Study: For Most, Yoga Starts as Exercise, Ends in Spirituality

yoga sunsetA new study conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that the vast majority of yoga students and teachers take up yoga primarily for exercise and stress relief, but change their reasons later with most saying the spirituality was what kept them engaged in the practice.

The study involved 360 yoga students and 156 yoga teachers who were surveyed about their motives for adoptiing and maintaining their yoga practice.

“Both students and teachers adopted yoga practice primarily for exercise and stress relief, but reported many other reasons, including flexibility, getting into shape, and depression/anxiety relief,” the report found.

However, over 62 percent of students and 85 percent of teachers reported having changed their primary reason for practicing.

“ . . . (F)or both, the top changed primary reason was spirituality. Findings suggest that most initiate yoga practice for exercise and stress relief, but for many, spirituality becomes their primary reason for maintaining practice.”

This is not surprising in a country where more and more people are declaring themselves to be unaffiliated with mainstream religion, referring to themselves as “spiritual” rather than “religious”. As this article confirms, a movement away from the “just exercise” rationale of yoga into its more spiritual aspects has been underway for some time in this country.

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