Yoga industry on upswing; local classes vary

Bent over in downward facing dog, your eyes wander to the side wall. Paintings of varying sizes fill the space, many bearing the likeness of flowers or om symbols. Gazing at them, you hear the instructor tell you to switch poses, and your attention moves back to the task at hand.

Welcome to BlueSky Yoga.

One of Las Vegas’ many yoga studios, BlueSky is different in that it doesn’t require a contract or waiver to attend. Just show up, practice at one of the seven classes offered daily, and pay a donation when you’re finished.

Or don’t.

“Even if you don’t have money, you can come,” owner Cheryl Slader said.

BlueSky Yoga is a pay-as-you-go studio, with a suggested donation of $12 per class. Payment is based on the honor system, with students placing payment in a box at the end of each class.

Slader’s philosophy, which mirrors that of the yoga she lives by, doesn’t pad her pockets but does make enough to keep the lights on at her studio. Students come and go at BlueSky, with some classes attracting 10 people, others drawing two. No two days are alike, but somehow, they always return.

“I feel like people come back here because it creates a sense of community and family,” Slader said.

Other studios in the valley charge more than $100 for a month of unlimited lessons, and a single class can cost from $15 on up. At Bikram Yoga Summerlin, for instance, one class costs $20, or you can buy a full prepaid year for $1,090.

Patrizia Beltran, a Bikram yoga instructor, said most students there choose month-to-month packages, or they buy a multiple class card that never expires.

The reason?

Beltran said it’s because yoga philosophy teaches students to go with the flow and take life as it comes, which often translates to transience in yoga classes.

“There’s never really a consistent pattern as with most businesses. It’s always different,” Beltran said. “You never know who’s going to show up.”

The yoga industry overall is on the upswing, though, said Beth Shaw, founder and president of YogaFit, a national yoga teacher training school. Shaw was in Las Vegas in mid-April for the YogaFit 2013 Mind Body Fitness Conference.

According to the most recent Yoga in America study produced by Yoga Journal, 20.4 million Americans practiced yoga in 2012, which is up 30 percent from the 15.8 million people who practiced in 2008.

“The industry is going to continue to grow and grow. So many health care professionals are beginning to really embrace a whole-body approach to healing, which means they are steering more people toward yoga,” Shaw said.

Beltran agreed that more people seem to be interested in health and wellness, and yoga studios’ popularity is an extension of that.

On average, Bikram Yoga Summerlin sees 10 to 15 new students each day, but that doesn’t mean they’re coming back tomorrow. Class sizes can range from 15 to 55 people at each of the seven classes offered daily.

Coupon sites such as Groupon also help attract people to yoga studios, Beltran said, but then they will stop coming for a while once the deal is off. Then, all of a sudden some of that group will come back, deciding they want to practice.

Slader said she has noticed a trend of people being interested in hot yoga or Bikram, but noted that may not be for everyone.

“True yoga is a lifestyle,” Slader said.

Contact reporter Laura Carroll at lcarroll@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4588. Follow @lscvegas on Twitter.