Washington, Jun 21: While the world celebrated the first International Yoga Day today, over 20 million Americans have already been practicising the ancient Indian meditative exercise, fuelling the whopping USD 27 billion yoga industry in the country.
Years ago, when the US was first introduced to the 5,000- year-old Indian physical, mental and spiritual practice that aims to transform body and mind, more and more number of Americans have resorted to it for health benefits and no more confuse yoga with yogurt. [Live Updates: International Yoga Day]
A whopping 20.4 million people reportedly practice yoga in the US, a significant increase from the 15.8 million yoga practitioners in 2008.
The business of yoga is growing fast, too. Americans are spending over USD 11 billion a year on yoga classes and gear (pants, mats, bags, blocks), up 88 per cent from 2008, according to media reports.
With an increasing number of yoga practitioners comes an increasing number of places to practice. Bikram, Ashtanga and Vinyasa yoga studios can be found all across America, but are more concentrated in some states than others.
Alaska hosts the most yoga studios per capita out of every state in the US, despite its minuscule population, Huffington Post reported in March.
"Yoga is becoming an increasingly popular form of exercise in the US and it is imperative to systematically examine its health benefits, especially the mental health benefits that this unique mind-body form of activity may offer," said Edward McAuley, Illinois kinesiology and community health professor.
Many breweries have also joined the yoga bandwagon hosting 'happy hour events' where one can attend a yoga class and grab a beer at an attractive price.
Washington's Hellbender Brewing Company has launched a "Detox to Retox", a monthly summer series of yoga, tastings and discounts, while Capitol City Brewing Company offers "Asana & Ale" in Shirlington, Washington Post reported last week.
Yoga was first introduced to America by Swami Vivekananda who came to America in 1893 to address the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago.
Huffington Post in a January 2014 article traces the growth of yoga into a USD 27 billion industry to Sat Jivan Singh Khalsa, "a lawyer moonlighting as a Kundalini yoga teacher," who moved to New York to open a yoga studio in 1971.
It was a time, as Khalsa told the Post, when "people confused yoga and yogurt. They were both brand new and nobody knew what either of them were."
At that time, there were only a couple of yoga studios in New York. Today dozens of yoga variations can be found within a 1-mile radius of his studio.
"The love of yoga is out there and the time is right for yoga," Khalsa said. Last year in June, over 11,000 people preformed yoga at the busy Times Square in New York and stretched in the Sun to commemorate the summer solstice.
The UN adopted an India-led resolution declaring June 21 as 'International Day of Yoga' in December last year, less than three months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi proposed the idea.