Home' Nova National : NOVA NATIONAL JANUARY 12 Contents The learning curve never ends for
yoga practitioners. Some would
say it carries over from lifetime
to lifetime. What motivates
people to try yoga, and why do so many
people continue to embrace some or all
aspects of a yoga lifestyle?
Certainly the most passionate about
yoga hail its virtues and remain dedicated,
often training to become yoga teachers
themselves. A survey back in 1998 found
that 15 million people in the US have tried
yoga and 7.4 million people currently
© NoVa jaNuary 2012
practise. More recently, the 2006 Yoga in
Australia survey set out to discover the
truth behind the phenomenon of yoga
classes and teaching here.
Researchers Stephen Penman and
Professor Marc Cohen of RMIT University
collaborated with Philip Stevens and Sue
Jackson on the large scale study to survey
yoga practitioners and teachers. They
noted that yoga is marginally more
popular than Australian Rules Football
(not as a spectator sport, but in terms
of participation). In 2003, some 311,000
people practised yoga. Interestingly, the
numbers dropped by 2006 as they did for
Aussie Rules, too, perhaps as a function
of a demographic shift, or maybe in
response to a cultural change such as
economic downturn or the rise of other
Most of the respondents started yoga
for physical reasons, with 70% stating
increased health and fitness, flexibility
and muscle tone as their motivation to
take up yoga. 58% took up yoga to help
cope with stress and anxiety. Initially,
29% saw yoga as a form of personal
development, but that number rose to
59% amongst practitioners when asked
why they continue yoga. The 70% who
were inspired by a fitness ideal evidently
found yoga provided the workout they
sought as between 82% and 86% gave
physical benefits as a reason to continue.
It seems that many people who start
yoga find their expectations are met or
When given the opportunity to
express their feelings about yoga freely,
many participants wrote about its life
changing, health enhancing, and spiritual
components. The survey was publicly
advertised and also sent out to yoga
schools around Australia in order to
sample the variety of styles, lineages
and ideas in the yoga community. The
findings assessed yoga students and
yoga teachers and comparisons were
drawn between the two groups. Some
1265 respondents identified themselves
as yoga teachers or teachers in training.
Yoga teachers tended to practise more
frequently (five or more times per week)
compared with students (1 - 2 times
per week) and had practised for around
seven years longer than their students on
average. It’s no surprise then that yoga is
big business and teacher training courses
have sprung up around the world over
the past decade.
Is there an ideal way to learn yoga or
is it a matter of personal choice? Trad-
itionally, yoga was taught one on one and
was likely to include more than just asana
training. In India, the guru-sisya (teacher-
student) relationship has an ancient
tradition and students understand and
embrace the inner transformation that
comes from years of discipline.
The Western approach is, of course,
quite different. Classes are held in ded-
icated yoga studios, ashrams, homes,
community centres, schools and gyms
where the teacher-student ratio varies
from 1 - 1 to 1- 40 or even more. Teachers
attempt to make a comfortable living, and
students flit from one style to another,
often changing teachers frequently, part-
icularly in the first few years of practice.
However, as the years go by serious
students of yoga tend to settle to a style
and teacher or teachers they respect.
Genuine transformation akin to that of the
ancients is still possible and experienced
by students worldwide.
Learning any new skill requires
openness. According to psychologist
Carol Dweck, author of Mindset, some
learners take a fixed mindset approach
so that if they aren’t immediately good
at something they won’t persist. On the
It comes as a surprise to find yoga in Australia is more popular than Aussie Rules!
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