Yoga Journal Hits the Road to Document Yoga in America
The six-month tour, reaching more than 20 cities across North America, aims to spotlight yoga's transformative power and rapidly growing popularity.
America is in the midst of a yoga revolution.
A recent study conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs, on behalf of Yoga Journal and the non-profit Yoga Alliance, revealed that 36.7 million Americans—roughly 15 percent of the adult population—practices yoga, representing an 80 percent increase from 2012. Another 80 million intend to try yoga this year.
Moreover, 74 percent of yoga practitioners in the U.S. started at some point over the last five years. No longer confined to dedicated studios or your local park, yoga is in our homes, in our gyms and health clubs, and now—thanks to Yoga Journal, Active Interest Media's 40-year-old brand—on the road.
"When we got the results back from the Yoga in America study and found that 37 million people were doing yoga in the U.S., we knew yoga was booming, but not to that extent," Yoga Journal publisher Melissa Strome tells Folio:. "We needed to get on the road to see what yoga in America means today."
Thus, the Live Be Yoga summer tour was born. Beginning April 8th in New York and concluding September 25th in Colorado, Yoga Journal is sending two handpicked ambassadors across the country to uncover how yoga is changing the lives of an ever-increasing number of Americans in new and truly impactful ways.
In tandem with yoga-related online fitness brand Gaia, Yoga Journal selected ambassadors Taylor O'Sullivan and Tarah Stuht from a pool of over 500 entrants to travel, with a videographer, to more than 20 locations throughout North America. Stops include major cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, and Miami, but also destinations less expected, like San Quentin State Prison in California and Flint, Michigan.
The benefits inherent to bringing both the Yoga Journal and Gaia brands into the experiential realm, creating physical touchpoints with new audiences, are obvious. But Strome says there's more to the Live Be Yoga tour than simply expanding the brands' footprints.
"What has become really apparent and important in our space over the past couple years is just how many ways it is used to heal and restore," Strome continues. "That is a very important story for us to tell. It’s being used in hospitals with breast cancer patients, at addiction centers with people that are recovering from drug and alcohol abuse."
Late last month, the tour stopped at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, where patients attend yoga and mindfulness classes to help alleviate the effects of traumatic brain injuries and chemotherapy. That same week, the tour's ambassadors visited Eisenhower Elementary School in crisis-stricken Flint, Michigan, where students practice yoga in the classroom to help them relax and focus.
“I could get emotional … I’m so blown away by what’s going on here. It’s just revolutionary in the way that children approach their lives,” Stuht told the local ABC affiliate at the time.
Later this summer, the tour will stop at San Quentin, the home of dozens of California's most notorious murderers, as well as the nation's first prison yoga program, which provides inmates a small respite from an often-difficult life within the prison walls.
This week, the tour stopped in New Orleans for a special class with teacher Nathalie Croix before heading west for Austin, Phoenix, and Las Vegas.
While Strome cautions that the Live Be Yoga tour is not about bringing Yoga Journal to the masses, surely providing greater exposure to the multifaceted benefits of the discipline will spell nothing but growth for the brand.
"We’re making so many stops, we’re touching so many consumers face-to-face in a way that we’ve never done across the country," says Strome. "We like to think that everyone who does yoga loves Yoga Journal and reads Yoga Journal and follows Yoga Journal, but obviously, there are 37 million people out there doing yoga, so that’s not the case."
With the yoga revolution surging at full speed, Yoga Journal, alongside Gaia, is taking a proactive approach to spotlighting its increasingly mainstream appeal. And with Americans poised to spend an estimated $16.8 billion on yoga classes, clothing, and equipment this year, according to the study, that revolution is just beginning.