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Yoga is one of the most popular forms of exercise in the world, and it’s become a global phenomenon over the past couple decades. While some countries’ popularity for yoga still remains fairly small, there are those where it is an integral part of everyday life. Yoga has become increasingly popular in recent years, with over 36 million people practicing it in the U.S. alone. According to the International Yoga Federation, about 300 million people practice globally! Are you curious about where yoga is the most popular in the world? Read on to discover yoga’s popularity by country.
Yoga participation in foreign countries
The ancient practice of yoga originated in India in the 5th century B.C.E., and has since spread throughout the world. It was first imported into Europe and the US around the end of the nineteenth century, when it was brought by Indian practitioners emigrating to new countries. You can now find meditation and hatha yoga classes worldwide, and the US alone now has over 6,000 studios in cities big and small. Furthermore, thousands of people travel to yoga retreats around the world to take their skills to another level and to qualify as certified yoga teachers. Bali, Ibiza, Thailand, and of course India itself, all have huge yoga tourism industries and they are growing bigger every year.
Popularity of yoga vs. other physical exercise
Yoga is a practice that has become increasingly popular in the United States, as well as the entire world. In fact, it’s the second most popular exercise in the U.S., particularly among women. So what’s the appeal? You can do yoga anywhere, and it’s not like running where you have to take the time to build up endurance to run a mile. Yoga is relatively easy to learn, and there are a wide variety of yoga classes to choose from. You can practice with a group or simply practice on your own. As can be seen from the trends in the graph below sourced from Google trends, yoga is the second most searched type of fitness in the world today. The graphic shows yoga’s global popularity from 2004 to 2020 compared to running, dancing, and cycling.
Yoga has been practiced for millennia, but it’s only in recent decades that it’s really become popular across the western world. In fact, it’s grown in popularity so much that now almost every town and city in the U.S. has a local yoga studio that you can attend for a weekly class. The same goes for Europe. With more and more people discovering the benefits of yoga for both mind and body, the number of people practicing has skyrocketed in the past ten years.
Did you know that statistics show that yoga is more popular in the Canada than the United States or India? But where exactly does yoga find the most fans, and what styles are most popular in different countries?
Here are the top 20 yoga countries according to Google trends:
- United States
- New Zealand
- Hong Kong
- United Kingdom
- United Arab Emirates
- South Africa
- Costa Rica
Where is yoga the most popular in the USA?
The cities with the highest number of yoga studios in the USA are San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles. After all, these three cities are the three largest in the country, as well as some of the most populous in the world. Their high concentration of yoga studios is for a variety of reasons, which include both the high cost of living in these cities and the high proportion of professionals in the workforce. A large number of studios does not necessarily equate to the popularity of yoga in the region.
Here are the top 10 U.S. yoga states according to Google trends:
- Rhode Island
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New York
Here are the top 10 U.S. yoga cities according to Google trends:
- San Francisco
- San Diego
- New York
Countries where yoga is banned
While many know that yoga is an ancient form of physical and mental exercise, many are surprised to learn that not everyone is a fan of the ancient practice. In some countries, it has been banned altogether, or at least in certain public places. The most common reason for banning yoga is because it comes from India, and there are fears that it could spread Hindu religion.
Muslims in several countries, including Indonesia, and Malaysia are officially banned from doing yoga by a fatwa, or religious decree. These Muslim-majority countries see yoga practice as a form of Hinduism and believe that it is an improper form of worship, contrary to the spiritual principles of Islam.
Russia announced an outright ban on yoga in 2015, which is referred to as a “pseudoscience” that “can erode people’s health and spiritual development.” The statement was issued by the Russian Ministry of Sport, Tourism and Youth Policy in response to a draft bill that would have yoga and other “esoteric” practices included in a list of activities considered “harmful to health.”
Several western churches and schools have also banned yoga due to the false belief that it is a religious practice.