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Old 07-26-2011, 10:18 PM   #1
yogitobi
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Is Yoga for everyone?

You may wonder why I am asking myself this question. Several days ago, I participated in a small discussion with about 5 people. Individuals on one side of the debate, including myself, represented the view that theoretically and philosophically, Yoga is for and can be practiced by everyone. However, examining the current situation reveals that Yoga courses or classes are not accessible to everyone.

At first glance, the other party was of a different opinion, but by the end of the conversation, everyone was convinced that our viewpoint was correct. Reflecting upon the social classes from which people stem who are currently found in Yoga courses or classes indicates that Yoga students are at the very least, members of the middle class.
Below, I offer additional information from a report by the Yoga industry. (Yes, there is a Yoga industry!)

Already in December 2007, The Walrus Magazine reported that Yoga has become an $18 billion industry, a point that is also discussed in the documentary Yoga, Inc., which you can watch for free (you can easily find it by google search).

In order to support my opinion and subjective impression that Yoga is not accessible to everyone, I conducted a small study regarding Yoga?s target group by visiting Yoga Journal online yogajournal.com, a leading Web site in the Yoga business. As market studies are easily performed with the assistance of the Web site "quantcast.com", I simply typed in yogajournal.com and obtained some rather interesting, and I would say, rather representative, results of Yoga?s current target group.

According to quantcast, 40% of Yoga ?consumers? are between 35 and 49 years of age, and 30% are over 50 years old. 75% do not have children, and more than 60% have an income of more than $60,000 per year. More than 50% have earned a college or university degree, and 86% are Caucasian.

Comparing the income data with household income percentages in the United States, 18.27% of people in the United Sates have an income of $50,000 to $75,000. These figures indicate that the Yoga industry is only accessible to approximately 18% of the population.

I believe that this data can more or less be applied to other countries of the world as well.

The situation becomes even more interesting if the current Yoga business is compared with the ancient Yoga practice of India. In terms of access, not much has changed. In ancient India, only the higher casts, to which the Brahmans belonged, had access to yoga.

One major difference in today?s situation is that yoga can now also be practiced by women. In fact, in the Western world, more women practice yoga than men. Currently, Yoga classes are comprised, on average, of 70% women and 30% men. Most women practicing Yoga are between 35 and 49 years of age or over 51 years old. I would venture to guess that women of the middle and upper classes who are 35 years old and older begin Yoga for two main reasons, which separate them into two groups. One reason is wellness (among those between 35 and 49 years of age), and the other reason is to prevent physical illness (among those 51 years of age and older).

In the end, it does not matter why an individual initially begins Yoga, as once he or she enters the world of Yoga, his or her perspective changes. Nonetheless, I believe there is a tendency to remain within a wellness context, which is reflective of the plethora of products currently available. Simply following what is being twittered with respect to the keyword ?yoga? reveals the current state of affairs, as not a minute passes, in which some yoga mat or wellness product or retreat is not offered.
So now we come to my final question, namely, is Yoga compatible with commerce? Or perhaps, I should instead ask, can Western yoga survive without commerce? I believe not.
This trend or dynamic may be explained by the notion of ?Kali Yuga,? which has its origin in Yoga Philosophy. Kali Yuga, which literally means ?age of (the male demon)Kali? or ?age of vice,? is the last of the four stages through which the world proceeds as part of the cycle of yugas described in the Indian scriptures. Hindus and Sikhs believe that human civilization degenerates spiritually during the Kali Yuga, which is referred to as the Dark Age, as people in this time period are as far removed as possible from God.

I believe that the commercial exploitation of Yoga is simply a natural development of the current Kali Yuga time and is thus nothing to worry about, as it will naturally also come to an end.

After viewing the documentary Yoga, Inc. and reading this article, what are your thoughts regarding the current situation in Western Yoga ?
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Old 07-26-2011, 11:35 PM   #2
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Provocative, I'll give you that.

