Yoga in America – study by Yoga Journal

The number of people practicing yoga in the US has reached nearly 16 million and is expected to continue to grow steadily.

The latest “Yoga in America” study, just released by Yoga Journal, shows that Americans spend $5.7 billion a year on yoga classes and products, including equipment, clothing, vacations and media (DVDs, videos, books and magazines).  This figure represents an increase of 87 percent – almost doubled compared to the previous study in 2004.

Yoga Journal also reported that the 2008 study indicates that 15.8 million people, or 6.9 percent of the US population, practice yoga.  Of current non-practitioners, nearly 8%, or 18.3 million Americans, say they are very or extremely interested in yoga.  And 4.1 % of non-practitioners, or about 9.4 million people, say they will definitely try yoga within the next year.

The study also collected data on age, gender and other demographic factors:

  • 72.2% are women, 27.8% are men.
  • 40.6 % are 18 to 34 years old; 41% are 35 to 54; and 18.4% are over 55.
  • 28.4% have practiced yoga for one year or less; 21.4% have practiced for one to two years; 25.6% have practiced two to five years; and 24.6% have practiced more than five years.
  • 71.4% are college educated; 27% have postgraduate degrees.
  • 44% of yogis have household incomes of $75,000 or more; 24% have more than $100,000.

The 2008 study indicated that almost have (49.4%) of current practitioners started practicing yoga to improve their overall health.  In the 2003 study, that number was 5.6%.  And they are continuing to practice for the same reason.  According to the 2008 study, 52% are motivated to practice yoga to improve their overall health.  In 2003, that number was 5.2%.

“Yoga is no longer simply a singular pursuit but a lifestyle choice and an established part of our health and cultural landscape,” says Bill Harper, publisher of Yoga Journal.  “People come to yoga and stick with it because they want to live healthier lives.”

One significant trend to emerge from the study is the use of yoga as medical therapy.  According to the study, 6.1% of nearly 14 million Americans, say that a doctor or therapist has recommended yoga to them.  In addition, nearly half (45%) of all adults agree that yoga would be beneficial if they were undergoing treatment for a medical condition.

And what about those Baby Boomers?

In just a couple of years, according to recent statistics, the number of Baby Boomers-aged adults participating in yoga classes increased by three million.  Attend a yoga class and you’ll find that it’s not exclusively populated by younger women.  Older women-and many older men-are also attending yoga classes.

According to the National Institutes of Health, yoga:

  • Improves mood and sense of well-being
  • Counteracts stress
  • Reduces heart rate and blood pressure
  • Increases lung capacity
  • Improves muscle relaxation and body composition
  • Helps with conditions such as anxiety, depression, and insomnia
  • Improves overall physical fitness, strength, and flexibility
  • Positively affect levels of certain brain or blood chemicals

“Yoga as medicine represents the next great yoga wave,” says Kaitlin Quistgaard, editor in chief of Yoga Journal.  “In the next few years, we will be seeing a lot more yoga in health care settings and more yoga recommended by the medical community as new research shows that yoga is a valuable therapeutic tool for many health conditions.”

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