Being a Hindu yogi once meant renouncing worldly pleasures for a life of solitary meditation, wandering the jungle in search of union with god. Today, new-age yogis wander the globe from one retreat to another, stay in luxury hotels and preach to the converted masses through a headset microphone.
At the Bali Spirit Festival last week, yogis sold their take on life – along with complementary DVDs — as visitors from as far afield as the United States, Australia and Europe lapped up expensive yoga apparel, mats and mala beads. Just stepping through the festival gates cost $100 a day. “I bought a gold pass for $500 and I find it hard to get $100 worth of yoga a day. At the same time, all the classes have been amazing, so in the end, I’m happy to have paid that,” said Australian Jean Cameron, 39.
A 2008 study published by the Yoga Journal valued the yoga industry in the United States alone at almost $6 billion a year, with some more recent estimates for the global industry rising to $18 billion. Bali is an obvious hub for yoga fanatics. The Balinese are Hindu, the Indonesian island is rich with natural beauty and the government supports spiritual tourism including temple tours and visits to traditional healers. Demand for such experiences spiked recently with the publication of Elizabeth Gilbert’s best-selling memoir “Eat, Pray, Love” – a romantic journey of self-discovery featuring a mystical encounter with a Balinese soothsayer.
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