Yoga tourism: Commodification and western embracement of eastern spiritual practice

Hana Bowers, Joseph M. Cheer

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

    66 Citations (Scopus)


    This paper examines the growth of interrelated tourism phenomena yoga tourism and spiritual tourism - both sit under the wider umbrella of wellness tourism. Tourism has long been linked with spirituality and where this is the case (for example pilgrimage travel), it is considered to pave the way for personal transformation. Linking spiritual tourism to yoga tourism is a fait accompli, as is drawing similar associations with wellness and pilgrim- age tourism on account of allied and abiding motivations predicated on uniting mind, body and spirit and these ruminations are central to this paper. More recently, there has been a growing chorus calling for the decolonisation of yoga on account of its commodification and industrialisation, and especially concerning what is argued to be a shift away from its spiritual and transformative tenets. The underlying meaning of the Sanskrit word yuj from which yoga is derived alludes to the pursuit of achieving a sense of union with something higher than oneself, and this is arguably one of the key drivers for its contemporary acceptance. Linkages between spir- ituality and yoga tourism through an examination of the motivations of Western yoga devotees in Maharashtra, India provide the canvas for this analysis. The motivations for yoga related travel and the broader implications for yoga and spiritual tourism are discussed. This article draws from two periods of exploratory fieldwork conducted in 2014 and 2015 in Maharashtra, India. A qualitative, case study scaffold underpinned by serious leisure as a con- ceptual framework (Stebbins, 2001) was constructed.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)208–216
    Number of pages9
    JournalTourism Management Perspectives
    Publication statusPublished - 2017


    • Spiritual tourism
    • Yoga travel
    • Yoga
    • Wellness
    • India

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