Yoga is more popular today than it has ever been; and Yoga classes and studios worldwide are brimming over with aspiring yogis. The image of the yoga-pants clad and yoga-mat laden fitness enthusiast is ubiquitous all over the world – from Bangalore to San Francisco; and Dubai to London or New York! Yoga teachers are growing in numbers as there seems to be an insatiable appetite for the Yogic way of life and all its trappings – exotic YTTC retreats, organic foods, green tea, et al!
In this blog-post I’ll explore the Top 7 Reasons Why People join a Yoga Class in the first place. There are of course many more but over a decade I’ve observed people usually fall into one, more or even all of these categories!
1) Fitness and Weight Loss: There are more women attending classes in Yoga studios than men; estimates put it at about a 4:1 ratio. This even though traditionally most Yogis were Men! And that is simply because Modern Yoga seems to stand primarily for Asana – and so Yoga classes are seen as a Fitness class. Most women would like to lose a little weight or tone their bodies and so Yoga seems to fit their need perfectly! From Ashtanga yoga, which in many ways was the world’s first yoga program that catered extensively to Fitness, to Bikram Hot Yoga and Bharat Thakur’s Artistic Yoga – all have helped thousands of women and men lose weight and tone up; where other traditional fitness regimens like the gyms were failing. The hormonal changes brought through Yogasanas helped people lose the extra kilos that the calorie-burning workouts could not alter.
2) Flexibilty: At the start of the modern Yoga boom, most people viewed Yoga as a flexibility drill. Whilst they continued to pursue their fitness programs at the gyms and through running; they went in once a week to the Yoga class to stretch their hamstrings and back. Flexibility is still a huge reason why people join a yoga class. That they often sign up for more than once a week class – eventually using Yogasanas to strengthen their bodies’ muscles and also to train their Cardio Vascular fitness is a testament to Yoga’s overall body conditioning capacity.
3) De-Stressing: If you thought that the Stress levels at the turn of the Millennium were unbearable and that it could not get any worse; well you were wrong! Corporates worldwide are putting the squeeze on their employees like never before – leading many to seek De-Stressing activities apart from the traditional Family time or going out with Friends. Yoga offers so much in terms of understanding the Body-Mind matrix that it’s overall effect is one of De-Stressing. Even the most avid weight-loss seeker appreciates the Shavasana at the end of the 60 or 90 minutes! And the feeling of ‘mindfulness’ that you leave the class with.
4) Healthy Lifestyle: Again, similar to those who seek out De-Stressing, but these people are looking fot the next level. It’s not just the reduction or elimination of stress but also the increasing of overall Health. Also, people who stick to the Yoga class are gradually interested in much more than just their Bodies – and begin to take a 360 view of their Life itself! That includes what they eat and so Organic foods come in to the picture. It includes an Environmental consciousness and so their Lifestyle is altered to incorporate more activities and products that are Healthy to them and the planet.
5) Therapeutic reasons: Yoga is a great method to help recuperate from Illness, as well as to prevent the onset of many Lifestyle related diseases – read Diabetes, High BP, chronic Hypertension and even Depression. Coupled with this are the pains that affect the musculo-skeletal system like backaches, slipped discs and other countless pains. Often doctors recommend patients to come in for yoga class. In fact, Iyengar Yoga is almost a therapeutic practice that patients as well as ‘normal’ people can benefit from.
6) Self-Development: Increasingly we find Yoga going back to its roots. It’s a slow process – but eventually people have begun to understand that the same humble yoga class which you go to sweat out in, carries the ingredients for a much more intense transformation – one that takes you all the way to Nirvana! People are seeking out yoga classes to get initiated into Meditation and its a great place to start. You will need a strong and healthy body as well as even breathing to help you sit still and calm in Meditation – so where better to train body, breath and mind that the neighbourhood yoga class!
7) And finally, the last reason that people come to yoga class – this is a new one that didn’t exist a decade back. Yoga has become a Cool thing to do! The world’s doing it, so there must be something to it. And with new-fangled modifications and associations such as Aerial or Acro yoga and SUP yoga, Yoga is managing to remain trendy! Thanks to the hipster yogis, we’re into Cool yoga!
Well, with such a broad array of reasons – reasons that cover all aspects of human needs – body, mind, soul as well as a need to fit in; Yoga has certainly managed to maintain its USP as one of the most profound yet practical explorations of what it means to be HUMAN! The world’s longest-running fad?? A lot more actually.
– Manish Pole (Yogi, Traveller & Story-teller. Founder, Total Yoga. @totalyoga)