So, Why Re-Visit Yoga?
It's true that fitness centers have been leaders in installing yoga, by IHRSA's latest estimates, 74% of their health clubs currently offer yoga. However, with the recent surge in notoriety from Hollywood and the media, particularly the Oprah Winfrey show and Time Magazine, we did a quick survey of leading vendors and fitness facilities to determine just where the state-of-art is for this activity. Is it just a fad? How far can it go? What should facilities be thinking about? The news is good, but you have to keep incrementing your yoga programs
Why popular: Today's high tech, fast paced, overworked world is causing older segments to be attracted to mind/body offerings for stress relief, centering on values, flexibility and toning without jarring.
Demographic segment: Across the board, but particularly middle-aged females, followed by seniors.
Revenue enhancement Cater to boomers, seniors and families, source of attraction and retention of new segments other than the "hard bods".
Investment / Cost: Best news yet, it's very minimal, use existing group training studio with minimal modification.
Attraction of new members: "No fear" way to bring in affluent boomers, seniors, and daytime moms that can fill morning slack time; stressed out professionals help fill early evening slots
Retention of existing members: For the same joint discomforted boomers migrating away from treadmills toward elipticals, away from high impact to low impact, yoga is ideal. Other fitness programs and sports benefit by the addition of yoga to the routine.
Time till launch first class: More good news, experienced fitness instructors can take a weekend instructor's class plus another 3 weeks of practice, and your club can be holding it's first class, albeit basic, but a good start.
Jane is a 50-something...
who attends the Mystic Community Center in Connecticut. She had stayed fit all her life, actually was an aerobics instructor for a while, but was recently diagnosed with osteopenia, (low bone density, a BMD between 1 and 2.5 standard deviations below the young adult mean) the precursor to osteoporosis. She's made a choice to remain vigorous as she ages in spite of this diagnosis. Choosing the holistic route, she's altered her diet for more calcium and vitamins D and K. Most importantly, she's added exercise that could stimulate her bones so as to increase density.
"I've tried lifting weights, but I just can't stay with the program", she said. "I thrive on group classes, and as a former dancer, I enjoy graceful movements, the weight room just doesn't do it for me".
After making the rounds of step aerobics and studio kickboxing, she happened across a power yoga class and immediately fell in love. There was something immediately different about this class. The lights were dimmed, and a background music of a soft Indian sitar was playing a becalming chant-like melody. The ceasing of high impact on her aging joints was immediately gratifying. The focus on breathing and flexibility gave her added energy and mobility, she felt uplifted at the end of each session. Although yoga doesn't offer the overload that a weight routine would give, there was intelligent use of body weight to stimulate all of her bones including the arms and neck. The balance training gave her confidence in her daily motions.
And Jane's wasn't alone; the studio room was filled with barely room between mats. As she looked around the room, it was populated with virtually every age group including some college age girls. The 4:30 P.M. start time on a Friday may have accounted for the fact that it was 80% female.
The session was nearing its end, the lights dimmed even lower, and a single candle was burning, with it's flickering light dancing off the mirrors and being amplified like a lighthouse, the sitar music still played and everyone was in the final relaxation mode, the entire room was silent except for the controlled breathing and the occasional gentle calming voice of the instructor to "Close your eyes, relax your entire body".
Afterwards in the anteroom, as everyone was putting their shoes back on, they were remarking how they actually got a "high", they always felt better after yoga and that they would commit to move their busy calendars around to make the next class.
The Mind/Body Trend
Jane, and a lot of other boomers like her are migrating to mind/body offerings where they can both get fit and get in touch with an inner peace. Although it's been around for thousands of years in India and for decades, in the U.S. the practice of yoga used to be in its original intention, that of the attainment of "self-realization". It was more of a spiritual pursuit. But in the 1990's yoga was adapted to utilize its abilities to increase flexibility and reduce stress. In these "go go times", it was quickly adopted along with other mind/body pursuits like Tai Chi and Pilates.
The Mt. Trashmore Family YMCA in Virginia Beach, VA typifies the adoption of yoga for fitness. Karen Gambill, Fitness Director, said, "A spiritualized form of yoga has been offered at this Y for the last 10 years. However, we offered it as a fitness program about 6 months to a year ago. I liked it for myself and thought it would be a low risk program to introduce to the members."
The Salem Athletic Club in New Hampshire also made the transition from spiritual form of yoga to one of more rigorous for fitness. Margaret Decker, Group Exercise Director for the club said, "We originally had a yogi that taught a traditional yoga class, but he found the health club too noisy and disturbing and he moved out. We needed to replace it. We discovered YogaFit at the IHRSA trade show in San Francisco, and immediately liked the way it fit a fitness facility".
In a similar story, Anne Marie Miller, Group Fitness and Training Manager at Town Sports International (TSI), says, "It was there before I got there, but has really risen in popularity. In the beginning there was just "yoga" and it varied from instructor to instructor. About 2 years ago we made a distinction between "gentle yoga" and "active yoga".
Yoga appears to be part of a much larger movement. People are adopting a more proactive means of dealing with disease, preferring the natural, more holistic route with less pharmacology. Realizing the toll induced by every day stress, they're seeking an antidote.