Exploring Yoga Therapy Initiative Trends 2023
As yoga continues to grow as a wildly popular practice, the most prominent trend for 2023 sees an increasing differentiation between yoga and yoga therapy, a practice that shares yoga’s overall purpose while focusing on its clinical and therapeutic applications. This practice is being integrated in many different health and wellness settings, like the US Department of Veterans Affairs, that successfully included it in their Whole Health initiative. More and more training programs in yoga therapy are being created around the world. One of the most promising healing techniques in this field is sound healing, which uses sound as support for mindfulness and meditation. The emerging importance of yoga therapy in the health and wellness world is also evident in the growing number of podcasts dedicated to it, that introduce listeners to its practices and protocols.
Trend 1: Increased Recognition of Yoga vs. Yoga Therapy
Today, yoga is a wildly popular, multi-billion-dollar industry with over 300 million practitioners and instructors worldwide . While many people turn to yoga as a form of exercise to improve strength, muscle tone and flexibility, most have misunderstood the true intent of this discipline. In truth, yoga offers endless possibilities and options to protect our health, and maintain how we feel and sustain our lives. This is most apparent when differentiating yoga from yoga therapy.
Traditionally, the purpose of yoga was self-realization and transformation. Yoga therapy shares this overall purpose while focusing on the clinical and therapeutic application of yoga in a modern healthcare and wellness management context. While derived from the same tradition of Patanjali and the Ayurvedic system of healthcare, yoga therapy, the remedial tradition and subset of yoga, has emerged as a distinct subspecialty within the wider discipline of yogic practice.
Rather than a trend, yoga therapy is a wellness option that encompasses concepts and practices that have been used for centuries and are not yet fully recognized for their potential to transform aspects of human healing and healthcare management in fundamental ways. Despite its growing usage and acceptance, however, yoga therapy has been little understood, not only by the public at large but also by many practitioners and teachers of more widespread yoga forms.
Efforts to increase public awareness of yoga therapy are ongoing and vitally important—as is demonstrating its value to, and securing buy-in from, the healthcare and medical establishments.
Trend 2: The Exponential Growth of Yoga—Beyond the Tipping Point
Even in an uncertain economy, the American yoga and Pilates studio market is growing at a pace of 9.8% annually and will be worth over $215 billion by 2025. One in three Americans have tried yoga at least once, and 15% have practiced it in the last six months. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, yoga’s growth has accelerated significantly with yoga class reservation numbers rising by 25% during the first year of the pandemic. In fact, the global yoga market has been projected to enjoy a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.6% from 2021 to 2027, which would see 350 million yoga practitioners, representing a global market valued over $66 billion.
By contrast, in India, only 7% of people practice yoga, according to the Pew Research Center, and those who do are largely retirees—a conundrum that has recently inspired the Indian government to start promoting yoga for its contributions to the world and potential health benefits for all ages. That may explain why experts predict the most growth in the global yoga industry in the next will be in the Asia-Pacific market, where the CAGR is expected to reach 10.8%.
What is clear from these projections is that yoga has become a global phenomenon.
Trend 3: Expansion of Training Programs in Yoga Therapy Education Worldwide
In 2023, the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT) announced the presence of 70 accredited yoga therapy training programs worldwide, which represents the greatest number to date. School directors are continuing to meet and collaborate, looking for creative ways to educate certified yoga therapists to be able to work with communities and in medical and other settings. Growth of virtual education worldwide during the pandemic has allowed for yoga teachers even in remote areas to deepen their professional education through joining synchronous communities of learning, working together in real time. IAYT member schools have also expanded to other locations around the world, including Ukraine, Switzerland and Wales.
Trend 4: Growing Integration of Yoga Therapy within the US Department of Veterans Affairs Whole Health Initiative
At the June 2023 SYTAR (Symposium on Yoga Therapy and Research), Dr. Jayashree Pathak, who works for the US Department of Veterans Affairs in the New Jersey Health Care System, shared statistics related to the integration of yoga therapy within the US Department of Veterans Affairs Whole Health initiative. Over the past year, there have been 66,000 virtual yoga therapy encounters delivered by yoga therapists to people served by the VA. Results so far have been positive and demand is increasing.
Trend 5: Yoga Tourism Bounces Back Post-Pandemic
Over the past decade, the luxury hotel spa and wellness resort industry has experienced remarkable expansion, primarily driven by customer demand. This surge can be attributed to various factors, including the aging baby boomer generation seeking rejuvenation, affluent individuals prioritizing their wellbeing and seeking self-fulfillment, and a time-constrained population longing for relaxation to improve their overall health. As a result, the demand for revitalizing and therapeutic spa services, including yoga and yoga therapy, is expected to keep rising.
Along with the demand of yoga offerings in hospitality and spa settings, yoga tourism is also continuing to grow as the “the global yoga tourism market size was valued at $154.11 billion in 2021 and is anticipated to exhibit a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.8% from 2022 to 2030. The rise in popularity of outdoor yoga sessions offered over long weekend breaks, festival time holidays and seasonal options are the major factors driving the market.” Yet many, if not most, resorts and spas still offer yoga as exercise or general group classes rather than private or small yoga therapy-based programs with a holistic, more therapeutic approach.
Trend 6: The Proliferation of Sound Healing within Yoga Therapy as a Healing Technique
There are growing communities of people integrating sound healing as a treatment modality within the purview of yoga therapy. The Symposium on Yoga Therapy and Research (SYTAR), held by the International Association of Yoga Therapists in June 2023, featured featured a Sound Healing experience led by a certified yoga therapist, as well as a prominent display of sound healing tools and equipment. Sound baths and other sound healing techniques are also offered on a number of meditation, mindfulness and mental health-focused apps.
Sound healing as a modality within the practice of yoga therapy has recently been recognized in mainstream media. For example, sound healing was prominently featured in an episode of Apple TV’s 2023 series “The Reluctant Traveler” with Eugene Levy. In this episode, when Levy visits the exclusive resort Kudadoo in the Maldives, his session with a yoga therapist is focused on the transformative practice of sound healing.
Trend 7: Yoga Therapy Advocates and Thought Leaders Sharing Airwaves on Podcasts
Popular podcasts within the mind-body space, such as Yogaland Podcast, The Radically Loved Podcast, and others, are including more content related to yoga therapy A growing number of dedicated podcasts, including Yoga Therapy Hour by Amy Wheeler, This is Yoga Therapy by Michele Lawrence, From Pain to Possibility with Susi Hately, are introducing listeners to the practices and protocols of yoga therapy.