A male point of view

Seven more days till Qrious graduates from yoga teacher training boot camp and resumes the old writing life (and new yoga teaching life) in Beijing.

To mix things up a little, this week I bring you a male point of view (partly because the intense physical regimen here leaves me little time to write on love and romance, a favorite subject). Once again, here is the controversial M. France, this time speaking his mind on “finding The One in Beijing.”


It seems to have become a prevailing orthodoxy of late, to view the comings and goings of Beijing personal lives through the prism of how “difficult it is for women”. I have lost count of the number of such references I have read on this matter, even on this hallowed blog. The complaints come thick and fast: how modern Asia ‘corrupts’ men; makes them shallow and leads to them to chase only short-term pursuits; that women looking for a long-term relationship are at a disadvantage. Never mind the subtext that locals girls are sluts who have no interest in the loftier ideals that westernised girls want, the main charge is that men here cannot be ‘good’, are immoral and fall to the temptations of the flesh far too easily.

It seems to me that this is all somewhat self-indulgent of womenfolk out here on the frontier. The simple fact, conversely, is that men find it just as difficult to find the right relationship. Although some guys, particularly for the first few months here, feel like a kid in a sweet shop, for most people the trip across does not suddenly render all their traditional ideas redundant. Several of my friends, some of whom would be labelled precisely the kind of ‘player’ so beloved by girls who want to set up a straw man, are looking – quite consciously – for that special someone. The problem is, they can’t find any here. There are two main reasons why, for the two types of girl out there.

First, there are the local girls. Here we essentially have the age-old problem of cultural clash which is still largely irreconcilable. Modern Beijing females will go out clubbing and drinking, wear revealing clothes and put out, of that there is no doubt. This leads men to think they are more western than they really are, however, since no matter how many episodes of Friends they have watched, or even how many years they have spent studuying abroad, the inexhorable pull of centuries of Chinese culture still tells them they should marry early, that they should have children, that they should be saving for a house and so on. When you consider that the average marrying age in the UK, even for women, is now well over 30, the dissonance between the two sides is clear. This is not the basis for true love, and the still overt materialism of many such girls is the final nail in the coffin.

Then there are the western girls – and here no doubt the shrieks of indignation will explode. These are the put upon, long-suffering women who know they can’t compete as they have either too much self-worth or too much girth to get their men to pay attention. Or this is at least what they would have you think. But when one examines these supposed martyrs of our age, a quite different pictures emerges: of self-pitying, neurotic girls who verge on psychosis, obsessed about how unfairly local girls compete and how terrible the men are. China does something to women who come over – it makes them feel at the same time self-righteous and also, well, desperate. When any half decent guy comes onto the scene, girls who should know better (and at home on their Ivy League campuses, may never fall victim to this) become clingy and possessive. A pride of female lions guarding a carcass at the end of a sub-Saharan drought have nothing on these girls.

So there you have it – women bring it on themselves, and they certainly have it no worse than men. There is no getting away from the fact that men will tend to play around at first. But to characterise the general trend as being totally focused on this, is erroneous. Men find it every bit as hard as women to find a girl who is sophisticated, relaxed and independent enough to commit to, and unless girls change their attitude, the short-term pleasures will always win out.


The Yogi’s Book of Quotables

Adjustments: "This is how we (yogis) do it"

When I wake up tomorrow (at 6am if I’m lucky, at 5am if my now ridiculously “clean” body awakens before sunrise again) and drag my aching muscles out of bed, I’ll be exactly 10 days away from becoming a certified yoga teacher.

The heat is on in the final weeks of training. It’s getting hot in here: quite literally, as we practice for 3 hours a day in a 37C room; and figuratively as well, since we all fall asleep every night with “yoga dialogue” running through our heads in rehearsal for the “test” each morning.

I’ve learned a lot, about Indian sages, the scapula and deltoids, healthy eating, and how to tell your left from your right when looking at a room full of confused students who copy your every move in mirror image.

For most people, yoga is just a form of exercise. And it’s fantastic exercise that works every muscle in your body without using any equipment or tools. In a hot room, the exercise is intensified and becomes quite an aerobic work out.

For some, yoga is a path to wisdom, to a peaceful state of mind, to a calm hour after a hectic day. Here at boot camp, we’re learning the mechanics and philosophy of yoga, but who will teach us to be inspiring? Where do yoga teachers get those pithy little statements – like “Smile inside your heart and that smile will shine out to everyone you touch today”?

For the enlightened few, yoga is a journey to transcendence. I’m not sure exactly what that means yet, but everyday, I’m getting closer to understanding.

Regardless of how yoga works (or doesn’t work) in your life, I think we can all appreciate this, a quote from a fellow instructor-in-training during evening practice tonight:

“If you can’t blind them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.”

I need to run out and buy myself a copy of “The Yogi’s Book of Quotables” as soon as I graduate from boot camp!

