Beyond the Mat |

TBC Staff

Cafeteria Religion

Beyond the Mat: Yoga Stretches Out

[The Washington Post (USA), Aug. 29, 2004, by Don Oldenburg]

What used to be the domain of the granola-and-Birkenstock fringe has turned into a hypercommercialized industry for the masses. The rolled-up mat of the old days has morphed into a multibillion-dollar market of clothing lines, books, videos, music, lessons, props and accessories. It's yogis gone wild at the gym.

"The blend justifies the means," says Biscontini, fitness director at the Golden Door spa in San Juan, Puerto Rico, who also is introducing Yo-Cycle, Yog-Opera and Yo-Step at the conference. "I call it cafeteria fitness." . . . Fitness evolved from running in the '70s, to high-impact aerobics in the '80s, to low-impact aerobics and walking in the '90s. As hippies aged and transformed into workaholic, overstressed yuppies seeking self-improvement, yoga started making new inroads.

By last summer, 15 million Americans were practicing yoga, 28.5 percent more than the year before, according to a Harris poll conducted for Yoga Journal. In 1998...the number was just 5.7 million.

Wal-Mart and Target now carry hefty lines of instructional videos, books and paraphernalia. Wal-Mart's Web site boasts 990 yoga products; Target's has a mind-numbing 4,235.

Since 1998, Yoga Journal's circulation has more than tripled, from 90,000 to 310,000. In the past year, the magazine's national advertising has increased 35 percent -- including new advertisers such as Target, Kellogg, Ford, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and General Mills . . . . . Yoga intersected with Madison Avenue when it expanded from the incense-scented studios to the sweat-scented gyms, around 2000.

Last year, 2.2 million Americans were practicing yoga at commercial health clubs, up from 400,000 in 1998....Eighty percent of clubs now offer yoga classes -- twice that of six years ago....

[TBC: This trend is significant not only in terms of peoples’ clear need to

find peace and harmony in mind, body, and spirit, but also in its ecumenical

implications. Dozens of Yoga-styled excercises are blending eastern and

western religions, which serves to create “harmony” between people of varied

religious and denominational backgrounds--including many Christians who

ignorantly (or perhaps willingly) submit themselves to the teachings of

Hinduism inherent to Yoga-derived exercises.

In his book “The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga,” well known Yoga

authority Swami Vishnudevananda explains, “the aim of all yoga practice is

to achieve truth wherein the individual soul identifies itself with the

supreme soul of God.” In contrast, Scripture declares “For bodily exercise

profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having

promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come” (1 Timothy


The true peace, unity, and harmony for which society is so desperately longs

(which is the spiritual/physical perfection that God originally gave to Adam

and Eve) can only be found in eternity through a relationship with Jesus

Christ. “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were

dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal

in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon

with our house which is from heaven: If so be that being clothed we shall

not be found naked” (2 Corinthians:5:1-3)].