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Have You Earned With Yoga Yet?

India's aggressive yoga campaigning can help it become the most preferred destination for learning the spiritual art form. And it makes business sense

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It is time again to celebrate the second edition of 'International Day of Yoga' on 21 June 2016. Prime minster Narendra Modi has impressive plans to keep up the spirit and attract more global followers for this time's event.

It seems PM Modi through all his foreign visits, has realized that by demonstrating the Yoga Protocol and enhancing participation worldwide can help making India a yoga-retreat destination. Thus, the upcoming Yoga day fanfare is witnessing International conferences on Yoga, financed by the Department of AYUSH in many states like Gujarat, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. Not only this, a week-long advanced Yoga retreat camps have be organized in scenic locations like Goa, Mumbai, Mount Abu, Mysore, Delhi, Jaipur. Institutions like Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana (S-VYASA), Isha Foundation have been roped in to hold programs in different parts of the country beginning from April- May period.

The early riser 'east' has long been a driver of many organic traditions like Ayurveda, Unani and Yoga which are more or less the ingredients of the Indian culture and the west has been fast to identify their benefits. Their growth in the health & wellness industry has been phenomenal. Strikingly, the Yoga market is estimated to stand at a figure of $80 billion worldwide. Amidst gyming trends, diet fads, B-wax and luxury retreats -the traditional 'Yoga' has been the biggest gainer.

Carrying it weight easily with the social media, the popular fitness celebrities have become major influencers for people all over the globe. Actresses like Shilpa Shetty, Gisele Bundchen, Adam Levine, Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow, all swear by Yoga secrets for their fabulous bodies. Certainly their pictures, fitness DVDs and interviews influence their admirer to follow them.

However, the way we practiced asanas in open spaces, at the daybreak has undergone a lot of transformation and moved indoors into mirrored rooms to suit our ultra-modern needs. Nevertheless, it is still understood widely as a conventional form of divine art to unite the mind, body and soul. It might have gone far ahead from being a knowledge system to be passed to the next generation to be something, necessary for a fit lifestyle.

There are a lot of myths about the profiles of people engaged in the Yoga industry, especially in the US. It is assumed that practicing Yoga is a luxury, which only the affluent can afford, some others believe that becoming a Yoga practitioner cannot help sustain a family life. All these notions or mindsets can be altered by the following statistics (by Yoga Journal survey):-

- USA is home to 36.7 million yoga practitioners in 2016, up from 20.4 million in 2012
- Americans spend around $2.5 billion annually on yoga instruction
- Around 80 million Americans are likely to engage with yoga within the duration of 1 year
- Around 37 per cent of the practitioners in the USA are children below 18 year of age
- The top five reasons for starting yoga are: flexibility (61 per cent), stress relief (56 per cent), general fitness (49 percent), improve overall health (49 per cent), and physical fitness (44 per cent)

Realizing the surge in yoga's popularity, India hopes to use it as a weapon of 'soft-power' over other nations. As it is valued as a global routine, India's aggressive campaigning can help it become the most preferred destination for learning the spiritual art form. It makes a lot of business sense. With the west thriving with innovative business ideas in the 'wellbeing' sector - such as corporate well-being and yoga studios, it is high time for east to catch up.

Although the primary market being the practioners registering in Yoga classes, a lot of other domains related to it will see money sprinkling in. Research shows that yoga apparel market is close to $27 billion in the US alone and Yoga wear is fast replacing everyday casual clothing. For example, people have started spending on yoga apparels, mats, exercise equipment, juice stations, diet-food chains and nutritionists these days. The trend has already arrived. According to market observers, the denim industry is actively losing sales to the yoga wear brands. Urban names like Forever Yoga, ProYoga, Yogasmoga, Urban Yoga are redefining the Indian wardrobes.

Another noticeable trend that will soon alter the way we think about vacation and touring is - 'Yogations' (yoga vacations). Attractive spots in India like Rishikesh, Dharamshala, Sikkim can always capture this new opportunity, as there is visible increase in spending towards health and fitness related activities. This sector presents great investment opportunities especially in the activities like yoga camping, spas, rejuvenation treatments, meditation clubs and adventure trips. It is a budding sector in India but the western nations have seized the opportunity well in time and have concentrated their efforts upon standardized training.

Interestingly, Yoga has also become an influencing factor in the modern day education system. Big names in education have started keeping 'yoginis' for teaching at schools in the west. The yoginis who have started teaching yoga via a brand name, know the power of the 'India' tag that differentiates themselves in a cluttered yoga market. And however, amusing it may sound but the fact remains that it is not just a fashionable work-out or quick-fix for a chocolate addict, it is something that is recommended for self- development. Studies indicate that people turn to yoga in times of economic downturn to elevate their minds or find inner peace.

Joseph Nye, from Harvard University, once said: "the concept of soft power is hard to use, easy to lose and costly to re-establish".

So, the present feeling that the Modi government is attempting to hijack Yoga is far from being a gimmick. It is more of an effort to re-claim or re-affirm India's right over the knowledge. Last year, when Modi had urged the UN General Assembly in September, his proposal to mark the longest day of summer (in the Northern Hemisphere) as the International day of Yoga had won the support of 175 sponsor nations. Considering this interesting step, we cannot undermine the immense possibilities he has opened for India.

Despite the good news from abroad, parties back home are fighting among themselves and undermining Modi's soft power strategy. Suspicious of it being a part of the Hindutva curriculum, they doubt the idea of globalizing the interest in Yoga. Just like other appealing factors like Bollywood films or democratic values, there is a growing need to promote the Indian culture of performing yoga. All of the components are central to 'India's international identity'.