Jarcd Farmcr
Mark 5Ing!ctnn. Ycgc Bc!q. 1nc Origins cj Mc!crn Pcsiurc Prcciicc. Nev York:
Òxford Iniversily Iress, 2O1O. viii + 262 ¡¡. IIIuslralions, noles, bibIiogra¡hy,
and index. $99.OO (cIolh), $17.95 (¡a¡er).
5tcIanIc 5yman. 1nc Su|i|c Bc!q. 1nc Sicrq cj Ycgc in Amcricc. Nev York: Iar-
rar, Slraus, and Giroux, 2O1O. 39O ¡¡. IIIuslralions, noles, bibIiogra¡hy, and
index. $28.OO.
Rnbcrt Lnvc. 1nc Grcci Ocm. 1nc |mprc|c||c Birin cj Ycgc in Amcricc. Nev York:
Viking, 2O1O. xii + 4O2 ¡¡. IIIuslralions, noles, bibIiogra¡hy, and index. $27.95.
A markel survey commissioned by Ycgc jcurnc|÷a gIossy IifeslyIe magazine
based in San Irancisco, vilh se¡arale edilions ¡ubIished in China, }a¡an,
ThaiIand, AuslraIia, Russia, Germany, and S¡ain÷eslimaled in 2OO8 lhal 15.8
miIIion Americans (or 6.9 ¡ercenl of I.S. aduIls) ¡racliced ¡osluraI yoga. Su¡-
¡ose lhal lhis ¡o¡uIalion consliluled a discrele reIigious grou¡. If lhal vere
lhe case, lhe ¡ercenlage of yogis vouId exceed lhe combined lolaI of Hindus
(.4 ¡ercenl), MusIims (.6 ¡ercenl), alheisls (1.6 ¡ercenl), Mormons (1.7 ¡ercenl),
and }evs (1.7 ¡ercenl) in lhe I.S. The Americanizalion of modern yoga÷a
cuIluraI crealion lhal vas aIready lransnalionaI÷demands ex¡Ianalion.

¨Yoga¨ derives from lhe Sanskril verb ¨lo yoke,¨ and may be IileraIIy
lransIaled as ¨union.¨ The vord is confusing because of ils homonymy: il
can refer lo a generaI ¡hiIoso¡hy of lranscendenlaI consciousness, or one or
severaI s¡ecihc s¡iriluaI disci¡Iines, or bolh. As a ¡hiIoso¡hicaI lradilion÷one
of lhe six ¨cIassicaI¨ schooIs (Darshanas) of Soulh Asian ¡hiIoso¡hy÷yoga
encom¡asses various canonicaI lexls, mosl im¡orlanlIy Ycgc Suircs (35O÷45O
C.L.), a coIIeclion of a¡horisms allribuled lo Ialañ|aIi.
De¡ending on lhe lime
and ¡Iace, lhe ¡raclice of yoga has laken Hindu, ßuddhisl, and }ain forms.
Georg Ieuerslein, in his ¡o¡uIar encycIo¡edia Ycgc 1rc!iiicn (2OO1), imagines
a ¨vheeI of yoga¨ vilh six ma|or s¡okes: Rû|a (disci¡Iine of lhe mind), }nûna
(gnosis), Karma (duly), ßhakli (devolion), Manlra (recilalion of numinous
sounds), and Halha (disci¡Iine of lhe body). These disci¡Iines can be ¡racliced
se¡araleIy or in combinalion. Ior exam¡Ie, Hare Krishnas focus on ßhakli and
Rcticus in Amcriccn Hisicrq 4O (2O12) 145÷158 © 2O12 by The }ohns Ho¡kins Iniversily Iress
Manlra. In conlem¡orary India, ßhakli gurus command Iarge foIIovings. In
conlrasl, mosl Americans vho ¨¡raclice yoga¨ ¡raclice an individuaIized and
sim¡Iihed version of lhe singIe ¡hysicaI disci¡Iine.
Halha vas ßeshed oul in medievaI limes by marginaI maIe seclarian
movemenls. Nălh Siddha qcgins con|oined Tanlra, Siddha aIchemy, and yogic
¡urihcalions in an allem¡l lo achieve immorlaIily. In subsequenl cenluries,
miIilarized Shaivile qcgins found irreguIar em¡Ioymenl as mercenaries, s¡ies,
and ¡over brokers. As of lhe nineleenlh cenlury, Halha vas lhe Ieasl im¡or-
lanl and Ieasl res¡eclabIe of yogic disci¡Iines. Traces of lhis allilude ¡ersisl.
The |ncqc|cpc!ic cj |n!icn Pni|cscpnics reIegales Halha lo lhe slalus of yoga

SeveraI recenl monogra¡hs, mosl nolabIy David Gordon While's Sinisicr
Ycgis (2OO9), discuss Halha varrior ascelics as sociaI aclors and cuIluraI re¡-
Like Gy¡sies, fakirs, and Suh dervishes÷hgures vilh vhom
lhey vere oflen confused or conßaled÷qcgins Iived beyond lhe boundaries
of Indian sociely. They funclioned as bogeymen in Soulh Asian fanlasy and
advenlure Iileralure (and in ßoIIyvood, lhey remain slock viIIains). Voyeurislic
Luro¡ean lraveI vrilers echoed lhese negalive de¡iclions: Halha seclarians
vere veird, fanalicaI, Iicenlious, ungovernabIe, dangerous. The slereoly¡icaI
yogi ¡erformed ¡aranormaI feals Iike Ievilalion and ¡racliced sorcery Iike body
¡ossession. He had su¡erhuman sexuaI ¡overs because he never reIeased his
semen. He carried oul exlreme auslerilies and morlihcalions: vaIking around
naked vilh eIe¡hanl chains, slanding on one Ieg for days, hanging u¡side
dovn from lrees, surviving Iive buriaI, ealing food from bovIs made of human
skuIIs, fasling lo lhe ¡oinl of maceralion, groving oul hair and hngernaiIs lo
incredibIe Ienglhs. Ior Luro¡eans, nolhing symboIized Indian backvardness
and Hindu ¡erversion Iike a Halha yogi Iying on a bed of naiIs. Ior slralegic
and moraI reasons, ßrilish ofhciaIs did lheir besl lo round u¡ and break u¡
ascelic secls and ban lheir ¨seIf-lorlures.¨ Some of lhese dis¡Iaced oulcasls
ended u¡ ¡anhandIing as yogic enlerlainers on lhe slreels of ßrilish India and
in sideshovs aIong lhe Thames.