But since you are clearly taking a left brain approach to the discourse, I'll play along in this way...

Your premise has failed to define "yoga" and therefore that which falls after it is impossible to logically engage.

Define terms and you'll likely get more out of me.

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Old 07-26-2011, 11:54 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yogitobi View Post
what are your thoughts regarding the current situation in Western Yoga ?
My initial thoughts are that not everything is for everyone, and that it's all good. I will give your question more thought and respond further.

Thanks for the post.
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Old 07-28-2011, 03:50 AM   #4
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Hi yogitobi,

Quote:
In order to support my opinion and subjective impression that Yoga is not accessible to everyone, I conducted a small study regarding Yoga’s target group by visiting Yoga Journal online yogajournal.com, a leading Web site in the Yoga business. As market studies are easily performed with the assistance of the Web site "quantcast.com", I simply typed in yogajournal.com and obtained some rather interesting, and I would say, rather representative, results of Yoga’s current target group.

According to quantcast, 40% of Yoga “consumers” are between 35 and 49 years of age, and 30% are over 50 years old. 75% do not have children, and more than 60% have an income of more than $60,000 per year. More than 50% have earned a college or university degree, and 86% are Caucasian.

Comparing the income data with household income percentages in the United States, 18.27% of people in the United Sates have an income of $50,000 to $75,000. These figures indicate that the Yoga industry is only accessible to approximately 18% of the population.
I wouldn't call those results representative of yoga practitioners, that is a subset of people who visit yogajournal.com visible to quantcast.com. I have been practicing yoga for more than a decade and I didn't even know about that website. I do agree on some points like having more women than men in yoga classes but overall it looks to me that your focus is more on the yoga industry, not on Western Yoga as InnerAthlete kind of mentioned.

Also you assert that Western yoga can't survive without commerce but I don't think there was any yoga industry allowing yoga to grow when it first came to Western countries.
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Old 07-28-2011, 07:17 AM   #5
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veeeeeery interesting, but i think the key here is that most yogi's dont buy yoga journal, yogaat its core is about being present, if ppl what to learn more about yoga they get themselves to a class or book themselves into a retreat - they dont buy yoga journal. people who buy mags are probably teachers, or people with a passion for yoga and want something to keep their practice fresh - the magazines arnt that cheap and most of my yogi friends are totally skint. yoga is about present moment awareness and this is something you need to do whether you do asana, meditation or anything else. i found the results to be very shocking, but when you put it into perspective the whole yogi community arnt that hot in the press - except maybe bikram haha!
i teach yoga to surfers at surf berbere yoga - surfing offers an environment where some people are into yoga and some people arnt and this is what i love about it! the practice of yoga is really about being present, creating a healthier happier you,
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Old 07-28-2011, 07:35 AM   #6
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whats your thoughts on where the yoga 'industry' is heading?
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Old 07-28-2011, 08:18 AM   #7
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My opinion and subjective impression that Yoga is not accessible to everyone.
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Old 07-28-2011, 08:22 AM   #8
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I had the same thought as Gordon while reading the post but I’ll make an assumption for discussions sake; comparing the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali to the contemporary (western, eastern, northern and southern) watered down commercialized version is not even possible since it has separated itself beyond recognition. I do have interest in understanding the Kali Yuga phenomenon but have yet to do in-depth research of the science behind it therefore I’m not sure validity of the claims, it may simply be Hindu dogma? Some of the thought behind tantra practice is that desperate times call for desperate measures.
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Old 07-28-2011, 09:11 AM   #9
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ACCESSIBLE to all?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marina_J View Post
My opinion and subjective impression that Yoga is not accessible to everyone.
i see your point marina but in what way do you mean this? i guess it goes to what yoga IS anyway. i teach in morocco at surf berbere yoga and here most moroccan people dont know what yoga is at all!!! - i guess that makes it not accessible!! haha! but if you put yoga into the framework (forgive me) as a practice of being a healthier, happier person, THEN it IS accessible to us all, and even within our nature!

