Yoga’s unrivaled mind-body connection dates back over 5,000 years to India’s Indus Saraswati Valley. Today, millions of “yogis” worldwide practice this Western craft to build breathing control, ease into mindfulness, and enhance flexibility. But how many yoga teachers are there in the U.S., and what else should you know about this blossoming edge of the fitness industry?
There are over 100,000 yoga teachers in the U.S., 36 million Americans practicing every year (300 million worldwide), and 6,000 yoga studios from coast to coast. The four most popular yoga styles taught in studios include acro and wellness, and yoga instructors average $25/hour for group classes.
Yoga is one of the fastest-growing exercise types in America and regularly earns rave reviews by the American Osteopathic Association for its astounding mind-body benefits. To learn more about yoga (from both student’s and instructor’s perspectives), read on!
With national participation on the rise, more and more yogis earn official certifications to become Registered Yoga Teachers (RYT) through Yoga Alliance.
The United States boasts about 100,000 skilled yoga instructors from coast to coast, with 2,000 instructors joining the Canadian Yoga Alliance established in 2004. Interestingly, the yoga’s birthplace, India, is suffering a yoga teacher drought in recent years, short 200,000 instructors.
Turning your passion for this ancient practice into a full-time career requires people skills, not merely knowing the difference between tadasana and vrksasana. In the video below, you’ll learn what it takes to become a yoga master that’ll inspire students, both new and old:
The unaware assume that yoga is yoga, not realizing that there are several types. Some of the more popular yoga variants include karma (compassion), bhakti (divine love), jnana (wisdom), and raja (enlightenment). However, according to yogis surveyed, these earn rave reviews:
- Acro (24%)
- Wellness (24%)
- Power yoga (17%)
- Anusara yoga (14%)
- Bikram (10%)
The average yoga class at a studio will infuse many of these themes, allowing casual participants to get the whole experience.
Yoga isn’t always a “first choice” for fitness enthusiasts, but it’s certainly one of the most popular fitness trends in the United States. In 2015 alone, about 11% of all Americans (around 36.7 million people) participated in yoga, though this number predictably rose through 2020.
Even more exceptional is how these numbers had grown since 2008 when only 15.8 million Americans responded the same way and 2012 when 20.4 million Americans were yogis. In the past eight years alone, yoga participation in America saw an astounding 150% increase.
With over 36 million Americans practicing yoga regularly, it’s no surprise that there are so many schools spanning the East and West Coasts. As of 2020, Yoga Alliance reported that there were over 7,000 Registered Yoga Schools (RYS) in the U.S.
However, not all proud yogis spend $20 per session at their local studios. Research shows that most yoga practitioners use their homes as makeshift studios (65%), though gyms (48%) and yoga boutiques (45%) remain popular. Mobile apps like Glo, Peloton Digital, and Pocket Yoga make a fully-custom at-home yoga session easier than ever.
Teaching yoga to appreciative newcomers sounds like an incredible career switch for dedicated enthusiasts planning to share their passion, but how does the industry pay its instructors? According to ZipRecruiter, the average yoga teacher salary in America ranges from $64,306 in Massachusetts to a strikingly lower $46,243 in Florida.
The average RYT will pocket $24.93 per hour, though this near-peak hourly salary typically arrives after 5-9 years of industry experience. Additionally, most yoga instructors (67%) are in the studio fewer than ten hours per week, meaning a full-time teaching position is a rarity.
About 51% of all Americans admit to exercising three or more times per week. Of all yoga practitioners surveyed, about 37% of them will visit the studio multiple times per week (most opting for 2-3 weekly yoga sessions). By the end of the week, about 89% of all participants will average 1-5 hours of yoga daily, with morning sessions being the preferred time frame (34%).
Yoga is a stereotypically female-dominated industry, which is curious given yoga’s early history. During the 20th-century, the unofficial “father of yoga,” T. Krishnamacharya, outright banned women from participating in his classes. As of 2016, about 72% of yoga practitioners are women, down 10.2% since 2012.
The jury is still out on the “why?” However, many suggest that the lack of competition and cliche “feminine” physiques seen in its female participants frightens burly men eyeing a more macho body and intimidating persona.
The average group yoga class comes with a $10 to $20 price tag, but that doesn’t indicate a struggling industry by any means. Since 2012, the yoga industry’s revenue soared a whopping 165%, translating to a $4.6 billion annual increase — climbing from $7 billion to $11.6 billion.
It’s not just yoga classes that are bolstering this “booming” industry. Between workshops, yoga equipment, and classes, the average yoga practitioner may spend $62,640 on this hobby during their lives. Of the more committed yogis, most find $40 to be a reasonable price, and nearly one in ten would spend $100 for an unforgettable yoga session.
Yoga’s intentional focus on the coveted mind-body connection doesn’t only provide temporary emotional relief during a 60-minute session. Other reported benefits outside of the studio’s four walls include better sleep (59%), motivation to eat better (43%), reducing cigarette smoking (25%), and cutting alcohol consumption (12%).
Health experts globally across nearly every specialty suggest yoga for patients with arthritis and stiff joints, osteoporosis, heart disease, poor posture, or obesity.
Yoga’s flexibility, core strength, balance, and joint-easing benefits are challenging to deny, but when asked about their top six reasons for joining the yoga community, respondents said:
- Tension release (54%)
- Feeling mentally and physically stronger (52%)
- Mood improvement (43%)
- Alone time (27%)
- Less loneliness (21%)
- Distancing from technology (20%)
Because of the practice’s nearly-unrivaled mental health benefits, health experts now recommend the activity for those suffering from anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other issues.
