Yoga: U.S. Overview

Yoga is increasing at a rapid rate in the United States. Once thought of as “magical” practice, yoga has become an important part of the American fitness industry. Over the past five years, the popularity of yoga in the U.S. has grown by a CAGR of 8.45%. More statistics on yoga can be found below.

History of Yoga

  • Experts trace the origins of yoga in the US back to a large event in Chicago that was led by Swami Vivekananda. This event was the 1893 World’s Parliament of Religions.
  • Vivekananda’s visit to that event was a success and on two separate U.S. tours started branches of the Ramakrishna Mission called Vedanta Societies. During his tours, he presented yoga to Americans as a matter of “philosophy, psychology, and self-improvement”.
  • At the time, Americans in general didn’t understand the concept much, attributing the practice as “magic”. This may be due to the popular culture of the time when Indian men were portrayed as those who wore turbans and had “supernatural powers”.
  • In the early 1900s, posture-based yoga started to become popular, where Indian traditions were mixed with Western traditions. One of the men that led this movement was Swami Kuvalayananda.
  • In the U.S., Vivekananda was a huge proponent of hatha yoga. According to Suzanne Newcombe, who lectures in Religious Studies at the Open University in the UK, Vivekananda was important in helping the West understand Indian religiosity. However, it is reported that he secretly didn’t believe in it.
  • By the 1920s and 30s, Indian immigration increased to the United States. They expected to be able to work and become citizens. However, the Supreme Court in the “United States vs. Bhagat Singh” case revoked the citizenship of many Indian Americans claiming that Indian Americans can’t assimilate as “white” immigrants can.
  • Now without an ability to work, these Indians had to remake themselves as mystic authorities that traveled around the U.S. and gave personal services and private classes. These authorities helped to revive the hatha yoga movement in the United States in the 1930s.
  • When the United States limited Indian immigration in 1924, many people in the U.S. started to travel to the East to participate in the mystic practices they wanted to learn more of.
  • The “magical” aspects of yoga started to wane by this time and started to incorporate the Western aspects of postures and physical exercises.
  • The movement continued to grow in the 1960s when the New Age movement and counterculture started to grow. When VHS was introduced, it became mainstream in people’s homes as people followed fitness videos that featured yoga.


  • In 2016, there were 36 million yoga practitioners in the United States, according to a study by Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance in partnership with Ipsos Public Affairs. It is estimated that this year the number of practitioners grew to 55 million yoga practitioners in the U.S. That is a CAGR of 8.45% [((55.05 / 36.7) ^ 0.2) – 1].
Yoga: U.S. Overview
Yoga Types
Glenn is the Lead Operations Research Analyst at The Digital Momentum with experience in research, statistical data analysis and interview techniques. A holder of degree in Economics. A true specialist in quantitative and qualitative research.

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