Yoga: Is it the new aerobics?

Back in the 1980s and early 90s, I regularly spent time exercising at my local fitness centre. At that time, aerobics classes were in full swing, a trend that had caught on like wildfire in a pop culture that was just beginning to develop its obsession with physical fitness.


Most every gym and health club had a large space where class after class of moms, working-class women, and the occasional guilted boyfriend, K-stepped and hop-turned away their piggly paunches; they felt the adrenalin serge of a brand new drug: exercise.

Those days may seem far off now, but the aerobics spaces haven’t completely disappeared; they’ve simply been converted — to yoga studios.  The Lego stacks of plastic aerobics steps at the back of the room have been replaced by rolled yoga mats, styrofoam blocks, blankets, and a few other yoga accessories.

The elevated stages have been removed, the bright coloured walls painted a more neutral, calming tone, and the florescent lights replaced with less obtrusive energy-saving halogens. The volumes on the mega-watt sound systems rarely get pushed passed level two now, and the once vibrant and energized spaces have been transformed into oases of peace and tranquility.
Your teacher is different now too. She no longer wears hot-pink tights, an Adidas headband, and comfy leg-warmers. She uses natural skincare products and her perfectly sculpted size six physique is adorned with the latest Lululemon yoga wear — an ensemble that inspires the most modest of yoga-wannabees to grab their credit-cards and make a B-line straight for the mall after class.

“She” is every bit as likely to be a “he” now too. While calling into question the masculinity of the rare male aerobics instructor almost seemed an obligation, today many men teach yoga too, and those who do are likely to turn the heads of women who might never have otherwise given them a second look on the bus. Sure, aerobics was trendy; but yoga is sexy.

Is Yoga Following in the Aerobics Footsteps?

Aerobics was a short-lived obsession. It came and went within scarcely the span of a decade. Yoga, on the other hand, seems to be in its heyday right now, riding a wave of popularity that has already greatly surpassed that of its fitness predecessor. In a recent survey in the Georgia Straight, a prominent Vancouver cultural news magazine, yoga topped the list as this year’s “hottest fitness trend.”

Yoga has certainly permeated into nearly every crevice of modern culture, from fashion to beauty products, from healthcare to spiritual transcendence, so much so that it’s hard to remember that this global phenomenon is barely a decade young too. Not yoga, of course, which is thousands of years old, but the modern “yoga class,” a relatively new innovation, which can now be found in almost every fitness centre and health club in town.

Does Yoga Have a Shelf-Life Too?

This explosion happened so fast that one can’t help but wonder, how did so many people suddenly ‘get into yoga?’ From obscurity to mania practically overnight, is something one might better associate with cabbage patch dolls, pet rocks, and bell-bottom jeans; thus begs the question, “Is yoga still growing strong, or are people starting to tire of it?”

If yoga continues to be put forth as just another exotic form of staying in shape, which sadly, is often the case today, people will no doubt begin to lose their enthusiasm for it and eventually crave something new. The big question is: do modern yoga teachers have the knowledge, skill, and wherewithal to keep interest in this ancient science alive, or is yoga fitness just another fashion trend, the “new aerobics”, destined for the same, unfortunate fate?

About the Author:

Yogacharya is the director of International Yogalayam,

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