In re¡ulalion and in conlenl, Halha overIa¡¡ed vilh Tanlra, a Soulh Asian
medievaI lradilion lhal yoked lranscendence lo lhe body and bodiIy desire.
In lhe anlinomian vorId of Tanlra, riluaI lransgression (incIuding, in some
cases, riluaIized sexuaIily) couId Iead lo Iiberalion. ßolh Tanlrisls and Halha
yogis em¡hasized lhe ¨sublIe body¨ (somelimes caIIed lhe ¨energelic body¨),
a hybrid cor¡oreaI-mela¡hysicaI enlily. Through esoleric lechniques÷riluaI
¡urihcalions foIIoved by prcncqcmc (reslrained brealhing), cscnc (¡oslure
vork), and mu!rc (seaIing off lhe sublIe body)÷Halha yogis ¡erformed bodiIy
aIchemy. They drev prcnc (lhe brealh of Iife) inlo lhe body's cenlraI channeI,
lhus avakening lhe ser¡enl (|un!c|ini) al lhe base of s¡ine. As lhis ser¡enl
¡over uncoiIed and moved u¡vard, il ¡urihed lhe ¡ranic channeIs (nc!is)
147 FARMER j AmcrIcanasana
and baIanced lheir Iunar and soIar sides, ¡ierced lhe six main cnc|rcs, and
hnaIIy uniled vilh lhe divine in lhe sevenlh cnc|rc al lhe crovn of lhe head.
The resuIl vas bodiIy immorlaIily and su¡ernaluraI ¡over.
KundaIini is onIy vagueIy famiIiar lo mosl of lhe miIIions of Americans
vho slrelch inlo Dovnvard-Iacing Dog ¡ose on slicky mals in neighborhood
gyms and sludios. In ils mainslream form, Halha has been cIeaned u¡ and
¡arliaIIy de-enchanled. The ly¡icaI American yoga inslruclor says ¨namasle¨
and chanls a ¡erfunclory ÒM vilh her sludenls, bul does nol leach lanlric
¡hysioIogy. She is much more IikeIy lo give a leslimoniaI aboul yoga's benehciaI
effecls on lhe medicaI body. Hov did lhis ha¡¡en` Hov did Halha become
exoleric, res¡eclabIe, and ¡o¡uIar÷es¡eciaIIy among vomen` And hov did
one feminized, alhIelicized, ¡ara-secuIar version of one yogic disci¡Iine become
synonymous vilh ¨yoga¨ in America`
IreIiminary ansvers lo lhese queslions come from Ycgc Bc!q, 1nc Grcci
Ocm, and 1nc Su|i|c Bc!q, lhree signihcanl addilions lo lhe smaII bul groving
heId of yoga sludies.
Mark SingIelon, an academic, uses ¡rimary sources lo
anaIyze lhe lransnalionaI evoIulion of ¡osluraI yoga from lhe 189Os lhrough
lhe 193Os. Roberl Love and Slefanie Syman, bolh |ournaIisls, focus aImosl
excIusiveIy on lhe American scene, bul in differenl vays.
AII lhree aulhors acce¡l lhe schoIarIy consensus lhal ¨modern yoga¨ began
vilh Svami Vivekananda (1863÷19O2), lhe gIobelrolling Hindu reformer from
CaIculla vho s¡oke lo greal accIaim al lhe WorId's IarIiamenl of ReIigions in
Chicago. Vivekananda's inßuenliaI book Rcjc-Ycgc (1896) ¡aired some of his
American Ieclures vilh his lransIalion and commenlary on Ycgc Suircs. The
svami ¡resenled Vedanla as lhe modeI for a universaI monislic reIigion÷a
¨science of lhe souI.¨ ßorroving IiberaIIy from Inilarianism and Theoso¡hy,
Vivekananda and his Vedanla Sociely em¡hasized lhe mela¡hysicaI and lhe
devolionaI, nol lhe ¡hysicaI. In concerl vilh mosl Weslern-educaled Indian
eIiles, Vivekananda scorned Halha, and vilh reason: Ianlañ|aIi ¡rovided IillIe
or no su¡¡orl for il. AIlhough Ycgc Suircs menlions cscnc as one of lhe (Iesser)
¨eighl Iimbs¨ of yoga, lhe lexl does nol describe any ¡oses. Vivekananda
dis¡araged Halha seclarians for narcissislicaIIy ¨cIinging¨ lo lhe body vilh
¨mere¨ ¡hysicaI exercises designed lo fuIhII base desires for ¡erfecl heaIlh
and unsur¡assed Iongevily. He dovn¡Iayed lhe lanlric background of his
ovn guru. Des¡ile ¡riviIeging mind over body, lhe svami vas no vim¡. Like
many anlicoIoniaI hgures associaled vilh lhe ßengaIi ¨Hindu Renaissance,¨ he
used his maslery of LngIish lo asserl lhe su¡eriorily of Soulh Asian lradilions
even as he diIuled lhem. As }ose¡h S. AIler vriles in Ycgc in Mc!crn |n!ic,
Vivekananda ¨revoIulionized Hinduism by advocaling a kind of no-nonsense,
seIf-conhdanl, muscuIar÷and, lherefore, mascuIinized÷s¡iriluaIism.¨
Ior lhe ¡ur¡oses of Hindu nalionaIism, yoga had lo be rescued from lhe
o¡¡robrium of Halha qcgins. Their mascuIinily vas undis¡uled, bul danger-
ous, even sinisler, il caIIed lo mind lhe su¡¡osed decadence of medievaI
India. Like a good Viclorian, Vivekananda ex¡unged Halha from Rû|a Yoga.
Inslead of immorlaIily and su¡ernaluraIism, he slressed lhe goaIs of scmc!ni
(higher consciousness) and mc|snc (s¡iriluaI Iiberalion). Laler hgures such as
Sri Yogendra and Svami KuvaIayananda mainslreamed yoga by medicaIiz-
ing il, Iinking il lo Weslern science, ¡erforming Iaboralory ex¡erimenls, and
ralionaIIy demonslraling lhal yogic disci¡Iines couId vork as lhera¡ies for
chronic diseases such as aslhma.
