From tired housewives to stressed executives, Hollywood stars to US First Lady Michelle Obama, they all do it, with yoga studios mushrooming in every large city from San Francisco to New York and capital Washington.
With the world recognising the health benefits of yoga, the ancient Indian art of keeping fit is going places fuelling a $27 billion industry in America where some 20 million people practise it.
Yoga sessions have become a part of her Let’s Move! campaign to end childhood obesity in the US and a regular feature of the traditional White House Easter Egg Roll, the largest annual public event at the White House.
And when a fasting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi came calling last September after urging the UN to declare June 21 as International Day of Yoga, President Barack Obama too wondered how his guest kept such a rigorous schedule on just warm water and yoga.
There are yoga clubs, yoga magazines and yoga sites all over North America. “Yoga is arguably the most widespread and influential Eastern spiritual practice to spread outside the Indian subcontinent,” as the Huffington Post noted in a recent article.
A Toronto based international yoga chain which has 64 Modo Yoga studios worldwide, is set to open a new 5,000-square-foot studio in Austin, Texas, its ninth in the US, on Jan 1, according to Austin Business Journal. The American College of Sports Medicine supports the integration of yoga into the exercise regimens of healthy individuals.
And “Yoga Across America” is embarked on a mission to bring yoga to “schools, military bases, parks, low-income communities, homeless shelters, children’s hospitals and many other locations where people don’t have access to the practice, or can’t afford it.”
Meanwhile, according to a report in The Dallas Morning News Anne Anderson, a ski instructor and Kripalu yoga teacher at the Connecticut ski resort Mohawk Mountain launched a snow sports-yoga hybrid called “Snowga” in 2012.
She is planning to launch this “revolutionary concept in snow sports education” in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains this winter.
Sunshine Village, a restorative mountain yoga retreat near Banff, Alberta, and Fernie Alpine Resort, in Fernie, British Columbia, in Canada also have outdoor winter yoga programmes.
Heli-skiing companies, such as Canadian Mountain Holidays and Island Lake Lodge, have used yoga postures in their warm-ups and after-ski stretching programmes to combat the extreme exertion of powder skiing, the Morning News said.
But it’s not roses all the way for yoga. Some schools in the US have since last year come out in open opposition to the practice of yoga inside educational facilities, saying it promotes Hinduism in violation of the US Constitution.
The 2012 “Yoga in America” study released by San Francisco’s Yoga Journal indicates that some 20 million people practice yoga, compared to 15.8 million from a 2008 study, an increase of 29 percent.
The growth in the yoga market is reflected in the growth of the Journal itself. Founded in 1975, it now has 10 international editions.
Sat Jivan Singh Khalsa, a lawyer turned Kundalini yoga teacher who set up a yoga studio in Brooklyn’s Boerum Hill in 1971, has seen yoga in America evolve from a niche activity to part of the cultural mainstream.
Dozens of yoga variations can be found within a one-mile radius of his studio in Manhattan’s Flatiron District, from Equinox power yoga to yogalates to “zen bootcamp,” he told The Huffington Post last year. As Khalsa told the newspaper, “The love of yoga is out there and the time is right for yoga.”
But some devotees, the Post noted, are also worried about “yoga’s journey from ancient spiritual practice to big business and premium lifestyle-complete with designer yogawear, mats, towels, luxury retreats and $100-a-day juice cleanses.”