News Yoga industry gains strength

Yoga industry gains strength



By KIRSTEN ORSINI-MEINHARD
KirstenOrsini@coloradoan.com

Let's face it - yoga is the new aerobics.

The 1980s trend of jumping around to catchy dance tunes has fallen by the wayside as more people opt for 90 minutes of peaceful meditation and gentle stretching instead.

About 15 million Americans practiced yoga in 2004, and more than 12 percent of United States residents are "very interested" or "extremely interested" in yoga, according to Yoga Journal.

In addition, Americans spend about $27 billion on yoga products annually, according to NAMASTA, the North American Studio Alliance.

The San Francisco-based trade organization provides its members access to everything from liability insurance to health-care benefits.

Yoga has grown in popularity likely because people have realized the benefit of low-impact activities and the need to keep an active lifestyle, said Bernard Slede, president of NAMASTA.

"This is also something that surfs on the wave of rising health-care costs and also more and more dissatisfaction with certain traditional therapies and techniques," he said.

As yoga's popularity increases across the country, it's morphed into a glowing business opportunity for entrepreneurs who want to own their own businesses and provide a public service to their communities.

The Yoga Alliance, a Pennsylvania-based nonprofit that supports yoga teachers, began in 2002 with a membership of about 2,400 teachers and 103 schools. Now its membership includes 4,800 teachers and about 200 schools.

Karen Hare and her son Kevin Hare had a simple reason for opening a Bikram's Yoga center in Old Town: They love yoga.

Bikram's Yoga studios are located across the country and are independently owned. Unlike a typical yoga class, Bikram's Yoga students practice a series of specified positions in a heated room.

Bikram's Yoga tends to be a little bit more

Sherri Barber/The Coloradoan
Jane Phelan forward-bends during class at Bikram's Yoga, 159 W. Mountain Ave., in Old Town. The owners, Kevin and Karen Hare, a mother-son team, spent more than $100,000 to open it.
Sherr iBarber/The Coloradoan
Katy Pepinsky, left, Audra Fenimore, center and Jane Phelan, right, concentrate as they go into what is called an awkward pose during yoga class at Bikram's Yoga.
15 million: The number of Americans who practiced yoga in 2004
12 percent: The number of U.S. residents who are "very interested" or "extremely interested" in yoga.
$27 billion: The amount Americans spend on yoga products annually
27 percent: The number of yoga practitioners across the United States who are 45 to 54 years old.
77 percent: The number of yoga practitioners across the United States who are female.
30 percent: Percentage of U.S. yoga practitioners with a household income of more than $75,000
4,800: The number of yoga teachers in the United States who belong to The Yoga Alliance
Sources: NAMASTA, Yoga Journal, The Yoga Alliance

intense," Karen said. "It's a physical workout."

The Hares spent more than $100,000 opening their yoga studio at 159 W. Mountain Ave., an expense that is largely attributed to the heating system needed for the 3,000-square-foot business.

They're leasing their space from Antares Property Services in Fort Collins.

While Bikram's Yoga tends to be more expensive to open because of the additional equipment, Slede said yoga studios typically are fairly inexpensive to open and often require an investment of less than $50,000.

That's one of the reasons they've sprung up so quickly across the country, he said.

"All you really need is floor space such that you can fit 10 to 15 to 20 people in the room and have some studios and mirrors," said Slede.

Not only are stand-alone studios becoming popular, but many gyms across the country are incorporating yoga into their class offerings.

About three years ago, owners of The Fort Collins Pulse, 2555 S. Shields St., renovated part of their facility to incorporate a yoga center, said Faith Brandt, director of The Yoga Center at The Pulse.

The gym previously was offering classes in a small area of the facility, but as the popularity of yoga grew across the country, the gym ran out of space.

"I think people are realizing the benefits more and more," Brandt said.

Members of The Pulse can take yoga classes for free. Nonmembers can pay $12 a class or get a punch card and pay less, she said.

The gym offers about 26 yoga and pilates classes a week and sees upward of 1,200 people a month in classes.

"Our yoga center now is about three times the size it was," Brandt said.

But while yoga's popularity is still thriving, some U.S. communities are becoming saturated with studios, Slede said.

Areas that have had yoga studios for many years - such as New York and California - are now seeing some businesses close as consumers are faced with too many options.

Typically, yoga studios have a better chance of surviving if they're reaching people in an underserved market, Slede said.

"Basically a studio will survive if it's able to fairly quickly fill up classes," Slede said. "That will absorb the fixed cost of the rent and some of the overhead."

Two years after Bikram's Yoga opened in Old Town, the Hares have about 2,500 people in their client database, Karen Hare said.

The owners still advertise across Fort Collins and attempt to bring in new customers during off-peak times.

"Anytime you're dealing with the public and their health, it's going to be a challenge to keep people motivated," Karen said.

There are only a handful of yoga studios in Fort Collins, and studio owners say the competition isn't that strong. Most of the studios are far enough away from each other so they're not in direct competition, Brandt said.

Katy Williams, 29, of Fort Collins, is a member of The Pulse and has tried yoga classes there but typically prefers other forms of working out. Still, it's a benefit to have the option of attending classes, she said.

"I don't have the patience for yoga," she said, smiling. "But I'm three months pregnant now so I might have to try something different."

Colorado State University student Kelsey Pohm, 23, often attends Bikram's Yoga classes as a way to relieve stress.

When she was shopping around for a yoga studio, she opted for Bikram's not only because she enjoys the heated yoga, but also because the studio offers student discounts. "They have a good student package here," she said. "That's why I signed up."

Published Sunday July 10, 2005


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