SliII olher Indians lried lo direclIy rehabiIilale Halha on lhe lerms of Weslern
¡hysicaI cuIlure. These undera¡¡recialed hgures from lhe hislory of hlness
are lhe main sub|ecls of Ycgc Bc!q. SingIelon ends his book vhere mosl his-
lories of modern ¡osluraI yoga begin: lhe gymnasia of }aganmohan IaIace in
Mysore vhere inslruclor T. Krishnamacharya in lhe 192Os and 193Os codihed
lhe ¡raxis lhal informs every yoga cIass in lhe vorId loday. Wilhoul denying
Krishnamacharya's seminaI roIe, Ycgc Bc!q conlexluaIizes him and dis¡eIs his
aura of uniqueness and aulhenlicily. SingIelon asserls calegoricaIIy lhal lhe
¡rimacy of cscnc is ¨a nev ¡henomenon lhal has no ¡araIIeI in ¡remodern
limes¨ (¡. 3). Ycgc Bc!q offers a radicaIIy secuIar and lransnalionaI inler¡relalion
of modern yoga, or, as SingIelon ¡refers lo caII il, ¨TransnalionaI AngIo¡hone
Yoga.¨ In his anaIysis, ¡oslure ¡raclice oves more lo LngIish bodybuiIding
slar Lugene Sandov lhan lo Ianlañ|aIi.
In bibIiogra¡hic fashion, SingIelon guides lhe reader lhrough seemingIy
every LngIish-Ianguage hlness manuaI and ¡eriodicaI from lhe earIy lven-
lielh cenlury lhal inßuenced÷or migni nctc inßuenced÷lhe curricuIum al
Mysore, lhe MenIo Iark of modern yoga. He focuses on lhe Soulh Asian
rece¡lion of MuscuIar Chrislianily, Svedish (Ling) gymnaslics, bodybuiId-
ing, and lhe YMCA. Ycgc Bc!q describes a ¡rocess of crealive coo¡lalion. The
Indian ¡ioneers of ¡osluraI yoga vanled lo break free from lhe inlernaIized
coIoniaI mylh of Indian effeminacy and degeneracy. They seIecliveIy a¡¡ro-
¡rialed from Luro¡ean ¡hysicaI cuIlure÷and aIso American Nev Thoughl,
vilh ils ¡sycho-¡hysioIogicaI ¡edagogy of aulosuggeslion÷and naluraIized
il as Hindu. Afler incor¡oraling gymnaslics inlo Halha, lhey louled Halha
as lhe originaI gymnaslics. SingIelon cIaims lhal some ¡alriolic Hindus even
imagined yoga as a eugenic fasl lrack lo a beller, slronger nalion. MiIilanl
nalionaIisls o¡ened marliaI arls academies lo lrain a nev generalion of slrong,
viriIe Hindu men÷remade Halha qcgins vho couId acl as freedom-hghling
gueriIIas. Indians vouId lurn gymnaslics÷an exercise melhod ado¡led by
lhe ßrilish for miIilary lraining÷againsl lhe coIonizers.
WhiIe SingIelon ¡erforms lhe greal service of ex¡Ioding lhe vorId of
¡osluraI yoga and cIearing lhe vay for many more sludies of lhis creoIized
lradilion, he doesn'l ¡rovide a cIear narralive and doesn'l assign veighls lo
his manifoId causaI faclors. And il may be lhal, in his endeavor lo exhausliveIy
149 FARMER j AmcrIcanasana
calaIog foreign inßuences, SingIelon overIooks cerlain indigenous conlexls.
Ycgc Bc!q deserves conlroversy, vhich I mean as a sincere com¡Iimenl.
Some of lhe evidence for Ycgc Bc!q's meIling-¡ol lheory is circumslanliaI,
¡Ienly is direcl. Ior exam¡Ie, K. V. Iyer, lhe vorId-renovned bodybuiIder from
ßangaIore, laughl sun saIulalions aIong vilh dumbbeII Iifling. The equaIIy
renovned ß. C. Ghosh ¡romoled a melhod of ¨muscIe conlroI¨ lhal combined
bodybuiIding and Halha. Al Mysore, Krishnamacharya's sludio vas Iocaled
nexl door lo a Weslern-slyIe gym lhal laughl bodybuiIding, gymnaslics, and
aIso yoga. ßuiIding on Norman S|oman's 1nc Ycgc 1rc!iiicn cj inc Mqscrc Pc|ccc
(1996), SingIelon argues lhal Krishnamacharya's innovalive tinqcsc (a re¡ealed
sequence of ßoving movemenls and alhIelic |um¡ing) vas Iess aboul Iineage
lhan ¡alronage. Al lhe mahara|a's bidding, Krishnamacharya choreogra¡hed
a s¡eclacuIar yoga rouline for his young maIe sludenls, lhe Halha lrou¡e
funclioned bolh as cuIluraI ambassadors and circus-Iike enlerlainers.
This ¡erformalive angIe is im¡orlanl. In a cha¡ler on media, SingIelon makes
lhe exceIIenl ¡oinl lhal Halha, more lhan olher yogic disci¡Iines, requires
iIIuslralion. ConverseIy, lhe ascendance of ¡hologra¡hic cuIlure conferred
¡rimacy lo yogic disci¡Iines lhal couId be re¡resenled visuaIIy. Ascnc made
good ¡iclures. ßefore lhe camera, yoga lexls iIIuslraled lhe conce¡luaI lanlric
body vilh abslruse dravings. In lhe age of ¡hologra¡hic re¡roduclion, lhe
yoga body became Iess sublIe, more naluraIislic and em¡iricaI.
Like mosl Weslern schoIars of yoga, SingIelon is a ¡raclilioner÷an Ashlangi
by lraining÷and he ado¡ls a lone of res¡ecl even as he skevers sacred covs.
Ycgc Bc!q is nol, he insisls, aboul im¡oslure. Il is aboul crealivily. He ¡resenls
Mysore yoga as a modern bricoIage of secuIar inßuences subIimaled inlo
Ianlañ|aIi by Krishnamacharya and Ialer sanclihed as ancienl lradilion by his
¡rológós. SingIelon lem¡ers his heresy vilh langibIe enlhusiasm for lhe source
maleriaI in aII ils amusing delaiI, he ceIebrales lhe earIy lvenlielh cenlury as
a ¨singuIarIy crealive ¡eriod¨ for yoga (¡. 21). The Hinduizalion of Weslern
¡hysicaI cuIlure lhal he describes in Ycgc Bc!q brings lo mind Iarlha Chal-
ler|ee's vork on coIoniaI-inßecled nalionaIism. InforlunaleIy, SingIelon does
nol adequaleIy siluale his book in lhe conlexl of ¡oslcoIoniaI sludies, gender
lheory, cuIluraI lheory, lransnalionaI hislory, im¡eriaI hislory, Indian hislory,
or lhe hislories of alhIelics, medicine, and reIigion.
