Originally created 06/27/04

New home exercise rooms focusing on yoga



STATHAM, Ga. -- Mats, mirrored walls and gurgling fountains are replacing iron weights, bulky cardio equipment and loud televisions in some home exercise rooms as yoga enters the picture as a mainstream fitness option.

Some homeowners are requesting yoga rooms while others are getting the idea from show homes such as the Southern Living Idea House in the gated Georgia Club community near the University of Georgia and high-end home tours in other cities around the nation.

Atlanta interior designer Elizabeth Hutcheson said that some of her clients, especially older homeowners who can no longer do hardcore cardiovascular exercise because of the stress on their knees and joints, have requested yoga rooms in their homes - new and old.

More people are practicing yoga, and some are using private consultants so they can do chanting, deep breathing and poses like downward-facing dog in the "privacy of their own homes," said Hutcheson, a principal in H&L Design Group, which decorated the Southern Living Idea House.

The yoga room in that house, which opened for public tours this month, is outfitted with yoga mats and equipment provided by Hugger Mugger, a Colorado-based yoga products company, as well as a balance bar, mirrors, laminated wood flooring and a breezy ceiling fan.

Rial Jones, a custom home builder in Orlando, Fla., said that young buyers and homeowners moving to the area from the West Coast as well as South American and Asian countries are asking for rooms to practice yoga and meditate.

"In these houses where we're doing game rooms and theater rooms and exercise rooms, even though they're large houses with many rooms, there's quite often not a place that's sort of away from the main activity center of the house," he said. "This provides a room that is away from all the high activity and noise of the house set aside with a nice view."

In one home with a contemporary Asian theme, his firm, Jones-Clayton Construction, created a room with bamboo wood floors, candles and floor pillows and a view of a long, rectangular pool and courtyard.

Trisha Lamb, associate director of the Arizona-based International Association of Yoga Therapists, said it doesn't surprise her that some people are setting aside a room for the ancient Eastern discipline. She has heard of people converting small dens and small offices into the rooms.

"Yoga continues to become an integral part of the culture," Lamb said.

In fact, about 18 million people in the United States practice yoga, said Hansa Knox, president of the Yoga Alliance.

She said it's exciting to hear that some homeowners are using their exercise spaces for yoga.

"Most of the people I've heard that do that are in the Los Angeles, Hollywood area. Then people like me convert one room of their house," she said. "It's nice to hear that builders are actually in the mainstream community beginning to do this type of thing."

Some of the rooms connect to bathrooms, offering a spot to relax, practice yoga and receive massages.

When David Steinke built a house in a recent Parade of Homes in the Denver area, he placed the yoga area off an elegant spa-style bathroom and an entry courtyard with a gurgling urn. The room had bamboo accents, yoga mats, a mirror and a massage table.

"People refer to it as a Zen room or yoga room," said Steinke with the Infinity Home Collection in Greenwood Village, Colo. "It was very peaceful, kind of an escape place."

Steinke said he's received only a few requests so far for the rooms.

But creating a yoga room doesn't require a new house or full-scale remodeling. When Jiya Devi Bhagavati moved into her Atlanta home 10 years ago, she easily converted a bedroom-sized space into a yoga room filled with spiritual art and statues of Buddha and Shiva. Stained-glass windows at both ends of the room let light in.

"Yoga is very low-tech. All it takes is a mat, or not even that. Just floor space," said Bhagavati, a yoga instructor at Kashi Atlanta. "It doesn't need equipment or anything."

On the Net:

Southern Living Idea House: http://www.thegeorgiaclub.com/idea-house.html

Yoga Alliance: http://www.yogaalliance.org

International Association of Yoga Therapists: http://www.iayt.org/