News New yoga trend proves hot business in Florida

New yoga trend proves hot business in Florida

By JIM HAUG
Business Writer

Last update: July 20, 2005

ORMOND BEACH -- It may be 90 degrees outside, but the temperature is not any cooler inside Bikram Yoga.

Even in July, the thermometer is kept between 90 and 105 degrees to make stretching easier and increase the workout sweat for body purification purposes.

Participants joke that "we should practice in the parking lot," said member Patrick Bonnevier.

For their chance to sweat, drop-ins pay $12 for a 90-minute class at the yoga studio at 1400 Hand Ave. A yearlong membership here costs $1,000.

Eileen Dittbenner, a financial officer for Root Co., said, "It's a lot like joining a gym. You go to be with other people."

"This is a lot more intense (form of yoga)," she added. "When you're through, you know you've had a workout."

Lisa Helton, the studio owner, said Bikram Yoga appeals to the disciplined individual who's willing to "put in the sweat equity."

But the level of workout is up to the individual. "You work at your own pace," she said.

Ragna Bosset, a yoga instructor at the Ormond Beach YMCA, disagrees with the "no pain, no gain" attitude associated with hot yoga.

She has never experienced Bikram Yoga herself, but said, "Yoga is supposed to be about relaxing. It's not an aerobic activity. It's very different."

The temperature should be warm, but not uncomfortable. "If you're not in good shape, you'll faint," Bosset said.

She also fears the ancient of form of meditation is losing its soul. "Yoga is like everything else," she said. "It gets commercialized. It loses something."

She considers yoga an avocation rather than a profession. Her classes at the Y cost $5 for members and $8 for nonmembers. "If I had to make a living (from yoga), I'd be in the poor house," Bosset said.

Some critics have called Bikram "McYoga" since franchises have popped up all across the country. Besides Ormond Beach, there is a Bikram studio in New Smyrna Beach and two in Orlando.

Like McDonald's restaurants, the studios are supposed to have uniform consistency. Every class goes through the same 26 postures.

Helton, the Ormond Beach owner, took a nine-week class in Los Angeles to become certified in Bikram Yoga, which is named after founder Bikram Choudhury.

The Beverly Hills-guru has pursued trademark protection for his style of yoga and has sued imitators for infringement.

The studio in Ormond Beach attracts a lot of doctors and lawyers, members said. Participants appreciate the professional atmosphere of the club.

Bonnevier, who goes to Bikram seven days a week, prefers the serenity of the yoga studio to the TV noise and clubby chatter of the average gym.

"It's a very vigorous workout in a peaceful environment," he said. While people tease him about his perspiration, "it's a very accepting environment."

Bikram is not cultish about getting people to join or change their habits. "They don't sell a lifestyle," Bonnevier said. "I'm not a vegetarian."

jim.haug@news-jrnl.com

WHAT IT MEANS

Bikram Yoga uses a hot, but peaceful, atmosphere to give its practitioners the best possible experience.

ADVOCATES: It provides the best possible workout for people wanting to improve their health, and it's a viable business model for entrepreneurs.

DETRACTORS: Yoga isn't supposed to be about business and social interaction.

 


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