COMPETITION IS TIGHT AMONG YOGA, MASSAGE STUDIOS IN VALLEY

Nancy Corcoran remembers when the only people who practiced yoga were, in her words, "weirdos."

Stanley Grod recalls a time when most of his massage therapy clients were the idle rich.

The good news for Corcoran, who owns Yoga for Every Body in Sherman Oaks, and Grod, the proprietor of Massage Masters Day Spa also in Sherman Oaks, is that their businesses are no longer the exclusive domain of a select clientele. Practices like yoga and massage have gone mainstream.

The bad news for them is, now that they have, competition is proliferating.

"There has been a lot more competition out there," said Grod, who has been in the business for nearly 30 years. "We've got people up and down the boulevard charging $39 for a one-hour treatment."

A short ride down any stretch of Ventura Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley will reveal dozens of salons and day spas offering everything from shiatsu massage to reflexology, and nearly as many yoga studios.

On the surface, the two businesses may appear entirely different, but they share one key element: Both promise relief from the stress and strain of modern-day life. And, along with herbal remedies and nutritional supplements, aromatherapy, acupuncture and Tai Chi, they have emerged from behind the fringes of the '60s hippie culture and onto the front porch of Middle America.

"We are now quite willing, as our society internationalizes, to view remedies other than the standard Western ways of doing things as OK," said Alfred Osborne, director of the Price Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at the Anderson School at UCLA. "Look at what's happening with alternative medicine. Other societies have found ways to deal with these things that have been adopted in America."

In the 1950s, hard work was seen as its own reward. By the 1980s, living well was the best revenge. But in the new millennium, the preferred tender for payback on our efforts seems to be relaxation.

"There is a theme that has tended to get picked up by a variety of industries that basically says, 'You work hard, you deserve a reward,'" said David Stewart, professor of marketing at USC's Marshall School of Business. "There have always been companies that have reinforced these ideas, but I think it's become more prevalent. The reason is, we have a much larger number of professionals who have a need for relaxation and relief of stress."

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