History of Yoga

A Timeline Through 40 Years of Yoga Journal

Take a look through 40 years of American yoga and how the practice has transformed our culture.

Take a look back at 40 years of American yoga and how the practice has transformed our culture.


The same year that K. Pattabhi Jois makes his first visit to the United States, the California Yoga Teachers Association founds Yoga Journal.

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A Gallup poll finds that about 3 percent of Americans, or roughly 5 million people, participate in yoga, and an additional 2 million people participate in “Oriental religions.”


Jon Kabat-Zinn founds the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, adapting Buddhist teachings on mindfulness.


Yoga Journal features a football player on the cover for a story called “The Americanization of Yoga.”


The first Iyengar Yoga Convention is held in San Francisco, attracting hundreds of people from 17 countries.


For its 10th-anniversary issue, Yoga Journal debuts a new logo and introduces a new tagline: “The magazine for conscious living.”

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YogaWorks is founded, gathering many styles of yoga under one roof.


Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, a father of modern yoga, dies.


Dean Ornish’s “Program for Reversing Heart Disease” is published in The Lancet, eventually opening the door for yoga therapy.


Yoga Journal goes full color!


U.S. News and World Report declares: “Yoga Goes Mainstream.” The article marvels that “a class in Urban or Power Yoga will really get your heart rate up.”

Fitness gurus Jane Fonda and Kathy Smith both release yoga videos.


Madonna’s album Ray of Light includes several Sanskrit chants and a song called “Shanti/Ashtangi.” It wins three Grammys and sells 4 million copies.

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The Yoga Alliance establishes teacher licensing and standardizes teacher-training programs.


Time magazine features Christy Turlington in Urdhva Kukkutasana (Upward Cock Pose) on the cover, with the headline “The Science of Yoga: Millions of Americans are discovering this ancient exercise. Here’s the skinny on why it makes you feel so good.”


Time magazine names B.K.S. Iyengar as one of the world’s 100 most influential people.


K. Pattabhi Jois, founder of the Ashtanga Yoga Institute, dies.


For the second year in a row, the Obama White House includes yoga among the fitness-day activities at the annual Easter Egg Roll.


A San Diego County judge rules that yoga is “a distinctly American cultural phenomenon” in a case leveled against a California public school by parents who claimed that a kid-friendly version of yoga used in the school’s gym classes was “an unconstitutional promotion of Eastern religions.”


In a sign of how yoga has entered the cultural mainstream, a TV commercial shows the Aflac insurance duck “liberating his body,” toppling over in Tree Pose, and, finally, snoring in Savasana. Zzzzzzzz….

See also 1 Pose, 40 Years: Urdhva Dhanurasana (Wheel Pose)