Global exercise

Mar 09 2014, 04:43 IST
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SummaryWith all its variety and demand, yoga is now an inescapable part of life in America

YOGINIS AND Bhairavas strike poses next to Buddhas and Jinas at Yoga: The Art of Transformation, an exhibition that opened at San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum on February 21 after its inaugural three-month run at the Smithsonian museum’s Sackler Gallery in Washington, DC. The show, billed as the world’s first exhibition of yoga’s visual history and curated by Debra Diamond, puts on display centuries-old sculptures, paintings and other artefacts from across ancient India to explore the influence of Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, the Mughals and Vivekananda on the practice of yoga.

On the opposite coast, in New York, students of yoga teacher Barbara Purcell are exploring the influence of pop singer Miley Cyrus and her signature twerk. North of the border, in Toronto, Rosanne McCollum is schooling her class on the influence of Canada’s own superstar Justin Bieber on the discipline. Taken together, the three instances show the popularity and broad appeal of yoga in North America today. Yoga is now as American as paneer manchurian is Indian.

Over 20 million Americans practise yoga, according to the 2012 Yoga in America study released by Yoga Journal, one of the oldest and widely circulated publications on yoga in the United States. They also spend over $10 billion every year on yoga classes and equipment, the report said.

While yoga studios are ubiquitous in large cities in North America like New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles or Toronto, they are also becoming a common sight in small towns in many states, from Montana to Texas, in the US and Manitoba to Nova Scotia in Canada. Americans who might find it difficult to pronounce the Indian prime minister’s name have no trouble specifying just what kind of yoga class they want to attend—vinyasa, hatha, ashtanga, kundalini and many others.

The growing demand has left plenty of room for creative interpretations of yoga. Apart from twerking yoga and YogaBiebs (a yoga class set to the music of Bieber), there is also Yoga for Foodies, where multi-course meals, including pasta, red wine and chocolate, are offered after hour-long yoga sessions; Koga, which combines kickboxing and yoga; Aqua Yoga, performed under water; Caponyasa, blending yoga with the Brazilian fight dancing discipline Capoeira; horseback yoga; and Doga, performed with pet dogs, to name just a few.

Yoga instructor Purcell, who was introduced to yoga while at college and has been teaching since 2007, mostly at the Princeton Club of

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