit older. The end goal for both yoga and Tai Chi are the same, and both focus on breathwork,” she says. Initially, the younger generation was attracted to yoga because of its physical aspect, she explains. “But now, they are trying to understand it on a deeper level, and relate it to what they know about Tai Chi and Taoism.” Explaining that the second session of the training course will be held next year, she adds that she would like to bring in practitioners from China as well.
The Atma Yoga Shala teacher training course will be held from December 16 to 28, 2019 and July 6 to 18, 2020 at Luz House, Mylapore.