Yoga's getting "bigger" all over the country. Neighborhood yoga studios have become almost as ubiquitous as Starbucks, and 86 percent of the nation's gyms now offer some sort of yoga class, according to IDEA Health & Fitness Association. The industry is crowded and competitive, and as any studio owner will tell you, the profit margins are slim: Who hasn't sat in a half-empty yoga class or watched studios only blocks apart battle over the same neighborhood students?
In response, a handful of high-profile studios have decided it's time to reinvent themselves: These are not just places where you can practice poses, but outsize full-service yoga centers. Centers like Jivamukti in New York City and Yogaphoria in Pennsylvania have cafés, tea lounges, bookstores, aromatherapy, and specialized classes and workshops. They are not only physically enormous but seem to be modeled on the notion of a hip health club where, besides taking classes, yogis will want to spend their free time relaxing, socializing, and shopping.
Megastudios aren't just interested in differentiating themselves from the smaller competition: Their motivation is also—some say primarily—spiritual. The new centers, typically opened by high-profile yoga teachers, are designed to help householders (that's folks like you and me, who live in the conventional world) understand yoga's philosophy and integrate it into their everyday lives, whether that's by learning about vegetarianism or eco-friendly practices or selfless service (known as seva).