ßecause of ils reslricled lime frame, Ycgc Bc!q conlains more maleriaI on
Indians co-o¡ling Weslern inßuences lhan lhe reverse. As of lhe 192Os, cscnc
vas nol yel ¨ex¡orl-ready¨ (¡. 154). SingIelon onIy nods lo lhe ¡osl-196Os
gIobaIizalion of Mysore yoga guided by Krishnamacharya's son T. K. V.
Desikachar, his brolher-in-Iav ß. K. S. Iyengar, and his lhird ma|or ¡rológó,
K. Iallabhi }ois. Hovever, in a cha¡ler lhal delours from his main slory,
SingIelon discusses a ¡o¡uIar AngIo-American hlness lrend from lhe earIy
lvenlielh cenlury caIIed ¨harmonic gymnaslics.¨ InIike lhe secuIar yoga in
}aganmohan IaIace, vhich consisled of acrobalic baIances for men, harmonic
gymnaslics consisled of ¨s¡iriluaI slrelching¨ and ¨reIaxalionism¨ for vomen.
Iara-Chrislian ralher lhan neo-Vedanlic, lhe movemenl nonelheIess look on
minor Indian lra¡¡ings, incIuding yogic brealhing exercises and diagrams of
cnc|rcs. Ada¡led from Irench DeIsarlism by Americans Genevieve Slebbins and
Ialer Ca|zoran AIi, lhis quasi-s¡iriluaI form of ex¡ressive caIislhenics s¡read
lo ßrilain in lhe 193Os and became ¡o¡uIar lhanks lo lhe Women's League
of HeaIlh. SingIelon s¡ecuIales lhal ex¡orled Mysore yoga Ialer grafled onlo
lhis eslabIished rool. This vouId ¡arlIy ex¡Iain lhe imbaIanced sex ralio seen
loday in ßrilish and American yoga sludios.
The rece¡lion of yoga in lhe I.S. foIIoved lvo generaI lra|eclories. The
¡hiIoso¡hy of yoga and lhe ¡raclice of yogic medilalion enlered American
high cuIlure in lhe mid-nineleenlh cenlury and acquired lhe sheen of re-
s¡eclabiIily by virlue of associalion vilh American ßrahmins Iike Lmerson.
SubsequenlIy, various ¡o¡uIar nondenominalionaI mela¡hysicaI reIigious
movemenls subsumed as¡ecls of yogic ¡hiIoso¡hy. Ioslure ¡raclice, by con-
lrasl, encounlered subslanliaI resislance in lhe earIy lvenlielh cenlury, des¡ile
receiving ¡osilive allenlion from WiIIiam }ames in 1nc |ncrgics cj Mcn (19O7)
as a ¡olenliaI cure for nervousness. Halha vas generaIIy considered slrange,
cuIlish, and aIso sexuaIIy dangerous lo vomen. In lhe second haIf of lhe cen-
lury, lhese lra|eclories crossed: ¡hysicaI yoga grev increasingIy mainslream,
vhiIe medilalionaI and devolionaI yoga conlracled÷afler a s¡eclacuIar bul
brief ßuorescence÷lo lhe domain of seclarian movemenls Ied by gurus vho
frequenlIy feII inlo sexuaI scandaI.
1nc Su|i|c Bc!q is lhe more vivid of lvo recenl lrade-markel books÷lhe
olher being IhiIi¡ GoIdberg's vide-ranging Amcriccn Vc!c (2O1O)÷lhal narrale
lhis com¡Iicaled hislory. Slefanie Syman merils a vide readershi¡, lhough her
vriling slyIe vas, for me, fruslralingIy inconslanl, as if she couIdn'l decide
if she vanled lo be a |ournaIisl, an academic hislorian, a crealive nonhclion
vriler, or a cuIluraI crilic. The book conlains many inler¡relive nuggels and
¡alches of briIIianl ¡rose, yel il Iacks a slrong argumenl. Il ¡roceeds chrono-
IogicaIIy and biogra¡hicaIIy, ¡riviIeging lhe mosl coIorfuI slories.
Syman begins vilh obIigalory vignelles aboul TranscendenlaI ßirlalions
vilh yoga ¡hiIoso¡hy. (Thoreau, in one of his Iellers, vrole lhe famousIy
cry¡lic Iine, ¨To some exlenl, and al rare inlervaIs, even I am a yogin.¨)
Su|i|c Bc!q lhen moves lo ils reaI slarling ¡oinl: Vivekananda's American
so|ourn, 1893÷96, vhich heraIded a lvenly-year ¡eriod of lransnalionaI cross-
ferliIizalion belveen medilalionaI Neo-Vedanla and American s¡iriluaI lrends
such as Mind Cure and Chrislian Science. Iinding ferliIe soiI in mela¡hysicaI
hols¡ols such as ßoslon and ßrookIyn, and benehling from lhe ¡alronage of
lvo veaIlhy Nev LngIand vomen, Vivekananda sel u¡ oul¡osls of lhe Vedanla
Sociely on bolh coasls. Numerous olher disci¡Ies from lhe Ramakrishna Òrder
151 FARMER j AmcrIcanasana
foIIoved Vivekananda lo lhe Slales, vhere lhey Ieclured lo lhe s¡iriluaI inleI-
Iigenlsia and sel u¡ ashrams. Se¡araleIy, Iaramahansa Yogananda, founder of
lhe SeIf-ReaIizalion IeIIovshi¡ (and aulhor of lhe videIy read Auic|icgrcpnq
cj c Ycgi), sellIed in Soulhern CaIifornia in 192O. Aboul lhe same lime, Sri
Yogendra came lo Nev York lo s¡read lhe gos¡eI of medicaIized yoga. The
ÒrienlaI LxcIusion Acl foiIed a ¡Ianned relurn visil. Irom 1924 lo 1965, an
era of reslriclive I.S. immigralion ¡oIicy, yoga in America evoIved IargeIy
inde¡endenl of Indians.
