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Going Gaga Over Yoga

August 2008
Going Gaga Over Yoga

YogaHope at Hello House sounds hip, if not hippyish. But this is not some trendy exercise program at an exclusive club for those in a hurry to trim their expanding waistlines. Rather, Hello House is a Boston-based substance abuse treatment clinic for women, and YogaHope offers rehabilitative therapy through yoga. Established in 2006 as a nonprofit organization, YogaHope mostly benefits, at a low or no cost, substance abuse patients and the homeless.

Yoga’s growing popularity has turned it into a big—and lucrative—business. Now there’s even a controversial push to make it a sporting event at the Olympics. Yoga Journal, one among many such publications, points out that Americans spend approximately $5.7 billion annually on yoga classes, products and retreats. A recent study (“Yoga in America”) notes that the increase has been a whopping 87 percent since the last study in 2004. About 15.8 million Americans practice yoga, and among the non-practicing ones, 18.3 million are thought to be very keen on learning it. Here are some more highlights, excerpted from that report:

· 72.2% are women; 27.8% are men.

· 40.6% are 18 to 34 years old; 41% are 35 to 54; and 18.4% are over 55.

· 28.4% have practiced yoga for one year or less; 21.4% have practiced for one to two years; 25.6% have practiced two to five years; and 24.6% have practiced more than five years.

· 71.4% are college educated; 27% have postgraduate degrees.

· 44% of yogis have household incomes of $75,000 or more; 24% have more than $100,000.

The world’s largest yoga center is located in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts. Named Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, it draws over 30,000 visitors annually for the 700 workshops and training sessions held there. Examples are YogaArt for Kids, Introduction to Kripalu Yoga, and Yoga Weekend.

This boom in the West has also sparked an interest in India’s yoga institutes, which are attracting more enthusiasts from abroad nowadays. As per Business Week, these are India’s top five yoga centers:

Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute, Pune; Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute, Mysore; Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram, Chennai; Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Dhanawantari Ashram, Trivandrum; and Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh.

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