With age comes acumen, acuity, agility, and awareness. The passing of years, however, also brings along its fair share of depression and bodily aches as well, which is why an aging Chinese village has adopted a new hobby to help ease the pains, lift morale, and provide life with some much-needed new spark.
So what exactly is this miracle cure one might ask? Yoga.
In the past couple of years, elderly residents in Yugouliang, an impoverished village in the Hebei province, have now become high-level yoga practitioners with some residents having reached an ability to even “do advanced moves, such as standing upside down and doing splits,” as ThePaper.cn reports.
The northern Chinese locale’s journey to becoming "China's No 1 Yoga Village" all began when top village official Lu Wenzhen -- who had been tasked by the Communist Party to work in Yugouliang in 2016 as “part of the party’s longtime practice of sending cadres to less developed areas”-- noticed that his remote and fading hamlet had a humongous problem.
Not only did it need money and resources, but the youth had collectively moved away to seek opportunities elsewhere, leaving behind only the “elderly, sick or handicapped” to “survive by tending to their cows and sheep and small plots of land.”
Lacking “water and other natural resources,” it was difficult to bring any investment project or capital into the village," Lu told China Daily in an interview.
“There are 137 people from 67 impoverished households,” he continued, all sitting hours away from the gyms, health food stores, and train stations of hotspots such as Beijing and Shanghai. Even the internet just arrived a mere two years.
It wasn’t too long after settling down with his team of poverty-relief workers though that Lu noticed that many of the villagers shared a special skill that would be difficult for others.
While watching a woman in her sixties sit cross-legged for about half an hour on a kang (a stone bed popular in the Northern Chinese countryside), Lu had the definitive “eureka moment” that set his plan to introduce the farmers to yoga into full motion.
To entice the elderly locals, Secretary Lu, as he is more formally known as, bought gloves and yoga mats. He even put up drawings of stick figures doing yoga poses all around the village and painted slogans of encouragement to further his goal to turn Yugouliang into a yoga training base for farmers from all over China, which he hopes will also draw in more tourists at the same time.
The local government is already said to be providing Lu with $1.5 million for “a nursing home and a yoga pavilion, a gleaming, glass-walled compound that will make it easier for villagers to practice year-round,” as The New York Times reports.
For now, it seems that Lu’s dreams for the village have well been working, as Yugouliang’s yoga craze has become widely covered even amidst China’s state-controlled news media outlets.
In the years since these now famous over-the-hill farmers have taken up a dedicated yoga practice, health costs have gone down, farm work has become much easier and more productive, and the quality of life has shot way up as well. Even photographs of senior citizens performing headstands or standing splits with typical rustic scenery in the background have won several national awards and continue to cause quite a stir all across the internet.
Though “China’s first yoga village,” as it was officially deemed in February 2017 by the State General Administration of Sports, is just getting started, it seems to have already done its job of lifting spirits and building upon health quite well. Let’s just hope it continues to do so.