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A relaxing apres ski yoga sesh (photo: NY Times)

It seems to be yoga week at the NY Times. They’ve sure been devoting a lot of space to yoga lately. The latest, an article in the Feb 7 edition (in a feat of time travel magic!) looks at the increase of yoga classes in hotels and resorts.

Long popular at spas and retreat centers, yoga classes have been spreading to mainstream hotels, resorts and tour operators over the last several years. As the ancient stretching and meditation practice gained popularity, the travel industry began seeing dollar signs in sun salutations. Soon, yoga classes were showing up on the on-demand channels in Hyatts and Marriotts, and at the Kimpton hotel chain mats and straps were available to guests who asked. Spas and resorts began to tweak their yoga programs by hosting weeklong retreats with yoga masters like Rodney Yee and Colleen Saidman, who attracted a cultlike following.

Now, with yoga becoming so mainstream, properties from chain hotels to bed-and-breakfasts are looking for new ways to incorporate it into their programs to pique guests’ interest and reach their wallets.

When I read this, my first thought was: jobs. It’s great that these hotels can provide work opportunities for the hoards of YTT graduates. This is one of the undeniably positive aspects of the mainstreaming of yoga: more work for more teachers. I would definitely take an opportunity to teach yoga in a resort setting for a season, and spend my free time snowboarding and hanging out in hot tubs. While I’m aware that most of the clientele may be looking for an apres ski stretch, rather than personal or spiritual growth, teaching them would still be a service.

But as I continued reading the article, I began to feel a little icked out. The article discusses how the travel industry likes to combine yoga with things like wine, skiing and whales (aka, “combo yoga”) to make packages more appealing (and lucrative). Says Kristen Ulmer, of Ski to Live, a retreat focused on the mind-body connection of snow sports:  “We’re a short-attention-span society. Just the yoga isn’t enough to keep us entertained or maybe not even enough of a draw in and of itself.”

Interesting. From spiritual practice to lifestyle to fitness activity… to entertainment? Is this the natural (de)evolution of yoga in the West? What do y’all think?

And for some more NY Times yoga lovin’ check out today’s “Answers from a Yoga Instructor” in the City Room blog. NYC yoga teacher Bryn Chrisman responds to a handful of questions posted by readers earlier this week (which is itself a very revealing indication of the popular perception of yoga… and what people expect from the practice).

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