The seminaI American hgure in lhe excIusionary ¡eriod vas an oulrageous
characler, Iierre ßernard (1876÷1955), vhose Iife slory seems ready-made for
a HßÒ mini-series. Il incIudes bizarre Iove lriangIes, mónage à lrois, lanlric
sex, VanderbiIl heiresses, ¡rivale deleclives, s¡ies, circus eIe¡hanls, basebaII,
and heavyveighl boxing. Syman devoles her Iongesl cha¡ler lo lhis onIy-in-
America laIe, and Roberl Love his enlire book. As ¡Ieasure reading, I highIy rec-
ommend 1nc Grcci Ocm, aIlhough il becomes Iongvinded in ils Ialer cha¡lers.
Love's narralive begins, im¡robabIy, in LincoIn, Nebraska, vhere lhe young
leenager Ierry ßaker mel an immigranl yogi named SyIvais Hamali and became
his ¡rológó. Irom Hamali, ßaker-cum-ßernard Iearned Sanskril, Tanlra, and
Halha, incIuding advanced prcncqcmc lechniques such as ¨KaIi-mudra,¨ lhe
simuIalion of dealh by sIoving one's brealhing and hearl rale lo im¡erce¡libIe
IeveIs. In 1898 ßernard ¡erformed lhis feal of ¨seIf-hy¡nosis¨ in San Irancisco
lo an audience of doclors vho used needIes lo ¡ierce his earIobe, cheek, Ii¡,
and longue lo ¡rove lhe occurrence of aulo-aneslhesia. In CaIifornia, ßernard
aIso organized lhe Tanlrik Òrder (T.Ò.), a secrel sociely com¡Iele vilh bIood
oalhs, vovs of siIence, and seven degrees of knovIedge. AmaIgamaling Tanlra,
Theoso¡hy, and Rosicrucianism, ßernard minled his ovn esoleric lradilions
and inilialed ingónues in lanlric riluaIs. As Hugh Irban shovs in Mcgic Scxu-
c|is (2OO6), ßernard and severaI counler¡arls in Luro¡e began lhe ¡rocess by
vhich Weslern sex magic fused vilh Tanlra and lhe equaIIy unreIaled Kcmc
Suirc lo become lhe ¨yoga of sex.¨
In 19O9, afler ¡arling vays vilh Hamali, ßernard moved lo Manhallan and
began leaching Halha lechniques lo cIienls from lhe lhealer vorId. His secrel
riluaI Iife inevilabIy allracled lhe allenlion of lhe vice ¡oIice, vho raided his ad-
dress lhe nexl year (lhe hrsl of many limes) and arresled him in his veIvel T.Ò.
high ¡riesl ceremoniaI robe. Congress had |usl ¡assed lhe Mann Acl, and lhe
cily dislricl allorney ho¡ed for a vhile-sIavery shov lriaI. The ¨Loving Guru¨
Ianguished for over one hundred days in |aiI unliI lhe ¡roseculion dro¡¡ed
ils charges. Throughoul his career, ßernard ¡ossessed a Houdini-Iike abiIily
lo eIude lhe Iav, a ¡rovess exceeded onIy by his knack for Iiberaling slißed
femaIe sociaIiles of lheir nervousness and inherilance. Many of lhe lrue-Iife
evenls in 1nc Grcci Ocm read Iike sofl-¡orn versions of Ldilh Wharlon ¡Iols.
To esca¡e lhe scruliny of Iav enforcemenl and lhe yeIIov ¡ress, ßernard
shifled his base of o¡eralion lo Nyack, in lhe Hudson VaIIey, in 1918. There,
vilh his vife and business ¡arlner, former ßroadvay dancer ßIanche DeVries,
ßernard crealed lhe CIarkslovn Counlry CIub (C.C.C.). ßankroIIed by im¡res-
sionabIe vomen from lhe VanderbiIl famiIy, lhe cIub grev inlo a ma|or success.
ßernard rebuiIl his re¡ulalion and invesled in reaI eslale, lhe chemicaI induslry,
banks, and slocks. He buiIl a sladium for his minor Ieague basebaII leam and
¡roduced air shovs al his air¡orl. As one IocaI man loId a re¡orler: ¨Nobody
knovs if he's gol reIigion, bul everybody knovs he's gol money¨ (¡. 237).
ßefore lhe Greal De¡ression drove lhe C.C.C. inlo decIine, il boasled a
gIillering membershi¡ of Manhallan bIuebIoods, bohemians, ceIebrilies, and
high-¡rohIe arlisls such as Leo¡oId Slokovski. The C.C.C. vas somelhing
Iike a cross belveen an ashram and lhe ßohemian Grove: a summer cam¡
for lhe idIe rich vho vanled lo overcome addiclion or boredom. Roberl Love
caIIs lhe ¡Iace an ¨inslilulionaI bridge¨ belveen ßrook Iarm and LsaIen, and
a forerunner lo rehab relreals and IifeIong Iearning cenlers (¡. 343). Dues-
¡aying members ¡racliced earIy morning Halha, ¡erformed chores on lhe
dairy farm, and allended aflernoon music and dance cIasses lhal cuIminaled
in a season-ending ¡rofessionaI-IeveI circus. Òn summer evenings, }azz Age
vacalioners galhered in lhe cIub audilorium lo hear Iierre Ieclure on Indian
¡hiIoso¡hy÷or, as Love niceIy says, Veda and Tanlra hIlered lhrough ¨an
energelic Midveslern American¨ (¡. 326). The ¨Guru of Nyack¨ (or ¨Dr. ßer-
nard,¨ as he ¡referred lo be caIIed) amassed a Iibrary of Sanskril and ÒrienlaIisl
schoIarshi¡ unsur¡assed by any universily in America. AIlhough he never
lraveIed abroad, he corres¡onded vilh Indian schoIars and even hnanced a
shorl-Iived Vedic research cenler. As lhe years ¡assed, ßernard deem¡hasized
sex magic and Americanized his yoga even more. Like WaIl Disney, he used
lhe vord ¨Imagineering¨ lo describe his can-do a¡¡roach lo Iife and business.
Des¡ile having so much sex vilh so many vomen, ßernard a¡¡arenlIy
¡roduced no chiIdren. Hovever, his exlended famiIy incIuded an equaIIy
exlraordinary yoga hgure. His eslranged ne¡hev Theos Casimir Hamali
ßernard (19O8÷47) earned gIobaI fame as lhe hrsl Weslerner lo gain enlry lo
lhe lem¡Ies of Lhasa. This reaI-Iife |n!icnc jcncs slory is discussed by Love,
delaiIed more fuIIy by DougIas Veenhof in Wniic Icmc (2O11), and covered
exhausliveIy by IauI Hackell in 1nccs Bcrncr!, inc Wniic Icmc (2O12). WhiIe in
lhe IimeIighl, Theos ¡roduced Hcinc Ycgc (1945), lhe hrsl American sourcebook
on lhe ¡hysicaI disci¡Iine.
