From India to Hollywood: Yoga’s rising popularity in the west (June 21 is International Yoga Day)
By Ankit Sinha
New Delhi, June 20 (IANS) The magnitude of yoga’s renaissance in the modern western world has made a huge impact on Hollywood celebrities, including names like Madonna, Beyonce Knowles, Reese Witherspoon, Charlize Theron and Robert Downey Jr. Many of them have found solace in this ancient discipline and have inspired their fans to follow in their footsteps.
The popularity of yoga among Hollywood celebrities hasn’t gone unnoticed by Indian yoga experts, and they are fairly positive about its development and growth in the US.
Yoga guru and spiritual master Bharat Thakur, founder of Artistic Yoga, says that the “US has always been receptive to yoga”.
“As Deepak Chopra commented, ‘You can’t find Indian restaurants but there are hundreds of yoga studios in the US’. Although not on the same scale as the US, yoga is also very popular throughout Europe as well,” Thakur told IANS.
Thakur also recognised the importance of celebrities promoting yoga and said: “When celebrities do yoga, it’s in the media and the public takes note of it. So, yes, it counts as it brings in an awareness of yoga and may encourage those who haven’t done yoga to try it.”
“Although people may not have tried it on their own, they read about celebrities doing yoga, breathing exercises and meditation and are encouraged to at least try it as well. So in this way, this has played a role in raising awareness of yoga and it’s spread in the western world,” he added.
Another expert, Pallavi Aggarwal, who heads Bikram Yoga’s franchise in the capital’s Rajouri Garden, says that yoga is now catering to a “wide audience.”
“Yoga has higher popularity compared to aerobics and gym workouts. This industry is one of the very few industries that are catering to a wide audience as there are very less age and gender restrictions to practice yoga,” Aggarwal told IANS.
An exponent of Bikram Yoga, a technique which incorporates techniques of traditional Hatha Yoga, Aggarwal, says that it is gaining popularity in the US and Europe.
“The contribution of Bikram Yoga is huge in making it popular. US and Europe are amongst the markets leading in trend charts thanks to the internet and the growing interest about health and fitness,” she added.
Recognising Hollywood’s contribution in the rising popularity of yoga, Aggarwal says that they both “have helped each other”.
“Hollywood and yoga both have helped each other. Thanks to all the efforts made by Bikram Choudhury (the man behind Hot Yoga), who against all odds made it happen and now celebrities from almost all the fields are taking benefits from Bikram Yoga. Madonna, Jennifer Aniston, David Beckham, Brooke Shields, George Clooney are some of the followers of Bikram Yoga,” she added.
She also feels that Hollywood celebrities have helped in spreading awareness about yoga among their fans as “people follow their role models and they are all in a way role models to many.”
Widely renowned as the ‘Queen of Pop’, Madonna, 56, is an ardent follower of Ashtanga Yoga, and practices it for two hours every day, six days a week, according to a report by dailymail.co.uk.
Last year, Beyonce shook the Internet by posting a stunning image of herself on Instagram. She showed off her flexible, yoga-fit body in a blue bikini. The 33-year-old’s post was a nod to the growing celebrity trend of sharing their pictures on Internet in diverse yoga poses.
With the rise of globalisation and consumerism, the west, especially the US, has been transfixed with the ideals of holistic living and adapting the spiritual and meditative lifestyle of yoga to counter fatigue and depression.
In recent years, several yoga institutes and studios have opened in the US, where both Indian and western yoga gurus are propagating ways to a healthy and spiritual life.
This trend has given a boost to the rising popularity of the ancient science in the west, where fans are flocking to yoga institutes to emulate their celebrity idols.
Mumbai-based celebrity fitness trainer Leena Mogre, popular for training names like Madhuri Dixit and Bipasha Basu, also believes that Hollywood has played a role in popularising yoga in the west.
“Hollywood stars have taken up yoga. They found peace of mind and they found that yoga gives benefits and it is a way of life,” Mogre told IANS.
Praising Hollywood celebrities’ attitude towards fitness and yoga, Mogre said: “They don’t go overboard with their bodies. It becomes a part of their personality”.
Even on home turf, names like Shilpa Shetty and Kareena Kapoor Khan have spoken out about the benefits of yoga. Their fit frames are there for all to see!