Is yoga popular?
Before we jump into answering this question we should clarify by what we mean by yoga. In this article the practice of yoga asana or the yoga of postures is referred to as yoga. The practice of all 8 limbs of yoga as defined by Patanjali would reduce the numbers of yoga practitioner to be quite marginal.
Let us look at the raw numbers. As per Yoga Journal survey done in 2008 there are about 16 Million people who practice yoga in the US. This translates to about 5% of the population. If we were to take this number world-wide we will have to first eliminate half the population. It was estimated in 2005 that about half the world lived in poverty at less than $2.50 per day. These people are fighting a daily battle to bring bread on the table and yoga is not on their priorities of things to do. We then have to accept that yoga has poor penetration in China, most of Africa, and Middle-East. Even in India, the asana yoga practice is not very popular and it would be safe to say that the popularity is no greater than that in the US.
If you were to do the math you will probably conclude that no more than 2% of the world does yoga. And even this is probably a wild over-estimate. So the question then arises: can we claim that something that is practiced by 2% of the population as popular?
The point of the article is not to stir up controversy or engage in a mindless statistical exercise. The point is to illustrate the work ahead. Because of the low penetration of yoga the benefits to society has been on the margins. Yoga can help bring down health care costs and also improve productivity of the working population. Yoga can also help improve education. It is not difficult to imagine that reduction of anxiety and stress can greatly improve learning. The resulting benefits from improvement in education to society would be quite phenomenal.
Yoga can help pacify and calm down society. If yoga were to be practiced by 90% of the population you may see the need of less policemen and jails. And as yoga spreads to a majority of countries you may even see a reduction in wars and conflict.
Unfortunately the practice of yoga within the “at risk” community is pretty insignificant. Thus the people who can benefit the most from yoga are not the ones who are practicing it. This is why the tangible benefit to society from yoga has been marginal at this point and that is why work done by people like Lisa Danylchuk is so important.
It has been close to 100 years since Krishnamacharya started his epic quest to popularize yoga and we have reached about 2% of the population in that time. Even if we were to see a geometric increase in the number of people practicing yoga, we are talking about many decades before yoga reaches say 25% of the population world-wide. It is probably at such levels when we should first start seeing direct benefits accrue to society and we reach a “tipping point”. An earlier post talked about the foundation of sacrifice on which yoga has spread. What this post is trying to say is that Krishnamacharya’s work remains unfinished. Only when society sees direct benefit accrue to itself, only then yoga teachers will be justly compensated. Till then the wagon of yoga will have to be pulled by the force of sacrifice.
View the original post on MyLifeYoga.com.
MyLifeYoga is the creation of Ketna and Raj Shah. Ketna is a yoga teacher, a yoga therapist, and a gourmet cook. Raj works for a fortune 500 firm in the IT department. To learn more about their yoga story visit MyLifeYoga.com.