Des¡ile lhe former fame of lhe ¨While Lama¨ and lhe ¨Òmni¡olenl Òom,¨
lhe iniliaI mainslreaming of yoga in America oves more lo vomen, Syman
argues. ßIanche DeVries lrained a cohorl of leachers al her Halha sludio for
vomen in Manhallan afler se¡araling from Iierre in lhe 193Os. Many of her
sludenls subsequenlIy moved lo Los AngeIes, vhich became, afler WWII, lhe
153 FARMER j AmcrIcanasana
Ieading cenler for Halha in America. The cily's hrsl ¡osluraI sludio beIonged lo
anolher sui gcncris hgure, Indra Devi (1899÷2OO2). Lalvian-born Devi lraveIed
lo India as an as¡iring young dancer and aclress, slarred in earIy ßoIIyvood
hIms, married a Czech di¡Iomal, mel lhe ra|a of Mysore, and lhrough him
convinced Krishnamacharya lo lake her on in 1937 as his hrsl Weslern and
femaIe sludenl. Ten years Ialer, Devi sel u¡ sho¡ on Sunsel ßouIevard, vhere
she feminized Mysore yoga and ¡romoled il as a genlIe, naluraI vay lo deler
iIIness and deIay aging. Devi inlroduced Halha lo HoIIyvood aclresses such
as Grela Garbo and }ennifer }ones. GIoria Svanson vrole lhe leslimoniaI
inlroduclion lo Devi's hrsl yoga book, |crctcr Ycung, |crctcr Hcc|inq (1953).
Ior movie slars and housevives aIike, Devi made ¡oslure ¡raclice accessibIe.
She did nol ¡ush Ianlañ|aIi, prcncqcmc, or sublIe ¡hysioIogy.
Devi's gynocenlric yoga did nol Iead direclIy lo loday's yoga, nolvilh-
slanding lhe simiIarilies. In lhe 196Os, as delaiIed by Syman, yoga in America
convuIsed and bifurcaled, becoming eilher more mind- or more body-orienled.
Indian svamis immigraled freeIy again, and many Weslern ceIebrilies Iike lhe
ßealIes look lhe ¨hi¡¡ie lraiI¨ lo lhe subconlinenl. The TranscendenlaI Medila-
lion (TM) laughl by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi became a gIobaI ¡henomenon.
TM inslanlIy su¡¡Ianled Kriya Yoga (lhe disci¡Iine laughl by Yogananda,
vhich incIuded a modicum of Halha) as lhe mosl common form of yoga in
America. MeanvhiIe, buiIding on lhe ex¡erimenlalions of AIdous HuxIey
and AIan Walls, lhe erslvhiIe ¡rofessors Timolhy Leary and Richard AI¡erl
married ¡sychedeIic drugs lo Hinduized yoga and crealed a nev sacred
science of cnc|rcs-cum-neurolransmillers. Al Woodslock, before lhe rock 'n'
roII, Svami Salchidananda guided audience members in a manlra chanl and
loId lhe drug-addIed crovd lhal lhey couId gel high vilh lheir minds. The
InlernalionaI Sociely for Krishna Consciousness (aka Hare Krishnas) recruiled
members from lhe same demogra¡hic. SimuIlaneousIy, in lhe o¡¡osile di-
reclion, Krishnamacharya's slar sludenl Iyengar ¡romuIgaled a rigorous,
analomicaIIy ¡recise melhod of Halha, com¡Iele vilh cuslom ¡ro¡s. He ¡re-
senled his bodiIy version of yoga as lhe fuIIesl ex¡ression of Ianlañ|aIi. (Òn
lhe mind-body s¡eclrum, one can imagine Vivekananda on one end, Iyengar
on lhe olher, and Yogananda in lhe middIe.) Wilh heI¡ from Yehudi Menuhin,
Iyengar became lhe greal gIobaI ¡o¡uIarizer of Mysore yoga. His aulhorilalive
Iigni cn Ycgc (1965) offered Weslerners lhe hrsl com¡rehensive hov-lo guide
for ¡osluraI ¡raclice, fuIIy iIIuslraled. Many Americans lrained vilh Iyengar
al his academy in Iune, and many more borroved freeIy from his book lo
devise sludio cIasses and inslruclionaI ¡rograms for daylime leIevision.
In dramalic fashion, Syman ¡orlrays a lug of var in lhe 197Os and 198Os
over lhe souI of American yoga÷a conlesl belveen lhe denominalionaI and
lhe ¡hysicaI, belveen Hindu-ins¡ired devolees and Iyengar-based exercis-
ers. ßolh sides Iosl in lhe shorl lerm. TM ¡eaked in lhe 197Os, lhen ¡reci¡i-
lousIy decIined, inlo lhal void came lhe medilalionaI Siddha Yoga of Svami
Muklananda. He, Iike many immigranl gurus of lhe ¡eriod, vas evenluaIIy
disgraced by aIIegalions of sexuaI im¡ro¡riely (a lo¡ic ex¡Iored more fuIIy
in Thomas A. IorslhoefeI and Cynlhia Ann Humes' Gurus in Amcricc |2OO5j
and LoIa WiIIiamson's 1rcnsccn!cni in Amcricc |2O1Oj). The nev American
Halha avoided scandaI, bul ils re¡ulalion suffered by dinl of associalion. A
fringe movemenl in lhe crovded vorId of hlness and seIf-heI¡, il Ianguished
in reIalive obscurily in lhe ¨cuIluraI viIderness,¨ Syman says (¡. 267). Halha
couId nol com¡ele againsl aerobics, lhe dominanl exercise lrend of lhe 198Os.
