Yoga in America: Not Your Grandma’s Yoga Anymore—Or Is It?

Although yoga in the U.S. is very different from how it used to be, the news of yoga’s growth is both exciting and inspiring. Take a look at the highlights.
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Although yoga in the U.S. is very different from how it used to be, the news of yoga’s growth is both exciting and inspiring. Take a look at the highlights.
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The 2016 Yoga in America Study conducted by Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance revealed that 36.7 million Americans are actively practicing yoga! For those of us who’ve been practicing in little hole-in-wall studios since the late 1990s and early 2000s, this is a bit of a “wow” moment. For the true pioneers of yoga who’ve been practicing in the U.S. since the '60s and '70s, this is a day they may have thought would never come.

For the 74 percent of yoga practitioners, or 27.5 million American yogis, who have been practicing yoga for fewer than 5 years, the world of big-box yoga studios, gym yoga, and lululemon has always been a part of the yoga experience. Whether you lament this fact or rave over it, it proves that yoga has become mainstream in America and is here to stay.

The teaching of Pratipaksha bhavanam from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 2.33–34 guides us to reframe any potential negative viewpoint to a positive one. Though yoga in the U.S. is very different from how it used to be, the news of yoga’s growth to me was both exciting and inspiring. Is it a surprise that the way yoga is experienced in America has evolved greatly from its Indian roots? Not at all. At its core, yoga is a practice for self-transformation; does it not seem natural that its practices would transform to the time and place of its use?

See alsoThe Yoga Sutra: Your Guide To Living Every Moment

4 More Inspiring Statistics on the Transformation of Yoga from the Yoga in America Study

10.3 million men are practicing yoga.

That's more than ever before, which is good news for so many reasons. The standard American culture teaches boys and men to disregard pain in their bodies, disconnect from their emotions and treat all exercise as competition. Yoga can help reverse these unhealthy cultural habits.

See alsoYoga for Men

An estimated 30% of yoga practitioners are over the age of 55.

That's up from 18 percent in 2012, making the fastest growing demographic in yoga your grandma—and grandpa, too. My question to all yoga teachers is: How prepared are you to serve the needs of older Americans? Does a vinyasa flow class with 15 sun salutes appeal to the average American over 55? This group of current and potential practitioners may usher in a wave of emphasis on the softer and more meditative practices of yoga.

Children are doing asana too.

We are raising the next generation of yogis. In 37 percent of households where an adult practices yoga, a child under the age of 18 has also practiced. If this trend continues, I have nothing but sheer excitement for the future of America.

See alsoYoga For Kids

Another 80 million Americans will likely try this year.

With the impending influx of new yogis, I’d say we need more yoga teachers. I know, I know... Any yoga teachers out there trying to find paid teaching gigs may feel there aren’t a lot of opportunities. However, the data from this study suggests that looking outside the old-school studio model to meet students where they are—wherever that may be—could be the key to your success.

See also10 Places to Teach Yoga Besides the Studio

The 2016 Yoga in America study findings are free and available to all. Take a look, and see what enlightens you.