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Old 07-29-2011, 09:47 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yogitobi View Post
I believe that the commercial exploitation of Yoga is simply a natural development of the current Kali Yuga time and is thus nothing to worry about, as it will naturally also come to an end.
This might be true if it were the first time in human history yoga was exploited for gain, and by that I do not only mean "commercial," but personal gain of any kind: power. It's happened before and it's happening again today.

Let's not forget why The Yoga Sutras were compiled in the first place: personal exploitation of yoga led to contradictions of form, undermining the desired results. Not too unlike what we have today, but alas, that was not a "natural development" of the Kali Yuga.

As far as access goes, as we all know, yoga is heavily lifestyle dependent. That might mean that more educated, middle-class, empty nesters are taking yoga classes, but not because of their socioeconomic status, rather they are people who have the time. Having access means you can afford the time.

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Old 07-29-2011, 10:47 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by siva View Post
As far as access goes, as we all know, yoga is heavily lifestyle dependent. That might mean that more educated, middle-class, empty nesters are taking yoga classes, but not because of their socioeconomic status, rather they are people who have the time. Having access means you can afford the time.

siva
I agree. Individuals need time if they wish to fully dive into yoga. It takes more than going to the gym a couple times a week for a quick yoga class.
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Old 09-25-2011, 01:45 AM   #12
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Yoga is accessible to everyone.

Yoga culture is not, nor is it intended to be.

I quite like yoga... and don't really give a damn about yoga culture.
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Old 09-25-2011, 11:25 AM   #13
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I quite like yoga... and don't really give a damn about yoga culture.
I am sure 'yoga culture' is a vague term, means many things to many people. If the poster is pointing out to the culture of 'Yoga industry', one agrees with it. But there have been similar statements made elsewhere implying an acceptance of Yoga the 'fitness' version and not giving a damn to the philosophy or where it comes from. Hardly a year or two into some Yoga practice and some of them even want to do Yoga's fusion with other 'fitness' methods.

When someone says this proudly he/she does not even realize that there is any problem there. In a society where there is freedom of every kind - from speech to behavior - many times freedom's unattractive twin "responsibility" is forgotten. So, if this thread implies that Yoga is not for everyone, I wish it were like that.

Yoga is received here in the West for its physical benefits. That has made it compete with (and often co-exist with) pilates, massage and what you have. Then the freedom of enterprise walked in and several "styles" emerged. Yoga having no single body to regulate and its IP rights non-existent, the more enterprising zealots found their limited knowledge and experience good enough to be branded. Once branded, its marketing followed and a need for presenting the brand as the 'only real' Yoga. This not only made Yoga inaccessible to many for the costs but fooled them in believing that there is no other way.

Having said that there is a silver lining. Yoga is being re-discovered in the West and ironically in the East as well. If in the West, practice of asana and pranayama is the face of Yoga, in the East Yoga philosophy is ingrained in the cultural fabric. But, West is slowly realizing how philosophy and the spiritual side of Yoga substantiates its practice, East is coming out of the complacency of inheriting the philosophy and realizing that real Yoga is its practice.

Between the two, West is more fortunate. If Yoga is quickly unshackled from commercialization and the same spirit of enquiry and discipline that was invested in asana, is awarded to the philosophy they stand to reach the goal a bit faster. Another advantage is that they can approach the philosophy with a clean slate, provided rational thinking styles don't inhibit their approach to a holistic thought. I see this as a great promise.

By the way, "Yuga" belongs to ancient Hindu method of counting time (not to Yoga philosophy) and each yuga is hundreds of thousands of years long. There are any number of competing interpretations, rooted mostly in mythology and nobody is sure of whether we are in Kali Yuga or past it. Also, in the Indian philosophical traditions, destruction of anything is an auspicious forerunner of a new arrival. So, everything is not bad about Kali Yuga. And it hardly matters to us, the mortals, with a tiny 75-year lifespan!
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Old 09-27-2011, 07:58 AM   #14
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Thanks Suhas Tambe, and yes I basically intended "yoga culture" to mean "Yoga industry". I am pleased that you clarified this.

