There is an estimated 30 million people practicing Yoga worldwide today. It seems this number grows steadily year in year out without fail. We can establish two things from these type of statistics one is that Yoga is definitely not a fad and secondly Yoga is working – 30 million people can’t be wrong.
When did yoga ever get so popular? Was there ever a specific time when there was a giant lightbulb switching on moment for everyone? As much as we might scoff at Geri’s yoga video or pour scorn on Sting’s scorpion, as a yoga teacher I have to take my hat off to ALL the yoga celebrities past and present. These guys & gals have massively helped put yoga into the minds and consciousness of joe public and helped put bums on mats for us yoga teachers. There has been more than one particular tipping point in the past 10-15 years that has tipped yoga into the mainstream and the power of the celebrity yogi has most definitely helped.
It’s interesting how the subject of my small talk at parties in some way reflects this steady annual growth of people practicing yoga. When I started teaching yoga 15 or so years ago (yikes is it really that long ago) I would be faced with the usual ‘So what do you do’ predictable small talk inquiry in a I’m not really interested in what you do but I’m just asking anyway as that’s what people ask in these type of situations type of way. When I responded with ‘I’m a yoga teacher’ the enquirer’s body language would give their ‘this guy’s a freak’ poker face away and usually within less than 30 seconds they all of a sudden ‘needed to go to the little boy’s room’ and the conversation would be over.
So maybe rewind to about 10 years ago – at a different party (could even of been the same guy), same conversation except this time after I’ve told them I teach yoga the response is slightly different. Instead of retreating as quickly as possible I’m faced with ‘Ah Yoga, yep seen that in the paper – doesn’t that Russell Brand* bloke bang on about Yoga? I’ve always fancied having a go at that but don’t know where to start’. So after giving them a bit of yoga banter and the details to where and when I teach the classes the conversation ends with the guy promising he’ll be ‘there on Monday’. And yes of course he doesn’t show up.
And finally fast forward from 10 years ago to maybe last Christmas (or was it the Christmas before that) different party same (type of) conversation except this time the response is waaaayyyy different. ‘Yoga? Wow that’s great man. I do yoga twice a week now have been doing it for a few years. I’m doing the same yoga as Adam Levine’. And yadder yadder yadder so now the guy is like an expert in yoga he’s telling me how good it is and all about the mental and physical benefits – the tables have turned and it’s now ME who is making the fast get away.
A mate of mine recently finished a scientific study to prove that practicing Yoga IS actually good for you. The proof of the pudding is in the eating as they say (who exactly are ‘they’ I’m not sure) and the results don’t lie the outcome of the study being that a regular practice has both mental and physical benefits. Everyone who has a regular practice knows this already – it’s just more confirmation for those who might doubt cutting a yoga rug is the real deal man.
* So depending on how far we go back you can insert any of the names below into that particular conversation.
Robert Downey Junior
Matt Ryan teaches regularly for Yoga Manchester