When Yoga Journal released the newest Yoga in America study last week, I watched as the media talked about the 20 million yogis in our county. I could practically see the dollar signs in people's eyes as it was reported that the yoga industry is worth $10.3 billion a year—and with 44 percent of Americans polled calling themselves "aspirational yogis," it's likely to keep growing in the years ahead. Not too shabby.
It's great news that more people are interested in yoga, but what's more interesting to me is this little tidbit:
The top five reasons for starting yoga were: flexibility (78.3 percent), general conditioning (62.2 percent), stress relief (59.6 percent), improve overall health (58.5 percent) and physical fitness (55.1 percent)
It's fascinating to hear why people decide to take their first yoga class. It's also paints a pretty clear picture of the message people outside the yoga community are getting about yoga. As a community, it seems we're doing a great job touting yoga to help one's flexibility, health, and stress levels. But are we forgetting (or neglecting) to tell people about the deeper benefits? We all know there is a lot more to the practice than flexibility. There are many more benefits than the physical—everything from more self-confidence to better relationships. But I doubt that there are very many people who show up at a yoga class for the first time because they heard it would help their relationships or make them more emotionally stable. It's hard to describe the indescribable.
Of course, even if yoga were advertised in this way more often, I doubt very many non-yogis would believe it anyway. It sounds far-fetched that a series of poses can change your whole outlook on life until you yourself experience the transformation yourself. But maybe that's part of the magic—new students come to class expecting to stretch their hamstrings, and are surprised that there's a beautiful philosophy, moving history, and supportive community, too.
Regardless of the reason people show up for their first yoga class, I hope that they find what they're looking for, and then a whole lot more!
What first attracted you to yoga? Did you experience any benefits that surprised you?