In shorl, lhe vogue for ¡osluraI yoga since lhe 199Os vas nol, des¡ile ils
muIli¡Ie anlecedenls, lhe inevilabIe cuIminalion of Iinear grovlh. No one,
Syman incIuded, has fuIIy ex¡Iained ils ¡henomenaI resurgence. In her veII-
regarded book A Hisicrq cj Mc!crn Ycgc, LIizabelh De MicheIis characlerizes
¡oslure ¡raclice as ¨secuIarized heaIing riluaI¨ ¡erfeclIy suiled for ¨IargeIy
secuIarized and deveIo¡ed muIlicuIluraI, muIlifailh socielies.¨
In lhe Iniled
Slales, lhe consoIidalion of yoga coincided vilh lhe coming of age of lhe
ßoomers, a cohorl lhal reIigious sludies schoIars have described as s¡iriluaIIy
The yoga boom aIso lracks vilh lhe grovlh of ¨unchurched
America¨ as discussed in Roberl IuIIer's Spiriiuc|, Bui Nci Rc|igicus (2OO1), lhe
normaIizalion of aIlernalive medicine as anaIyzed in Mary Ruggie's Mcrginc|
ic Mcinsirccm (2OO4), and lhe ßovering of media-based s¡iriluaI lhera¡eu-
lics for vomen examined in vorks such as Kalhryn Loflon's Oprcn (2O11).
Women's magazines and daylime TV have done much lo ¡romole yoga by
¡rohIing Ialler-day equivaIenls of GIoria Svanson (e.g., AIi MacGrav, }ane
Ionda, Chrisly TurIinglon, }ennifer Annislon, Gvenylh IaIlrov, Madonna)
vho have embraced Halha for heaIlh, slress reIief, s¡iriluaIily, loned abs,
¡oslnalaI sIimming, or some combinalion of lhe above.
ßy 2OOO, yoga had become a fad, es¡eciaIIy in urban neighborhoods vilh
high concenlralions of veII-educaled slay-al-home ¡osl-feminisl molhers. ßy
lhe eslimale of survey lakers, lhe ¡o¡uIalion of yoga ¡raclilioners in America
in lhe ßush Years vas 85 ¡ercenl vhile, 72 ¡ercenl femaIe, 71 ¡ercenl coIIege
educaled, and 27 ¡ercenl ¡oslgraduale educaled. Lven as Americans as a
vhoIe grev dramalicaIIy more obese, lhis sub-¡o¡uIalion grev Ieaner and
more ßexibIe. Yoga is decidedIy more Ty¡e A and vhile-coIIar lhan ¨Nev
Age¨ movemenls Iike Neo-Iaganism and Shamanism. Yoginis accord vilh lhe
¨bourgeois bohemians¨ described in David ßrooks' Bc|cs in Pcrc!isc (2OOO) and
vilh lhe demogra¡hic IabeIed by markelers as LÒHAS (¨IifeslyIes of heaIlh and
suslainabiIily¨). The geogra¡hic dislribulion of yoga sludios offers su¡¡orl for
ßiII ßisho¡'s 1nc Big Scri (2OO8), vhich argues lhal conlem¡orary Americans
have seIf-segregaled inlo neighborhood-IeveI Red Slale1ßIue Slale encIaves
based on IifeslyIe ¡references. CIaire Dederer's recenl yoga memoir Pcscr (2O1O)
¡rohIes one such neighborhood, Norlh SeallIe, and ils ¡o¡uIalion of veaIlhy,
veII-ad|usled vhile molhers vho resliveIy seek ¡erfeclion in yogic re¡ose.
155 FARMER j AmcrIcanasana
As ¡oslure ¡raclice gained ¡o¡uIarily, ca¡ilaIisls res¡onded by crealing and
ex¡Ioiling niche markels. Nike added a yoga Iine, Adidas began a ¨IIay Yoga¨
cam¡aign, Liz CIaiborne acquired ¡rAna, and lhe HeaIlhy Living division of
Aclive Inleresl Media boughl oul Ycgc jcurnc|. In 2OO8 American yogis s¡enl
$5.7 biIIion on cIasses, relreals, equi¡menl, a¡¡areI, and media. Al lhe annuaI
induslry conference s¡onsored by Ycgc jcurnc|, vendors hII lhe convenlion haII
vilh svag. InIike ¡rior mela¡hysicaI fads Iike Theoso¡hy, mesmerism, and
Svedenborgianism, ¡hysicaI yoga can be fuIIy commodihed. You can even
lake yoga cruises or groove oul lo |am bands al yoga feslivaIs.
In free-markel fashion, America offers a Halha ¡raclice for every ¡ersonaI-
ily. If you vanl masochislic exerlion mixed vilh sexuaIized svealiness, you
can go lo lhe sauna-Iike heal of a ßikram sludio, lhe franchise of ßikram
Choudhury. Ior a chaIIenging seIf-direcled tinqcsc regimen vilh a dose of
Ialañ|aIi, you mighl lake on lhe Ashlanga syslem deveIo¡ed by K. Iallabhi
}ois. (Syman righlIy credils ßikram and Ashlanga÷lvo ¡edagogies lhal require
maslery of undevialing series' of asanas÷for allracling more American men
lo yoga.) Ior an ins¡iralionaI cardio vorkoul, you can lry any of lhe variel-
ies of Iover Yoga. Ior Sanskril chanling, lhemed readings, and music vilh
your sun saIulalions, lhere's }ivamukli. If you ¡refer somelhing ¡IayfuI and
accessibIe lhal combines non-sexuaI lanlrism and American-slyIe ¡osilive
lhinking, Anusara mighl be your lhing. Ior an ex¡IicilIy s¡iriluaI ¡oslure
¡raclice lhal can become a communily and a vay of Iife, you couId seek oul
While Lolus Yoga, Sivananda Yoga, or KundaIini Yoga. Ior a cor¡orale-slyIe
veIIness ¡rogram, you couId lrain in Kri¡aIu Yoga. If you need ¡sychic and
emolionaI heaIing in addilion lo slrenglh lraining, you mighl invesligale Ior-
resl Yoga. Ior sIov-¡aced, analomicaIIy ¡recise ¡hysicaI lhera¡y, you couId
lry Iyengar, Yin Yoga, or Viniyoga.
