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Glob Adv Health Med. 2013 Jan;2(1):44-9. doi: 10.7453/gahmj.2013.2.1.008.

Yoga in the Real World: Perceptions, Motivators, Barriers, and patterns of Use.

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Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, United States.
Boston Medical Center, United States.
Yoga Yoga, LLC, Austin, Texas, United States.
Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, United States.


in English, Chinese, Spanish


Yoga is a mind-body exercise practiced by nearly 16 million US adults. Clinical yoga research has yielded promising findings in physical and mental health outcomes. However, research in non-patient populations is limited. The purpose of this study is to survey a non-clinical population to better understand yoga use in a real-world setting.


This study used a pre-post test design in a convenience sample of adults registered for a 4-week beginner yoga program within a network of five yoga studios in Austin, Texas. Students were linked via e-mail to baseline and endpoint surveys. Analyses were descriptive.


Six hundred four students completed the baseline survey, and 290 (48%) completed the 4-week endpoint survey. Baseline demographics were similar to those in national surveys, with respondents being primarily female (86%), white (88%), and college educated (78%). The primary barrier to practice was time (55%). Respondents perceived yoga primarily as an exercise activity (92%), spiritual activity (73%), or a way to manage or treat a health condition (50%). Main reasons for taking yoga were general wellness (81%), physical exercise (80%), and stress management (73%). Ninety-eight percent believed yoga would improve their health, with 28% taking yoga to alleviate a health condition. On average, respondents practiced 3 to 4 hours/ week in and out of class.


Respondent demographics were consistent with national survey data. Data show that yoga is perceived several ways. Information on practice patterns provides new information, which may improve understanding of how non-clinical populations incorporate yoga into daily life for health management.


Yoga; back pain; exercise; mental health; motivations; patterns of use; quality of life; sleep; spirituality; stress; wellness

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