Yoga as a practise is on the rise – there is no doubt about that. In 2016 a Yoga Journal report found that people practising yoga in the US had gone from 20.4 million in 2012 to 36.7 million in 2016. Imagine what the numbers are now in 2021! In the UK yoga was one of the most googled search terms in 2016 and it is estimated by the British Wheel that in 2020, 460,000 Brits were taking part in yoga classes every week. There are an estimated 10,000 yoga teachers in the UK and this number is growing. As the teacher training manager at the Shala, the kind of questions I ask myself are things like will the demand for yoga be met by the supply of teachers? Or vice versa? How will the pandemic change the way students practice and the teacher’s prospects of working in the yoga industry? In this article I explore what yoga may look like in the future, based upon trends we are seeing now both nationally and globally.
In recent years we have seen a much bigger focus in society on mental health. As a society we are more mindful of the need to look after our mental health and are more open to talking about it. There is increasing research on the non-dual relationship between mental and physical health with many now understanding that both are inextricably interconnected. Yoga is slowly but surely being understood in mainstream society as a tool for mental as well as physical wellbeing.
There is no doubt that the Coronovirus pandemic has and will take a further toll on mental health. An ONS study published 5th of June 2020 found that more than two thirds of adults in the UK report feeling somewhat or very worried about the effect of Covid-19 on their mental health. With women and young people being particularly effected. Google trends shows that in the last 5 years – yoga was most searched in the peak of the coronavirus pandemic in the UK in March 2020. This indicates that the job is no longer to convince people out there about yoga’s health benefits, but to be able to provide all that are looking with a practice that they feel is “for them”, an inclusive yoga for everybody, or should I say “every type of body”.
With so many people interested in yoga and so many people in need of yoga but not being able to access studios/community centres and gyms - how do we match demand with supply? How do we provide practitioners with these ancient wellbeing tools in a way that keeps them practising consistently and in a way that helps them – especially in these times of disconnection, instability and fear? At the Shala we have provided livestream virtual classes for our students for nearly a year now to continue to share yoga and keep our community together. We have seen many new people with the introduction of online classes as well as “old” students reappearing in our Virtual studio having moved away. We have also seen a change in practitioner habits with many switching to a blended way of practising, sometimes using our livestream online classes, practising in the studio when it has been open and accessing our library of online classes as well. Students have been surprised at how much they enjoy practising online, with benefits such as lack of travel time and no need for childcare meaning that they can practise more often and also more sporadically. Even once studios can operate in person again, there is no doubt online yoga will be here to stay. Practitioners may again change the way they practice once they can access “in-person”, but from our own research and seeing what is happening globally, online yoga won’t vanish once we are out of the pandemic.
As a studio we have also seen the rise in demand for slower more meditative forms of yoga such as yin yoga and yoga nidra. With so many different types of yoga now in mainstream awareness, we can see that practitioners are becoming empowered to mix up the style of yoga they practice. As a studio the more different forms of yoga we can offer our students, the more inclusive we are. As a teacher, broadening the tools you have to offer your students will no doubt broaden your horizons. We are seeing that teachers are including breathwork into classes, or Yin into Yang classes. The sky is the limit and no longer do teachers need to stick to teaching one form of yoga, as long as they have the skills to teach different types of yoga to provide a holistic and well-rounded experience for the student.
Well-being is going to be top of people’s priorities and in a nutshell, we are certain 2021 (and beyond) will bring more people to yoga. They will be looking for varied types of practice to suit their needs and moods and we think they will be looking to practice how they want when they want. Our 300 hr Level 2 training matches this as a flexible, on demand training that lets the student take control of what they study, when and how. Students commit to a mandatory core training of 6 days and the rest of the hours can be accrued at a gradual pace from a broad selection of courses. As long as the training is completed in 5 years, students can gain certification through Yoga Alliance as a 500 hr RYT (Registered Yoga Teacher) by adding these hours onto their Yoga Alliance Accredited 200 hrs training.