The Evolution of Yoga in the United States From Counterculture to Mainstream

Yoga is an ancient practice that has been in existence for more than 5,000 years. It originated in India and was introduced to the United States in the late 1800s. Today, yoga has become a popular activity in the United States, with millions of people practicing it for physical and mental health benefits. In this article, we will explore the history of yoga in the United States and how it has evolved over the years.

Yoga’s Arrival in the United States

The first person to introduce yoga to the United States was Swami Vivekananda, a Hindu monk who came to the United States in 1893 to attend the World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago. His lectures on yoga and Hinduism gained widespread attention and sparked interest in yoga among Americans.

After Swami Vivekananda, other Indian yoga masters, such as Paramahansa Yogananda and B.K.S. Iyengar, came to the United States and popularized the practice. However, yoga was still not widely accepted and was mainly practiced by a small group of enthusiasts.

Yoga’s Popularity in the 1960s and 1970s

The popularity of yoga began to grow in the 1960s and 1970s, as part of the counterculture movement. Young Americans began to embrace yoga as a way to rebel against the traditional values of their parents. The Beatles’ trip to India and their association with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi also helped to popularize yoga among their fans.

At this time, yoga was still primarily practiced by a small group of people in the United States, but the counterculture movement helped to make it more mainstream. In 1969, the first yoga studio in the United States was opened in Los Angeles by a man named Bikram Choudhury. Choudhury’s “Bikram Yoga” became popular and was soon practiced in studios across the country.

Yoga’s Expansion in the 1980s and 1990s

In the 1980s and 1990s, yoga continued to expand in the United States. More and more people began to embrace yoga as a way to relieve stress and improve their physical health. Yoga classes were offered in health clubs and community centers, making it more accessible to the general public.

During this time, different types of yoga, such as Ashtanga, Iyengar, and Vinyasa, gained popularity in the United States. Yoga conferences and festivals also became more common, and yoga teachers from India and other parts of the world began to visit the United States to teach and share their knowledge.

Yoga’s Present Day Popularity

Today, yoga is more popular than ever in the United States. According to a 2016 Yoga in America Study conducted by Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance, there are 36.7 million yoga practitioners in the United States, and yoga is a $16 billion industry.

Yoga is now offered in a variety of settings, including gyms, yoga studios, community centers, and even workplaces. There are also many online resources available for people to practice yoga at home. Yoga is no longer seen as a counterculture activity but has become a mainstream way for people to improve their physical and mental health.

Yoga has come a long way in the United States since its introduction in the late 1800s. From a small group of enthusiasts to a mainstream industry, yoga has become a popular way for Americans to improve their physical and mental health. As the popularity of yoga continues to grow, it is important to remember and honor its ancient roots and the traditions from which it originated.


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