ARLINGTON, VA (November 16, 2023) – Yoga Alliance, the largest nonprofit association representing the international yoga community, announces today the results of a first-of-its-kind global survey researching the practice and profession of yoga. The “Yoga in the World” study is the first of an on-going series of research efforts by Yoga Alliance to benchmark and track not only yoga trends around the globe, but public perception and barriers that prevent individuals from practicing yoga.
Building on the organization’s 2016 survey of “Yoga in America” (focused on the United States), Yoga Alliance recognized the need to expand its research to more fully understand how to increase the accessibility of yoga globally. The 2022 research collected quantitative and qualitative data from yoga practitioners and the general public across 10 countries including Brazil, Chile, China, Germany, India, Kenya, Nigeria, United Kingdom (U.K.), United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) and the United States (U.S.). Yoga Alliance also surveyed yoga teachers and business owners in Brazil, Germany, the United Kingdom, and United States.
Mental Health New Driver to Practice Yoga
The “Yoga in the World” study reveals a significant change in the reasons why people begin practicing yoga. In 2016 the primary driver was ‘flexibility.’ In 2022, practitioners from China, Germany, Kenya, Nigeria, United Kingdom, and the United States cite ‘stress release’ as the top motivator in starting a yoga practice, while practitioners from Brazil, Chile, India, the United Arab Emirates, say that ‘improving their overall health’ was their top motivator. Among respondents in the United States, 49 percent of practitioners and 37 percent of the general public state that a medical professional has recommended yoga to prevent and/or improve health conditions.
“This caught our attention as it indicates that individuals worldwide are seeking mental health and wellbeing support,” said Shannon Roche, President and CEO of Yoga Alliance. “Scientific research has demonstrated that yoga is highly effective in helping individuals manage stress and cope with mental health conditions. As concerns about mental health and loneliness increase around the globe, the perception of yoga must shift from solely a fitness modality or hobby to a vital, low-cost, high-value selfdirected health intervention that can, and should, be accessible to everyone.”
U.S. Growth in Yoga, But Demographic Inequities Remain an Issue
In the United States, 38.4 million Americans (11 percent) practiced yoga in 2022, up from 36.7 million in 2016 (+4.6 percent; total population of the U.S. grew 2.7 percent), spending more than $21 billion on the practice (+5 percent since 2016). However, the survey revealed distinct demographic inequities within the yoga community in the United States, particularly among yoga professionals and studio owners, contributing to underrepresentation and limited access to yoga for underserved, historically marginalized, and vulnerable communities.
“Amid the economic contraction we see that individuals were finding the practicality and value in yoga as a way to alleviate the numerous challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Roche. “While economic growth, spending, and participation in yoga is encouraging, the research also showed that Asian, Black, and Hispanic communities in the United States are underrepresented as yoga practitioners, teachers, and studio owners. Studies have shown that these communities are less likely to have access to mental health resources, yoga studios, or similar wellness resources which make treatment more difficult. Taken together, this information offers yet another example of the systemic underinvestment in proven holistic wellness practices, like yoga, in historically marginalized communities, when these practices can often trace their roots back to these very same communities.”
As of 2022, in the United States:
- 71 percent of yoga practitioners are white and 74 percent are women.
- 88 percent of yoga teachers are white and 85 percent are women.
- 85 percent of yoga studio owners are white and 87 percent are women.
- Yoga practitioners (47 percent), teachers (82 percent), studio owners (83 percent) are much more likely to have a college degree than the general population (30 percent).
- Yoga practitioners are more likely to own their homes than the general population (54.8 percent versus 42.8 percent, respectively).
To gain additional insights into yoga participation and perceptions among Asian, Black, and Hispanic people in the United States, supplemental qualitative focus groups were conducted as part of the research effort. Focus group participants referenced that the “lifestyle” around yoga made the practice unappealing to them versus the practice itself. Non-practitioners referenced a stereotype of the average yoga practitioner being a “fit, white woman.”
“Yoga has the potential to benefit anyone who practices, but the way it is shared and/or portrayed can impede or enhance its widespread acceptance,” said Roche. “As a yoga community, we need to be intentional in our efforts to publicly communicate and normalize the diversity of students, teachers, and practitioners that actually exist, and how yoga can aid people from all communities, regardless of race, ethnicity, income level, age, body type, ability, or gender.”
An executive summary, methodology and key findings by country can be found at yogaalliance.org/yoga_in_the_world.
About Yoga Alliance Founded in 1999, Yoga Alliance is a member-based, non-profit organization that serves yoga schools and teachers across the globe, providing world-recognized, best-in-class credentials and unifying its members around a shared ethical commitment. Yoga Alliance’s goal is to support and foster the high-quality, safe, accessible, and equitable teaching of yoga. In addition, Yoga Alliance delivers a strong value proposition to its members through community-building initiatives, educational resources, advocacy efforts, and social impact programs. For more information visit yogaalliance.org.
Toni Carey, Head of Strategic Communications