Binge on Yoga |

Binge on Yoga

The recipe for David Romanelli’s yoga class is simple: Start with a one-hour vinyasa flow yoga class. Then add a five-course, gourmet meal. Sprinkle in a dash of music and a handful of inspirational anecdotes. Season with carefully selected wine pairings and, of course, chocolate.

Hungry yet? Welcome to Yoga for Foodies, a national event that passed through West Loop restaurant Province this week.

The creation is just the latest hybrid concept for the ancient Indian practice of meditation, controlled breathing and stretching. In Chicago and around the country, traditional classes have been combined with everything from cooking demos and wine tastings to acrobatic workouts. And while the popularity of such fusion programs is on the rise, some yoga purists told RedEye they don’t like straying from the basics.

Romanelli, co-founder of At One Yoga studios in Arizona, teams with local chefs to bring the class to cities across the country.

“Yoga has to continue to evolve,” said Romanelli, whose program has garnered national attention and even a bit of controversy for its inclusion of meat on the menu. “In some cases, it’s going to be something the purists don’t agree with, but as long as there’s a good intention behind it and you’re getting more people involved, it’s a good thing.”

Whatever their stance in the great yoga debate, Americans certainly are spending more than ever on yoga classes and products–$5.7 billion per year, according to Yoga Journal’s 2008 “Yoga in America” study. The report, compiled by the Harris Interactive Service Bureau, found that yoga spending in the U.S. had increased by 87 percent since a previous study was conducted in 2004.

In the Chicago area, lists more than 180 studios and individual teachers in its directory, about 30 of which mention yoga offerings for specific interests, such as yoga for fertility, yoga for kids or yoga for athletes.

Yoga has even gone to the dogs. Becky Solomon, group exercise director at Lakeshore Athletic Club, said her dog yoga classes–also known as “doga”–include a mix of socialization for the dogs and meditation exercises and stretching for both people and pets.

Adding dogs to the usual stretching routine helps keeps enthusiasts from losing interest in their practices, she said.

“[Yoga] is about not just physically changing your body but changing your consciousness,” Solomon said. “Exploring different varieties of yoga is a great way to do that.”

Not all experts agree. Kim Wilcox, an instructor at Moksha and a 12-year yoga veteran, said she has some reservations about blending yoga with other activities.

“Yoga is truly a lifestyle and a way of being,” Wilcox said. “That’s why I get wary of people using it to promote other agendas.”

But another Moksha instructor, Corey Terzo, said learning about yoga and food education both are great activities–so combining the two can be beneficial.

“With yoga, you’re becoming a connoisseur of life,” Terzo said. “So [yoga] would go along with being a connoisseur of other things.”

At the Yoga for Foodies classes in Chicago, Province chef Randy Zweiban said he designed the menu to align with his restaurant’s eco-friendly intentions, focusing on products from local and sustainable farms. Menu highlights included acai blood orange cocktails, farm-raised shrimp, charred and grilled beef tenderloin and chocolate parfait for dessert.

Bucktown resident Jeff Katz, a friend of Zweiban’s, said before the event that he and his wife were eager to try an activity that blends two of their passions.

“[Yoga and food] are two things that we enjoy so much,” Katz said. “I think it will be really fun to combine the two in the same setting.”

Yet despite the gourmet hype, not all the Chicago yoga enthusiasts are ready to make the leap from studio to dining room.

Before attending a recent class at Yoga Now in the Gold Coast neighborhood, Christine McDaniel told RedEye she enjoys the sense of minimalism she gets from traditional classes.
“[Other activities] kind of take away from the essence of what yoga is supposed to be,” said McDaniel, 25, of Woodridge. “It’s supposed to be all about focus and meditation.”

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Posted on: March 12, 2010