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'Om' say Germans as they take to yoga

Modern-day Germans are using yoga to get fit and explore the body-mind connection.
PTI | By Indo-Asian News Service, Berlin
UPDATED ON JAN 18, 2005 06:31 PM IST

From Berlin to Cologne, Hamburg to Munich, modern-day Germans are using yoga to get fit and explore the body-mind connection, according to German radio Deutsche Welle.

Yoga has long since been transformed from a flaky pursuit of ex-hippies into one of the West's most pervasive fitness trends.

Throw a stone on any New York or Los Angeles street, and it seems you'll hit someone on the way to a yoga class, exercise mat in tow.

Stars like Madonna, Sting and Gwyneth Paltrow have praised its virtues, and new yoga studios are sprouting in US cities like mushrooms after a rain.

Now, yoga's rocketing popularity has crossed the ocean. In all its styles and variations, Germans can't seem to get enough of yoga.

Kumud Schramm, spokeswoman for Germany's Yoga Teachers' Association, said more than three million Germans do yoga on a regular basis, and there are over 8,000 teachers to serve them.

"We're really experiencing a boom in yoga," said Schramm. "Our lives are hectic, demanding, and take us to the limits of our physical and psychological limits.

"People are seeking quiet, relaxation, and a look inside themselves. That's what they get with yoga."

Germany's latest fitness trend has its roots in a 3,500-year-old system that seeks to join the body and mind, using breathing techniques and meditation mixed with a series of physical postures, or asanas.

The asanas promote strength, flexibility and balance, and different postures are said to be beneficial for different internal organs and body functions.

The first German yoga studio opened in Berlin in 1937. There was a surge of recognition in the 1960s and 1970s, especially among young people seeking transcendental experiences.

Today, however, yoga has moved more into the mainstream, and its focus is often just as much physical fitness as mental well-being.

Yoga today is just as often seen as a good workout or a relaxation method as a stop on the road to enlightenment.

A surprising number of classes in Germany are offered in English.

Most of the teachers are Americans or Britons who have made a business of importing their passion for the exercise regimen. The yoga scene tends to be an international one, and English is its lingua franca.

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