Reaffirming what other studies and anecdotal evidence has shown, a study to be released Feb. 26 by the Yoga Journal magazine reveals a near doubling in what participants spend on their practice, including on gear and apparel, and an intent by millions of non-participants to try yoga this year.
The "Yoga in America" study, with data collected by Harris Interactive on behalf of Yoga Journal, surveyed 5,050 U.S. respondents for a statistically representative sample that matched U.S. demographics, depicted a burgeoning market that has not in recent years slowed. It also depicted one that has reached across genders and ages, and is slowly becoming part of a lifestyle movement of health, wellness and fitness.
"Yoga is unquestionably mainstreaming," said Bill Harper, Yoga Journal publisher, "with 16 million people practicing and 9.4 million who say they want to start. These are huge numbers that are indisputable. Yoga is moving out of a vertical field and into a mainstreamed sport and activity."
The study showed that 6.9 percent of U.S. adults, 18 and older, or 15.8 million people, now practice yoga. But the interest doesn't stop there. Another 8 percent or 18.3 million people who are not practicing yoga say they are extremely interested or very interested, and 4.1 percent or about 9.4 million people who are not now doing yoga said they will definitely try yoga in the next year.
Money spent on practices skyrockets
The numbers of regular yoga practitioners, those interested, and those intent on dabbling at yoga mean that the dollars spent on goods, services, products, clothing and other accessories and training are also rising dramatically.
The current study -- the magazine's third Yoga in America release -- showed Americans spending $5.7 billion a year on something for their practice. That was a whopping 87-percent increase over the number reported by the last study released in 2005 ($3 billion), which was a 43-percent jump over the first study reported in 2002.
"While the yoga population has stabilized, spending among practitioners has nearly doubled," said Pat Fox, senior vice president and group manager of Active Interest Media's Healthy Living Group, which includes Yoga Journal. "Yoga practitioners are a devoted consumer group supporting a thriving and vibrant market."
Of that total, the most is spent, in order: instruction ($1.733 billion), apparel ($1.042 billion), media such as DVDs and books ($893.5 million), equipment ($862 million), and vacations ($630 million). Although spending in all categories jumped significantly since the last study, the largest increases were in apparel, which nearly doubled, and vacations, which more than doubled. That comes out to about $361 spent per person on average each year, up from about $180 reported in the last study.
Yoga for health and wellness
One speculation for the huge leap in yoga's popularity is its continued intertwining with health, wellness and fitness, including classes at health clubs and growing numbers of private studios.
Almost half (49.4 percent) of current practitioners started practicing to improve their health; in the first study that reason accounted for only a small percent of reasons given for starting (5.6 percent). According to the 2008 study, 52 percent are currently motivated to practice yoga for reasons of improving their overall health. In 2003, that number was 5.2 percent.
"Yoga is no longer simply a singular pursuit but a lifestyle choice and an established part of our health and cultural landscape," Harper said. "People come to yoga and stick with it because they want to live healthier lives."
An overview of other data found in the study about yoga practitioners:
>> 72.2 percent are women, and 27.8 percent are men. In the last study, only 22.9 percent were men.
>> 40.6 percent are 18-34; 41 percent are 35-54; 18.4 percent are older than 55, showing the youthful side of yoga. Compared to the last study, the number of 35-54 year olds hasn't changed, while the number of those younger has gone up from 29.1 percent.
>> From less than a year to more than five years, the numbers are well-spread: 28.4 percent have practiced for less than a year; 21.4 percent for 1-2 years; 25.6 percent for 2-5 years; and 24.6 percent for more than five years.
>> 44 percent of practitioners have household incomes of $75,000 or more, with nearly a quarter (24 percent) showing household incomes of more than $100,000.
>> Yoga Journal, which was acquired by Active Interest Media group in September 2006, has shown representative increases in its growth. From July 2007 to December 2007, it saw an increase of 9.2 percent in paid subscriptions, with the first two issues of 2008 showing record ad revenue.
To take a look at a Feb. 18, 2005, SNEWS® story about the last Yoga in America study, "Yoga Journal study sees continued, albeit perhaps overly optimistic, growth," click here.
SNEWS® View: We have preached the message of yoga and other mind-body practices such as Pilates for a number of years; they are important and growing activities that no retailer should overlook. The growth also seen in yoga-inspired clothing among outdoor suppliers has gone up, as have the outdoor retailers realizing this is a large market seeking more who have or are considering adding it to their mix. Fitness retailers should also not miss the yoga bus. Mats, DVDs and a few items of apparel can be easily carried. Networking with yoga studios and clubs -- think discount coupons, for example -- can be a good way for retailers of any kind to get customers in the door too, and those are customers who may find other things to buy considering their broad interests in activity and wellness and their disposable income. Yoga is not going to go away and will be reaching a wide audience that participates for a lot of different reasons -- and all of them will need supplies.