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Byline: Tim Christie The Register-Guard

Yoga practitioners in Eugene have a new studio to practice their poses and movements - the latest local entry in the growing yoga industry.

ZenSpot, owned by Michael Bittner and his wife, Kelli Harrington, is set to offer its first classes Saturday at a studio at 1615 Oak St. The couple operated a business in New York City for the past several years before deciding to move west, Bittner said.

They found Eugene "exemplified the best of so many things, from an organic lifestyle to a holistic orientation," he said.

The instructors practice a form of hot yoga, in which the studio is heated to slightly warmer than body temperature, which helps muscle and fascia tissue open up and become more flexible, and helps the body sweat to release toxins and tensions, Bittner said.

But ZenSpot is not a Bikram yoga studio, he said. Bikram yoga is a specific style of hot yoga, created by Bikram Choudhury, that's become popular in recent years. Hundreds of Bikram yoga franchises operate around the United States, including Bikram College of India, Eugene, that started in 2003.

ZenSpot's studio is not as hot as a Bikram studio, and places more emphasis on breathing and on balancing and opening the body, Bittner said.

ZenSpot will offer classes seven days a week, with three classes a day Monday through Thursday, two on Friday and Saturday and one on Sunday. Rates range from $975 for an unlimited annual pass and $90 for an unlimited monthly pass, to 10- and 20-visit passes that cost $12 and $13 per class, to $20 for drop-ins.

In addition to yoga, ZenSpot offers personal training, nutrition counseling, stress management, and "energy services," which includes feng shui, interior design and Reiki.

Yoga has been growing in popularity in the United States in recent years, and become big business, according to recent household surveys.

A consumer survey conducted last fall by Mediamark Research Inc. found that 2.2 million people began practicing yoga in the previous year, and a total of 13.4 million Americans were practitioners, an increase of 200 percent since 2001. A survey conducted in 2008 for Yoga Journal pegged the number of yoga practitioners at 15.8 million, or 6.9 percent of U.S. adults, down from 16.5 million in 2004.

The Yoga Journal survey of 5,050 adults found that Americans spent $5.7 billion a year on classes and products, including equipment, clothing, vacations and media, such as DVDs, books and magazines - an 87 percent increase since 2004.

"While the yoga population has stabilized, spending among practitioners has nearly doubled," said Patricia Fox, a vice president at Yoga Journal's parent company, Active Interest Media. "Yoga practitioners are a devoted consumer group supporting a thriving and vibrant market."

Eugene is among those communities with a thriving yoga culture. The Web site lists no fewer than 18 yoga centers, which include churches, schools, gyms and dedicated studios.

Harmon Hathaway, president of the American Yoga Foundation, said it's nice to do yoga in a warm room, but from his perspective, hot yoga "is more of a fad." The movements and poses represent just the physical aspects of yoga - the word means "unification" - which also encompasses the mind and the spirit, he said.

What's important is that people enjoy the experience, he said.
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Title Annotation:Business; The new Eugene studio offers a form of hot yoga
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jan 8, 2010
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