The popularity of Yoga seems to be growing in China and has now percolated to prisons with a women’s detention centre recently introducing the ancient Indian discipline to its inmates.

A women’s detention house in Wuyi county in east China’s Zhejiang province has been holding regular Yoga sessions for its inmates to help them “fight stress and find serenity”.

“The inmates are organised to do their favourite exercise — Yoga — every night. Their instructor Tang Junhui believes Yoga can help these women inmates to fight stress and find serenity,” a photo feature carried by state-run People’s Daily Online said.

According to a brief write up, the detention house introduced Yoga to reduce the inmates’ stress as most of them found it difficult to communicate and had mental pressures.

“It worked well after Yoga courses were introduced in the detention house. Now the inmates enjoy doing Yoga, and they have become more cheerful and outgoing,” it said.

Yoga has become immensely popular in China in recent years with millions of Chinese of all age groups taking it through well established institutes.

Yin Yan, former editor-in-chief of the Chinese edition of the ELLE international fashion magazine, who married Yoga exponent, Manmohan Singh Bhandari from Rishikesh, has established a wide network of her “Yoga Yogi” centres with a turnover of over $8 million a year. She even started a college for Yoga last year.

Noted Yoga guru B K S Iyengar is widely revered in China. Hundreds of followers attended his meetings when he visited the country for the first time in 2010.

Yoga however is often linked with religion. Parents of two California grade school students in February sued to block the teaching of yoga classes they said promoted eastern religions, saying children who exercised their choice to opt out of the popular programme faced bullying and teasing.