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The Bigger Business of Yoga in America

Yoga, like tai chi or walking, is a far gentler way -- particularly for those suffering from arthritis or multiple sclerosis -- to get the exercise you need every day, in addition to helping you to relax and improving your mood. It may also be the focus of the next huge nationwide chain.

Yesterday's New York Times, my favorite newspaper in the world, spotlighted the partnership of two former executives who turned to yoga separately as the popularity and profitability of their Ask Jeeves soared in the late 90s, only to take a huge dive shortly afterward. Suffering from all the stresses, poor eating habits and pains associated with putting a ridiculous amount of hours to launch and maintain a successful Web site only to see it take a slide, practicing yoga regularly saved their health when doctors and surgeons couldn't.

Because one of the men had been practicing yoga on his own -- and aggravating his back pain -- his wife urged him to try a Santa Barbara studio before giving up. Soon afterward, the topic of a nationwide startup business involving yoga came up during a brainstorming session, and the rest is history...

Their Whole Body chain of yoga studios encompasses 14 locations in California and New York, and is expected to double in size this year. The pair envision a nationwide chain, with 8-10 studios in each major metropolitan area, offering an array of alternative health care services, from acupuncture to tai chi, in addition to yoga.

The numbers and interest appear promising, according to a recent survey by Yoga Journal:

  • Americans spend an estimated $3 billion a year on yoga classes, clothing, equipment, vacations, and books, videos and magazines.
  • Some 17 million people practice yoga, up 43 percent from 2002.

New York Times March 10, 2005

Spartanburg Herald-Journal March 10, 2005

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