Yoga Journal: Day 9

Qrious is overdue for a post. What’s new? I survived Week 1 of yoga training. The twice-daily hot yoga classes haven’t been so bad (I don’t know what I’ll do when I go back to a normal work vs workout schedule). Giving up meat has been surprisingly easy (thanks to the amazing chefs at Love Kitchen). The one adverse effect is that I’m starting to dream in “yoga dialogue” — “Sit down lower. Squeeze your legs together. Breeaaaaaathe.”

From the large yoga bubble that I’m living in I’ve picked out these little morsels of wisdom that some of you might enjoy:

“Yoga is destroyed by these six attributes: overeating, overexertion, excessive talking, unnecessary austerities, socialising and

“Yoga is gained by these six attributes: enthusiasm, openness, courage, right knowledge (of the Self), determination and solitude.”

“Think not of internal object, neither of external object. Abandon all thinking. Think of nothing, not even thinking itself.”

Another sunrise, another day. Time to rehearse my “Breeeeaaaathe” before morning class!

Yoga Journal: Favorite things Thai

Day 3 of yoga boot camp and I’m coming to understand that yoga school is serious business. I wake up at 6.30am, start physical training at 7.30, have exactly 1h45m a day of free time between meals (during which time I have to shower and change), attend 4 hours of lecture and 2 hours of group discussion and finish up at 9.30pm. After that I should be practicing my teaching skills and bonding a little bit with my roommate, but for the last 3 nights I’ve just been collapsing in an exhausted heap on my little single bed.

At least I’m getting the most delicious sleep I’ve had in years!

Given the time constraints, this update is short and sweet. This time around I’m not seeing much of the outside world in Thailand – being stuck on my cushy yoga retreat resort and all – but I’d still like to share some of my favorite things about Thailand. Here goes:

1. It may be a poor place, but it’s a very clean place

2. Street food carts

3. “Same same” (but you know they’re actually different)

4. Palms-together-nod-and-bow greeting (“Sawadika”)

5. Boots pharmacy

6. “Ka” and “kap”

Oh, and one more thing in the “Gossip Girl” tradition…

Spotted: At Suvarnabhumi Airport, Chinese tourist wearing black sweatshirt with faux-mechanic’s patch that reads, “Sex is a high performance thing.”

This beats the Bump-It plastic hair inserts that I spotted in Beijing on a girl who most definitely has no idea what “Jersey Shore” is.

Yoga Journal: Day 1

The pool, 10 meters from my room

It’s the first time I’ve traveled alone for an extensive period of time. Once, in college, my cousin couldn’t get time off from working in London, so I traipsed off to Scotland by myself for three days of majestically broody Edinburgh sightseeing. Then there was the time I wanted to get away from work stress in Singapore and packed off to Koh Samui for a week of fasting and meditation. Even when I did the summer internship in Paris, I brought my gay best friend along as a roommate.

This time I’ll be in Koh Samui for four whole weeks by myself.

I wouldn’t have remembered that I was traveling alone – after all, there’ll be 39 other devoted yogis meeting me in Koh Samui – save for the luggage boy who carried my suitcase up three flights of stairs at the Bangkok airport hotel. He asked, “You come Thailand one person?”

It made me feel like Miranda in one of the later seasons of Sex and the City, trying to buy an apartment alone and continually fending off questions like, “Will your father be co-signing the deed?”

“No, it’s just me,” was her steadfast answer.

This time, it’ll be just me. And I think it’ll be kind of glorious. No social engagements to “stop by,” no work meetings to attend, no family obligations to guiltily neglect. Just plenty of time to practice yoga, think about lofty yogic principles (“Nothing is what it seems. You make it something with your mind.”), and figure out how this year and a half of “finding myself” will culminate.

Today, I start my vegetarian experiment. Tonight, I’ll meet my stranger roommate (yeeps, haven’t had one of those since freshman year in college) and the other urban hippies who have come all this way to do what I’m doing for whatever reason makes sense to them. Starting tomorrow, I’ll be getting holier by the day on a rigorous boot camp schedule of 7am-9.30pm.

And now, time for an overdue hot yoga class (after the gluttony of Xinjiang) and some sunbathing by the pool!

Qrious in Bangkok

It’s Day 0 of the yoga month! Holistic living, eating, thinking and exercising begins tomorrow on the sunny island of Koh Samui.

Tonight, Qrious is logging in from Bangkok. After a 2-part flight (Beijing-Guangzhou-Bangkok), which was shockingly on time (more or less, pretty good for China Southern Airlines), Q arrived in the land of smiles. The budget airport hotel ($25 for the night, including breakfast and roundtrip airport transportation, woo!) does indeed exist and the rooms are clean and efficient. A 5-minute walk to the corner 7/11 landed me with a Thai SIM card, a takeaway yum woon sen salad bought from a street card and served in a plastic bag and Darlie toothpaste.

Have phone, have toothpaste, have food — will travel.

More to come from Absolute Sanctuary tomorrow when I get there!