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What the Future Holds

Who can predict the future of yoga? No one, of course, but we talk to some experts and make a few serious and not-so-serious prognostications. Take a look at our scenarios and see if they match your own imaginings.

By John Hanc

"Higher education evolves as knowledge and human needs evolve," says Alexandra Logue, Ph.D., vice president for academic affairs and provost at the New York Institute of Technology. "For example, almost no one had heard of neuroscience 25 years ago. But now it's considered one of the hottest fields around. It evolved as a blend of psychology, anatomy, medicine, and other disciplines." Something similar could happen to the study of yoga, Logue believes, "most likely as part of a blend of tai chi and various martial arts."

Of course, many doctors already recommend yoga to their patients. Several well-respected health institutions and wellness centers are fully incorporating yoga into their programs, and some health insurers even recognize it as part of preventive health.

By 2030, yoga therapy, in which yoga is prescribed to treat specific health problems, will be recognized as a legitimate part of medical practice, predicts Judith Hanson Lasater, Ph.D., who is a physical therapist, the president of the California Yoga Teachers Association, and a yoga teacher since 1971.

Will your doctor in 2030 tell you to take two asanas and call in the morning? "I hope not," says Michael Lee, founder of Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy, "because everyone is unique, and yoga therapy deals with that uniqueness."

That tensionóbetween the eclectic nature of yoga and the demand for standardsólies at the heart of this debate. "My concern," says Gary Kraftsow, founder of the American Viniyoga Institute based in Maui, "is that yoga therapy either won't be controlled and whoever wants to say they're a yoga therapist can be one, or that standards will be established by people who don't really understand it."

Integrative medicine leader Andrew Weil, M.D., is hopeful that yoga will become a more integral part of western medicine. "I wish more health professionals today were aware of therapeutic yoga as an option they can recommend, one that may be more effective and have fewer side effects than conventional therapies," he says. "By 2030, as the popularity of yoga continues to increase in our society, I would think this will certainly happen."

Already yoga is moving out of the studio and into schools, prisons, corporate offices, and hospitals. How much further will it penetrate American life? Will it replace the traditional seventh-inning stretch? Maybe not, but Shiva Rea, a vinyasa instructor in Los Angeles, thinks yoga will become part of the landscape at airports, where people with jangled nerves and stiff bodies tend to congregate. "There are already chapels in airports and hospitals," she says. "So why not a place for practicing yoga, as well?"

Indeed, society is not likely to get any less stressful in years to come, so perhaps there will even be a series of "yoga zones" in office buildings: quiet places set aside for downtime. Or perhaps, Lasater suggests, the oxygen bars now popular in Tokyo will evolve into yoga bars in New York, where busy Manhattanites, Yankee fans or not, can wind down.

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