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Hip-hop yoga hot in US

New York, April 7 (Reuters): Yoga is going hip-hop as part of rampant commercialisation of the ancient exercise in America, where it is being marketed to new inner-city audiences at Starbucks-like chains.

Yoga, the 5,000-year-old Indian discipline of exercise, diet and meditation, has exploded into a $3-billion industry in the US, with urban entertainment impresario Russell Simmonds the newest figure to join in.

Simmonds, the founder of Def Jam Records, released a video series on Wednesday titled Yoga Live, with instructions set to 72 tracks of original hip-hop music ' sounds that might have jarred the yogis of bygone days.

Simmons said he tried to distill the spiritual from the physical in his tapes. 'We packaged it intentionally in a way for people to digest the physical practice,' he said. 'It's not meant to get them worried about religion or spirituality.'

In another commercial move into yoga, entrepreneurs Rob Wrubel and George Lichter who teamed up to lead online search tool Ask Jeeves, have launched Yoga Works, a chain of yoga studios that aims to grow to an average of 10 studios in the largest US cities.

Interest in yoga has exploded. A Harris survey of a sampling of 4,700 people across the country commissioned by Yoga Journal showed that 16.5 million people, or 7.5 per cent of US adults, were practicing yoga.

Some practitioners are concerned about the marketing of yoga.

'The commercial opportunities lead to less genuine forms of yoga,' said Swami Ramananda, 51, head of Integral Yoga Institute's two New York city centres.

Ramananda said he worried about exercise fads co-opting yoga in a superficial way. 'If someone's intention is to make money, he is not offering yoga with students in mind,' he said.

Now turf wars have sprung up over the right to copyright and trademark specific yoga programmes.

A legal battle in California is ongoing over whether Beverly Hills maestro Vikram Chowdhary has ownership rights over his 'Vikram Yoga' programme ' a specific sequence of 26 postures and breathing exercises performed in a heated room.

Luke Cammack, 32, co-director of a Vikram Yoga studio in New York, said he tried various styles of yoga before settling on this.

'You have to be calm because it's really intense,' said Cammack. 'We don't teach philosophy. There's no chanting.'

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