What Do Non-practitioners Think About Yoga?

February 13, 2024
What Do Non-practitioners Think About Yoga?

Non-practitioners primarily perceive yoga as beneficial for health

Research Study At A Glance

The Research Question Asked

What positive and/or negative outcomes do non-practitioners perceive about yoga?

Type of Study

Large in-person survey

Study Participants (Sample)

Sample size included 2,550 total participants

Methods

Researchers distributed a survey consisting of four questions relating to perceived positive and negative outcomes of yoga at a large yoga-related community event.

Results

Non-practitioners primarily thought that yoga had positive effects (97.4%), with the most common perceived benefit being improved physical health (39.8%). Few survey participants perceived yoga as having potentially negative effects (1.4%).

Conclusion

Non-practitioners generally thought that yoga could improve their physical health, but a small percentage were also apprehensive that practicing incorrectly could be injurious.

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Background

Have you ever tried to explain your yoga practice to a friend or family member who has never done yoga? Non-practitioners can have all kinds of interesting ideas about what yoga is, based on what they see in the media. If you’re a yoga teacher then you’ve tried to explain to new students what yoga is. As there is certainly variability between styles of yoga, and even individual teachers in the same style, this can be challenging. But, if we aren’t able to convey what yoga is, how will we convince non-practitioners to try it and then experience all the benefits that yoga has to offer?

One of the first steps in sharing what yoga is, might be finding out what non-practitioners think yoga is. Then we’d know what information is or isn’t getting accurately shared about yoga. The research study we summarized here did exactly that. The research team on this study wanted to know what non-practitioners think about yoga. And they designed a study to find out.

Research question

What positive and/or negative outcomes do non-practitioners perceive about yoga?

Research methods

The research team distributed surveys in person at a large yoga-related community event. They distributed the survey written in Hindi to an Indian community. The survey included demographic questions asking the participant’s age and whether or not they practiced yoga. Researchers excluded answers from participants if they practiced yoga or were under 10 years old. They asked non-practitioners to complete four questions regarding their perceived ideas of the positive and negative outcomes of yoga.

The four survey questions regarding yoga’s outcomes were:

  • Do you think that there is any benefit of practicing yoga?
  • If yes, mention the most definitive benefit of yoga you think can occur.
  • Do you think that there can be any negative outcome of practicing yoga?
  • If yes, mention the most definitive negative outcome of yoga you think can arise by practicing yoga.

Results

The survey included the responses of a total of 2,550 non-practitioners of yoga. Most thought that yoga had positive benefits (97.4%). The most common perceived benefits were positive effects on physical health (39.8%), cognitive health (32.8%), and mental health (20.4%). Only 1.4% of respondents thought that yoga had potential negative outcomes. The two most common perceived potential negative effects were concerns about incorrectly practicing having a negative outcome (.24%) and concerns that too much practice could cause a negative outcome.

Why is this relevant to yoga practitioners?

Finding out what non-practitioners think about yoga is an important step for those looking to explain yoga’s benefits. If non-practitioners have inaccurate ideas about yoga, they may be discouraged from trying it. Alternatively, if non-practitioners have unrealistic ideas about what yoga offers, they might also be discouraged if initial yoga experiences don’t meet their expectations.

As practitioners and teachers, it’s important that we accurately convey the variety of styles available and the potential benefits of yoga. It’s also important that we acknowledge that like any other physical activity, yoga has risks of injury. We should consider a person’s health, goals, and lifestyle when supporting them in deciding what kind of yoga practice might be a good fit.

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Conclusion

Yoga was primarily perceived as having positive effects by those surveyed in the study summarized here. Many non-practitioners knew about yoga’s potential positive effects on physical and mental health. While most non-practitioners did not think yoga had many potential negative effects, some worried about the negative effects of practicing incorrectly.

Reference citation

Sachin, S., S. Agnihotri, N. Kala, and S. Telles. 2022. Perceptions about the benefits and negative outcomes of yoga practice by yoga-naive persons: A cross-sectional survey. International Journal of Yoga. 15(1): 4pgs.