Magazine ads and Instagram photos might convince you that the average yoga practitioner is a 20-something Millennial, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. While most yogis are young adults aged 18-44 (62.8%), the precise age breakdown in 2002 was more evenly-distributed:
% of Participants
A shocking 44.8% of yoga practitioners label themselves as yoga “newcomers,” with another 55.2% classifying themselves as either intermediate or advanced yogis. Experience-wise, just 26% of yoga studio attendees began their exquisite yoga journey more than five years ago.
Most yoga practitioners will only experience an authentic yoga retreat in their imaginations or via YouTube videos. Of the 8% of yogis who will attend a week-long, life-changing retreat, the most requested yoga retreat locations are:
In keeping with the all-natural, mind-body theme, many yoga retreats offer vegan dishes, on-site saunas, scenic hiking trails, and hot springs.
The COVID-19 pandemic closed studios and gyms across the country indefinitely, with many Americans wondering how they’d remain fit while quarantined. If anything, the pandemic only boosted yoga’s national popularity in the States, with yoga equipment sales (mats, blocks, balls) skyrocketing by 154% since COVID-19’s arrival.
Yoga and fitness apps also saw a substantial spike as yoga studios shut their doors. For example, the MindBody app increased daily users to 23% (up from 5%), with pre-recorded workout videos (70%) and live-streamed workouts (75%) being the most popular alternatives.
Though America’s yoga interest is greater than it’s ever been, yoga’s old-school style has caused it to plummet on the American College of Sports Medicine fitness trends list, as of late. Once ranked #7 for two consecutive years (2018 and 2019), yoga now sits at #14, sandwiched between “outdoor activities” and “licensure for fitness professionals.”
According to the ACSM, 2020’s top-five fitness trends were:
- Wearable technology
- High-intensity interval training (HIIT)
- Group training
- Training with free weights
- Personal training
However, yoga’s rapidly-dropping “trendy” status doesn’t equate to the national interest in the practice or attending a studio session.
Intriguingly, yoga’s U.S. introduction didn’t involve Indian-born yoga instructors but rather was weaved into American pop culture after Indian immigrants began hosting classes in the 20s. Just four decades later, in the 1960s, yoga became a facet of both the “hippie” and “new age” movements, focusing on self-betterment, peace, love, and positivity.
Twentieth-century celebrities like Charlie Chaplin ignited the national discussion on yoga, but its true “call to fame” resulted when the VHS and DVD markets took the media by storm. These at-home yoga tapes guided the industry’s digital growth, ultimately leading to YouTube clips.
Related article: When Did Yoga Start in the US?
In the century since arriving in the States, yoga has become one of the most well-known fitness trends, with over 90% of Americans admitting to knowing about the practice. About 34% (or 80 million) Americans intend to visit a yoga studio within the next 12 months for their first-ever group-led session. Another 15% participated in an online or in-person class in the last half-year.
While most yoga practitioners visit the studio at least twice a week, the community’s common theme is all-around health and wellness. To remain agile, strong, and graceful outside of yoga school, yogis participate in these activities to fend off muscle imbalance and injury:
These activities complement yoga’s skills, movements, and principles quite nicely while also shredding calories and breaking a satisfying sweat.
Yoga’s audience isn’t only svelte young women looking to tone their figures. Brawny professional athletes like the 7’1″ former Lakers’ legend Shaquille O’Neal, Super Bowl XLV MVP Aaron Rodgers, and four-time NBA champion LeBron James are all self-proclaimed yogis. Yoga’s flexibility, balance, and core strength benefits translate seamlessly to the court and turf.
This 5,000-year-old craft is also a staple among the Hollywood elites. Red carpet stars like Lea Michele, Eva Longoria, Miley Cyrus, Kaley Cuoco, and Jennifer Aniston have all snapped photos mid-pose.
While yoga won’t be everyone’s forte, it fits into the mindset: “I’ll try anything once, twice if I like it, three times to make sure.” If you’re embarrassed to attempt Bakasana or Virabhadrasana II alongside tried-and-true yogis, don’t panic! Practice the basics at home with an app or while following along with a beginner-level video.
Once you build confidence, balance, flexibility, and strength, you can join the other 36 million Americans practicing this millenniums-old art. You can also follow the dedicated yogi pathway by attending a yoga retreat or earning yoga teacher credentials to share the craft with curious newcomers.
- American Osteopathic Association: Benefits of Yoga
- Yoga Alliance: About Us
- Canadian Yogic Alliance: Home Page
- News18: Yoga Instructors In India Are Short By 3 lakh In Numbers : Assocham
- Statista: Popular types of yoga in US 2016
- Human Kinetics: The Four Primary Types of Yoga
- Statista: US yoga participation 2012-2020
- Yoga Alliance: 2016 Yoga in America Study Conducted by Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance Reveals Growth and Benefits of the Practice
- ZipRecruiter: Q: What Is the Average Yoga Instructor Salary by State in 2021?
- Statista: How often people do yoga in the US 2016
- Yoga Journal: New Study Finds More Than 20 Million Yogis in U.S.
- Statista: US yoga industry revenue 2012-2020
- NIH: Yoga: What You Need To Know
- Statista: Share of yoga and Pilates practitioners in the U.S. 2018
- ResearchGate: Who practices yoga? A systematic review of demographic, health-related, and psychosocial factors associated with yoga practice
- Yoga Journal: Best Yoga Retreats and Travel Spots Around the World
- MindBody Online: Virtual Workout Trends During Shelter-at-home
- LWW: Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2020
- Harvard Health Publishing: New survey reveals the rapid rise of yoga — and why some people still haven’t tried it
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