Over 82 percent of women practice yoga compared to men, who ranked at 17.8 percent. Business might be booming for yoga, but for traditionalists—American yoga is too watered down. There are those who feel that the 5,000 year-old practice has become too commercialized, focusing on physical health or asana rather than the philosophical approach. Some have contested that modern yoga has been stripped of its Hindu roots upsetting critics. So much so, that the Hindu America Foundation created the “Take Back Yoga” campaign in 2010. “…our issue is that yoga has thrived, but Hinduism has lost control of the brand,” Dr. Aseem Shukla, the HAF co-founder told the press after the announcement.
Yoga used to be a private experience between the guru and the student. This has been lost as modern classes are packed with students, have a steep price tag, and offer little spiritual depth. There’s no doubt about the health benefits of yoga. Yoga helps with insomnia, increases bone density, lowers the risk of heart disease and can lower blood pressure after years of practice.
A study conducted by Yoga Journal in 2012 found that 20.4 million people practice yoga, while 44.4 percent of Americans consider themselves to be interested in yoga. On a spiritual note, anyone can use meditation of yoga to pray, and shouldn’t be limited to one religion. People want to feel that there’s something much larger than themselves, or Americans are desperate to try anything to feel better, yoga or not.
Practicing yoga in the US continues to gain ground, but does it make us more spiritual? It depends on the motivation of the individual. Regardless, we can agree that there is hard evidence that yoga has health benefits. Whether the yoga spurt makes us more spiritual has yet to be observed.