Recently, at work I came across an article discussing the recent profit margins of Lululemon Athletica, an upscale yoga apparel company. Last year, Luluemon gained notariety when its store managers required women to prove that the yoga pants they had bought were too see-through. When these customers returned the pants to the store, they reportedly had to don the pants and show their derrieres to demonstrate just how see-through the fabric was to receive a refund. This apparent lapse in managerial judgment likely led to a decrease in Lululemon's store foot traffic the following year.
Nevertheless, Lulemon's sales have remained healthy and its profit margins strong. This, the article postulated, can be partly explained by our nation's "obsession" with yoga. According to the most recent "Yoga in America" study conducted by the Harris Interactive Bureau, the number of Americans who practice yoga rose 29 percent to 20.4 million in 2012 (which equates to 8.7 percent of U.S. adults) from 15.8 million in 2008. In addition, yoga practitioners spend $10.3 billion a year on classes and products, including equipment, clothing, vacations, and media, almost double the $5.7 billion spent in 2008.
Impressive. Yet, I wonder how the survey defined yoga "practice." Although it is encouraging to note the substantial rise in people who say they pratice yoga, I am a bit skeptical about what those numbers really mean.
According to the study, 38.4 percent of the practitioners have practiced yoga for one year or less; 28.9 percent have practiced for one to three years, and 32.7 percent have practiced three years or more. Other data reported concerned gender (82.2 percent of yoga practitioners are women and 17.8 percent are men) and level of practice (44.8 percent consider themselves beginners; 39.6 percent consider themselves intermediate, and 15.6 percent consider themselves expert/advanced).
The survey also asked for the major reasons for beginning yoga and the responses were: flexibility (78.3 percent), general conditioning (62.2 percent), stress relief (59.6 percent), improve overall health (58.5 percent) and physical fitness (55.1 percent).
As I have often stated, my experience with yoga has taught me that daily practice for at least 20-30 minutes is essential for gaining the maximum benefits listed above from yoga. On the rare occasion that I miss two days in a row of practice, I feel an immediate difference in my body. I am stiffer and less energetic.
Granted, going to a 60-90 minute class once or twice a week is helpful and definitely better than not doing yoga at all. However, I am acquainted with people who do this and I do not see them fully reaping the rewards yoga can bring. Just as people who say they jog or swim for exercise - how often they do so and for what length of time is more significant in determining if they are an actual runner or swimmer.
Consequently, I would like to see the next "Yoga in America" study also ask how often and how much time every week the yoga practitioners actually practice. Assuming they tell the truth, that would be a more meaningful gauge of how many Americans are truly doing yoga, in my not always humble opinion.
Yours for doing daily yoga for maximum gain,
Laura Venecia Rodriguez, the Beginner's Yoga at Home Coach