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 ?