By the Numbers – Yoga and Meditation Publication from 1900-2009

Oh yes, you knew it was only a matter of time before charts and graphs make their ways into this blog.

“What does one get by typing ‘yoga’ in Google Books Search and constraint the date to the the 1920s? And 30s? While we’re at it, how about the 1700, or… 1000?” I wondered. The number nerd in me also wanted to know, “How many books are there? Is there a trend? What’s the percentage breakdown in languages of publication?” (Wait till I talk standard deviation and my Stats professor would be so proud).

Get this, the *very* first printed appearance of yoga in any language, according to Google Books, was by the ancient Greek poet Pindar in 1526. Yes, 1526!

For the word “meditation”, the first printed occurrence was in Concordia tra la fatica e la quiete nell’oratione By Paolo Segneri which Guru Google translates to be “Harmony between labor and quiet” in 1480.

For the following charts, I restricted the query to only English publications, and did it by decade, for example, Jan 1900 to December 1910, Jan 1920 to December 1929, and so on. Please note that the results are only accurate until December 2009. What’s interesting for me to note is while yoga has gotten a lot of attention with all this flashy and glamorous marketing appeal, look at how the number of publication on meditation has quietly shot up over threefold from the 90s to the current decade.

(Yes I’m aware that this is extremely unscientific and may not mean anything in terms of trends because we have not accounted for population growth, availability of publishers, public education and literacy levels, and etc etc.)

Decade “Yoga” “Meditation”
1900s 743 3160
1910s 787 2450
1920s 774 2330
1930s 820 2060
1940s 820 2200
1950s 1366 3260
1960s 2466 4415
1970s 3973 4902
1980s 3716 5887
1990s 4069 8151
2000s 6490 19,868
Instances of "yoga" in Google Books Search in English

Instances of "yoga" in Google Books Search in English

Instances of "meditation" in Google Books Search in English

Instances of "meditation" in Google Books Search in English