I should have been more clear as my own direct training has been and will continue next month in India where I quite enjoy the "yoga culture" from the moral imperatives through asana & pranayama to the philosophy and ultimate goals of these initial limbs
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Old 09-27-2011, 10:38 AM   #15
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I'd like to pop back in to this thread and inquire exactly where is the OP in all this?
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Old 09-27-2011, 04:11 PM   #16
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Interesting topic. I would argue that yoga is for everyone.

You don't need to attend classes to practice yoga. All you need is access to books or the internet to at least get a taste of yoga. But you don't necessarily need those either. You can also be introduced to yoga through a friend, teacher, or loved one. In fact, I would argue that you don't even need to know the word yoga to have an experience of it.

There are people teaching yoga for free around the globe. In my community, we have a donation based yoga studio that offers 7 classes per day. This includes meditation classes, restorative yoga, and therapeutic yoga in addition to the expected vinyasa etc. Many people attend these classes every day without paying a penny. The founder of this studio plans to open more of these studios and eventually have them all over the world.

Perhaps in this very moment, not everyone has access to yoga. But theoretically, yes. Any person could either have access to a class, or meet a person, or come across a book, or simply have a moment in nature where the mystery opens to them.
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Old 09-28-2011, 08:12 PM   #17
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Agreed...

Quote:
Originally Posted by InnerAthlete View Post
Provocative, I'll give you that.

But since you are clearly taking a left brain approach to the discourse, I'll play along in this way...

Your premise has failed to define "yoga" and therefore that which falls after it is impossible to logically engage.

Define terms and you'll likely get more out of me.

gordon
Yoga is very different in the US versus abroad. Yoga can mean so many things and has so many approaches that at this point, yoga is not really yoga as intended by its originators. That's not a bad thing. It's just that you have to be more specific now. For example...

Is Bikram Yoga for everybody?

My answer would be no if that was the question
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Old 10-02-2011, 12:03 AM   #18
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No. Yoga is not for everyone. Only patient people can truly practice yoga, because it takes patience to stay in one position for several minutes at a time.
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Old 10-02-2011, 06:31 PM   #19
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Nothing drives people as much as opportunity to make money. (by the way first ones were Indian fakirs who showed pretzel yoga poses for money to Western tourists).
One can focus on negative sides of commercialization of yoga...I used to think that this is completely immoral to use yoga for making money, and I still teach free classes, volunteer and contribute my time to those who need it and cant pay.

I just can add that because of commercialization of yoga it became so widespread. It became well known and accessible for millions and it has transformed (in a good way) lives of many people. And it is one's own business how much he would like to spend on yoga lifestyle . Personally, I believe and preach about ascetic yoga... but this is not something that would thrive in the American culture.
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Old 10-04-2011, 08:02 AM   #20
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@ Yogitobi

Your study is only looking at one sub-set of yoga culture within the US yoga community, it is therefore in my opinion not a valid yoga study of 'the west'. The world is a big place and yoga is not in general terms exploited everywhere.

Btw, the concept of 'west' and 'east' are largely interchangeable, watch/ read any non-American news and you will realise this very quickly.
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Old 10-05-2011, 08:01 AM   #21
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Since the real meaning of yoga is unity, yoga should be for everyone. Most of all, people make the mistake of thinking yoga is an exercise. But Patanjali writes in the Yogasutras, that yoga is a state of mind. If it is a state of mind, than it could be practiced by anyone, with disregard of culture, religion, sex, age etc.

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Old 10-26-2012, 09:40 AM   #22
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hi
you have defined very well and all content is written very informative and its quite impressive... thanks
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