Yoga is a spiritual and ascetic discipline, a part of which, includes breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific bodily postures. It is widely practiced for health and relaxation.
A new study by a California-based university has revealed that Americans associate yoga less as a spiritual practice, and more with medicine and fitness.
The study found that over 20 million people in the US practice yoga and spend $10.3 billion a year on yoga classes and products. Researchers think that the shift in the meanings is due to the changes in how yoga gurus are trained, market contests among different meanings and the distinct branding practices of small and big players in the market.
Study co-author Gokcen Coskuner-Balli, assistant professor at the Chapman University's Argyros School of Business and Economics, said, "Over the three decade analysis of the yoga market we found that it was decreasingly associated with the logic of spirituality and increasingly associated with the medical and fitness logic. Commercialization also emerged and yoga became increasingly commoditised with the rising coverage of yoga brands, gear, clothing, and retreats."
The researchers gathered data via archival sources, netnography, in-depth interviews and participant observations. They examined how the meaning of yoga transformed in the past three decades and found that the US yoga market density has been increasing with yoga enterprises rising from 14,058 to 26,506 and the number of employers increasing from 58,525 to 112,890 during the 2004-2013 period. Coskuner-Balli said, "What we discovered was that the US yoga market delineated itself not only in the different types of yoga that emerged, but also in the logic behind why people do yoga."
Sources trace the beginning of yoga in the US to Swami Vivekananda's speech representing Hinduism at the first World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893. The study pointed out that during the first half of the 20th century, yoga was construed mainly as a spiritual practice linked to mysticism, magic, and asceticism with religiophilosophical underpinnings and an emphasis on Raja yoga (the mental science) rather than Hatha yoga (physical yoga).
The study has been published in the Journal of Marketing