Interesting factoids, like how many Americans practice yoga, spread like wildfire across the Web and blogosphere. But getting any perspective on those factoids can be much harder to find, and in some cases, impossible.
This morning I uncovered a web-based information vortex when I tried to find out how many Americans currently practice yoga. I fell into a circular spiral, with no end point, and lost track of time while trying to find out more. I found numerous blogs and news articles published around the world in 2009, all citing a factoid released by the Yoga Journal based on a poll conducted by Roper Research:
A recent Roper poll, commissioned by Yoga Journal, found that 11 million Americans do yoga occasionally and 6 million perform it regularly.
Source: A January 2009 article published by Reuters. This article can be downloaded from Yoga Journal. More detailed information is not publicly available from Yoga Journal (at least not by online means).
None of the journalists or bloggers who refer to this factoid can explain what is meant by “regular” versus “occasional” practice. (The Reuters article released by Yoga Journal does not define these distinctions.)
What’s Interesting Is What They Don’t Say
Having found so many references to the same slim source, I find myself intensely curious about the questions that are not answered:
- Does the factoid refer only to Americans who live in the US, or does it include Canadians too?
- How many men practice yoga?
- How many people, by age group, practice yoga? Are people trending older or younger?
- How often do regular practitioners practice yoga, and why?
- How do occasional practitioners differ from regular practitioners?
- What factors might motivate someone to shift from occasional to regular practice?
- How many classes do regular practitioners take on a weekly or monthly basis?
- How often do regular yoga practitioners do their asanas at home versus in a class environment?
- Are occasional practitioners more likely to attend class, or follow a DVD at home, or run through their own set of asanas at home?
- How do their spending habits differ?
- Is yoga practice spread evenly across household income levels, or are there interesting patterns?
- What about educational levels?
- What are the regional variations? Coastal or urban dwellers versus “Heartland?”
- How many people teach yoga?
- What’s the (forgive the expression) “viral impact” of regular practitioners? How many newcomers become yoga practitioners as a result of referrals by friends?
You can comb through 3 pages of Google search results and find nothing beyond citations of the same factoid, with pointers to the same Reuters article and the same one-sentence factoid.
Nowhere is there any in-depth information about the actual poll: when it was conducted, how many people were surveyed, using what methodology, how statistically valid the sample is, etc., etc. There’s no information about the specific questions posed in the survey.
The final report from Roper is not readily available online, most likely because it was proprietary research for Yoga Journal, conducted for reasons that aren’t explained. (We can guess: for advertising rate cards.)
But it leaves us hungering for more… It would have been a real service to the yoga community for Yoga Journal to have shared deeper insights than the slim factoid that is currently circulating around the Internet. It’s hard to believe they would commission research from Roper simply to find out how many people practice yoga…
Perhaps the next time they commission research they’ll structure the deal to permit a broader sharing of results.