Yoga Journal study sees continued, albeit perhaps overly optimistic, growth

In its first "Yoga in America" survey, Yoga Journal has found the yoga market is worth $3 billion a year, with growth since 2002 of 43 percent. The study also found that the total number of people who practice yoga has reached 16.5 million, up 5.6 percent over the previous year.
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In its first "Yoga in America" survey, Yoga Journal has found the yoga market is worth $3 billion a year, with growth since 2002 of 43 percent.

"The fact that Americans spend nearly $3 billion a year on yoga and yoga-related items shows the financial vibrancy of the market," said Yoga Journal CEO John Abbott. "That the number of yoga practitioners has grown so strongly in the last 10 years shows that yoga is not a passing fad but a genuine cultural phenomenon and an integral part of the wellness trend in this country."

The Yoga Journal-sponsored study also found that the total number of people who practice yoga has reached 16.5 million, up 5.6 percent over the previous year, and the largest growth was in the younger age group of 18 to 24 year olds, which this study says grew 46 percent in the last year.

While there is industry agreement that the yoga category is growing, not everyone finds all the numbers revealed in the survey credible.

"I would agree that yoga is still growing, and 5.6 percent sounds very reasonable," said Demian Kloer, general manager for Prana, a maker of yoga and climbing apparel and accessories. "Prana's core yoga market growth has been over 35 percent annually. But to think that roughly one in every 14 U.S. adults is practicing yoga sounds unrealistically high.

"In my opinion," Kloer added, "the study was incredibly optimistic and those 'user' statistics don't necessarily translate to the product retail side of the business."

Data for the survey were collected by the Harris Interactive Service Bureau on behalf of Yoga Journal, which performed the survey design and data analysis. The poll surveyed over 4,700 respondents -- a statistically representative sample of the total U.S. population.

The study found that 7.5 percent of U.S. adults, or 16.5 million people, now practice yoga. In addition, almost one in seven non-practitioners, or about 25 million people, say they intend to try yoga within the next 12 months.

In addition, the study found that more than three in four participants are women (77.1 percent women compared to 22.9 percent men).

"Our statistics are close," Kloer said. "We see about 16 to 18 percent in men's apparel sales to our core yoga specialty retailers compared to the 22.9 percent of practitioner's being male as quoted by Yoga Journal's study. I haven't seen any meaningful changes in these demographics."
  
When it comes to the age of participants, although the study found highest growth among the 20-somethings, Baby Boomers still dominate practitioners. The study found that 41.6 percent are 35 to 54, while 29.1 percent are 18 to 34.

"I question the long-term participation (of the 18 to 24 year olds), but as with any industry, a strong youth movement is always a positive sign for the strength and longevity in a market," Kloer said.

What Kloer said the study failed to look at was retention, although it did find that 44.7 percent of yoga participants have studied for more than two years.

"I think that the fallout rate for people practicing yoga is still very high. This creates a lot of uncertainly and volatility in the market," Kloer said. "We continually see new yoga studios opening while others are closing. The irony is that yoga is an ancient practice yet the business of yoga is still in its infancy as yoga studios, retailers and manufacturers are still trying to find their niche and balance in the market."

SNEWS® View: Yoga – and related mind-body practices like Pilates or tai chi – aren't going to go away, even if this study was optimistic in numbers. Doesn't matter really. The practices of yoga and other in the mind-body realm remain areas that all in the business of physical activity should take a serious look at. We see many – even hard-core traditional exercisers -- turning to the likes of yoga as a part of a fitness program, just as older or novices may find it a softer way to begin to or continue to exercise.

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