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Yoga Journal Live: Yoga in America by the numbers

Before you market to the yoga consumer, find out who they are, where they live and why they practice.


SNEWS attended the Yoga Journal Live conference in Estes Park, Colo., Sept. 14-21, 2014, and throughout the next few weeks, we’ll bring you coverage from the event with news, education and trends from one of specialty retail’s fast-growing sectors.

Do a quick Google image search for “celebrities doing yoga” and up pops pictures of Jennifer Aniston, Adam Levine, Sting, Reese Witherspoon and many more in an assortment of poses. The rich and famous are incorporating Vinyasa Flow or Anusara into their exercise and meditation routines, and so are a lot of “regular people” — roughly 20.4 million in the U.S. alone, according to a 2013 GfK MRI study. With a 282 percent growth rate over the past 10 years, yoga is America’s fastest growing sport.

There’s no question: It’s a good time to be in the business of yoga, said Dave Smith, director of operations of the healthy living division at Active Interest Media (parent to SNEWS). His course, “A Study of the Growth of the Yoga Market,” was part of a daylong Business of Yoga workshop at the Yoga Journal Live event in Estes Park, Colo.

“People spend on what they’re passionate about, no matter what the economy does,” Smith said.

It’s not just current practitioners who are getting down with downward dog. Roughly 44 percent of Americans 18 years old and above express interest in yoga even though they don’t currently practice, meaning the potential for the market to grow further is considerable.

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In order to succeed at marketing, Smith said, it’s important to understand the demographics of both customers and potential customers. He offered more statistics from a 2013 GfK MRI study.

Caucasian women make up the largest percentage of yoga practitioners, although there’s no particular stand-out income level.

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Most of those who practice yoga consider themselves to be at an intermediate skill level, so it’s really beginners where most of the marketing for classes needs to be directed, Smith said. Those low-level classes are an “important consideration for how we market to the public and how we bring more people into this community,” he said.

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The majority of yogis has been practicing for 1 to 3 years, which is in line with a growing activity.

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Nearly half of participants began practicing when they were between 25 and 44 years of age. Roughly a quarter began practicing after the age of 45.

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Perhaps unsurprisingly, yoga is most popular on the coasts, although an audience member from the workshop hailing from Oklahoma City noted that the sport is growing in the central regions as well.

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Most do yoga at home, although since 2008 that percentage has decreased from 59 percent to 47 percent.

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When going to a class, yogis demand a facility that’s clean and convenient. They also want an option that seems like a good value. Having food, beverages and retail offerings at the studio does not rank highly among the priorities for most survey respondents.

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Vinyasa Flow is the most popular type of yoga, although 20 percent don’t know the name of their preferred form.

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Flexibility is the primary motivation for taking a first yoga class with roughly three-quarters of all participants beginning their practice for this reason.

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Studio owners should take these statistics to heart in order to create a successful business. Sure, some factors like geographic location and community demographics are set, but all owners have a say in how often the bathrooms get cleaned.

–Courtney Holden

To boost your business acumen in person, check out the next Yoga Journal Live conference, which will feature a similar Business of Yoga daylong workshop.

>> Hollywood, Fl., Nov. 13-17, 2014

>> San Francisco, Calif., Jan. 15-19, 2015