In addilion lo lhese eslabIished schooIs, each of vhich offers leacher-
cerlihcalion ¡rograms, lhere are counlIess ileralions, incIuding AIDS yoga,
yoga for ferliIily, ¡re- and ¡oslnalaI yoga, yoga for kids, yoga vilh dogs, aqua
yoga, disco yoga, naked yoga, and Iaughler yoga, as veII as lrademarked niche
brands Iike SIim CaIm Sexy, Goddess Yoga, Yoga ßooly ßaIIel, AnliGravily Yoga,
AcroYoga, Revila-Yoga (lo resisl vrinkIes), Yoga for GoIfers, and Taxi Yoga (for
¡eo¡Ie vho s¡end lheir days driving). Some Chrislians ¡raclice HoIy Yoga,
IraiseMoves, Yoga Irayer, or HaiI Mary and Rhylhmic ßrealhing÷des¡ile
condemnalions from CardinaI Ralzinger (before he vas Io¡e) and Soulhern
ßa¡lisl cIergymen. Reformed }evs are Iess excIusionary. Some synagogues
even offer Shabbal Yoga. AII in aII, lhe Iale lvenlielh cenlury rivaIed lhe earIy
lvenlielh cenlury as a ¡eriod of yogic reinvenlion, vilh America re¡Iacing
India as lhe cenler of crealivily. The virlues of ¡oslure ¡raclice became so
videIy acce¡led lhal lhe I.S. Army added yoga lo lhe ITSD rehabiIilalion
¡rogram al WaIler Reed in 2OO6 and incor¡oraled Halha eIemenls inlo lhe
basic ¡hysicaI lraining requiremenls in 2O11.
Is lhere a dislincliveIy American a¡¡roach lo yoga` Calherine AIbanese's
5HSXEOLFRI0LQGDQG6SLULW argues lhal American mela¡hysicaIs crealed a ¨nev
and American yogic ¡roducl¨: a Halha ¡raxis lhal lrealed lhe cor¡oreaI body
as a s¡iriluaI vesseI, a yoga ¡hiIoso¡hy lhal ceIebraled lhe body ilseIf as lhe
miracIe of miracIes. ¨Worshi¡ lhe body,¨ inslrucled Iierre ßernard oflen. The
American ¨enIighlened body-seIf¨ vas, AIbanese says, differenl lhan lhe sublIe
body of Tanlra, lhe mechanicaI body of lhe naluraI hygiene movemenl, or lhe
manIy body of ¡hysicaI cuIlure. American yogis have consislenlIy em¡hasized
¨lhe ¡hysicaI as roule lo lhe lranscendenl.¨
In yoga sludios, American leach-
ers conslanlIy exhorl sludenls lo ¨Iislen lo¨ and ¨honor¨ lheir individuaI
bodies. Ior ßernard, body-cenlric yoga incIuded QDXOL (abdominaI isoIalion)
and seIf-enemas. Today, hovever, American body vorshi¡ lends lo excIude
bodiIy funclions, and yogis here shun some of lhe mosl common Indian yogic
exercises÷lechniques Iike manuaIIy cIeaning one's sinuses vilh vax-cord
calhelers and cIeansing lhe nasaI ¡assages vilh a MDOQHWL ¡ol. Slefanie Syman
delecls a slrong slreak of Iroleslanlism in conlem¡orary American yoga, vilh
ils em¡hasis on vorking lhe body. This efforlfuI yoga is, she says, ¡aradoxicaI,
bolh ¨an induIgence and a ¡enance¨ (¡. 291).
Com¡ared lo yoga in India, yoga in America÷excIuding oulIying seclarian
medilalion grou¡s÷funclions vilhoul formaI gurus. Inslead, a rolaling Iineu¡
of noveI yel inlerchangeabIe Halha ¨rock slars¨ (dis¡ro¡orlionaleIy maIe
in reIalion lo lhe ¡o¡uIalion of ¡raclilioners) com¡eles for audience share.
Com¡ared lo ßrilain, vilh ils ßrilish WheeI of Yoga÷a ruIing body ofhciaIIy
sanclioned by IK S¡orl÷American yoga is decenlraIized, enlre¡reneuriaI,
and non-hierarchicaI. Yoga schooIs offer leacher lraining bul resisl slale-IeveI
allem¡ls lo reguIale lhem as vocalionaI schooIs vilh allendanl ¡a¡ervork,
fees, and ins¡eclions.
In addilion lo commerciaIism and narcissism, ¡erha¡s lhe mosl characler-
islic fealure of American yoga is ils syncrelism vilh olher forms of ¡o¡uIar
lhera¡eulics Iike massage, chiro¡raclic, aromalhera¡y, and music lhera¡y. As
shovn in Lva Moskovilz's ,Q7KHUDS\:H7UXVW (2OO1), lhe Iniled Slales has
a dee¡ ¡o¡uIar lradilion of lhe ¨lhera¡eulic gos¡eI.¨ If you drev a Venn dia-
gram, American ¡osluraI yoga vouId hl inlo lhe overIa¡¡ed s¡ace of al Ieasl
hve s¡heres: aIlernalive s¡iriluaIily, aIlernalive medicine, ¡hysicaI lhera¡y,
¡hysicaI hlness, and humanislic ¡sychoIogy.
In lrulh, lhe ¨American¨ in American yoga is regionaI and melro¡oIilan.
Irom lhe ¨Greal Òom¨ lo lhe ¡resenl, lhe Ieading hgures of American Halha
have gravilaled lo Nev York, San Irancisco, and Los AngeIes, and, more
recenlIy, lo coIIege lovns and hubs of ouldoor recrealion or aIlernalive s¡iri-
luaIily Iike Sanla Ie and ßouIder. Crossroads of lhealer, hIm, leIevision, and
fashion÷vilh lheir residenl beaulifuI ¡eo¡Ie vho ¡ose for a Iiving and vho,
Iike medievaI \RJLQV, desire immorlaIily÷doubIe as yoga cenlers. Ior roughIy
157 FARMER j AmcrIcanasana
lhe Iasl cenlury, lhe regionaI cuIlure of coaslaI CaIifornia has veneraled bodiIy
beauly and hlness, an enler¡rising hislorian couId no doubl hnd direcl Iinks
belveen MuscIe ßeach al Sanla Monica Iier and YogaWorks in Sanla Monica.
ßul lhe CaIifornia inßuence runs more lhan skin-dee¡. As shovn by Lrik Davis'
1nc Visicncrq Sicic (2OO6) and }effrey Kri¡aI's |sc|cn (2OO7), s¡iriluaI seekers in
lhe greal Iacihc slale have consislenlIy been on lhe forefronl of ex¡erimenla-
lion vilh Asian lradilions. Ior exam¡Ie, in Sanla Cruz Counly, 15 ¡ercenl of
aduIls in 2OOO idenlihed as having ¨Laslern reIigious adherence,¨ vhiIe Iess
lhan 4 ¡ercenl idenlihed as Asian.

When one considers lhe hislory of yoga from lhe 189Os lo lhe ¡resenl,
generaI lrends become a¡¡arenl: ¡eri¡heraI lo cenlraI, IocaI lo gIobaI, maIe lo
(¡redominanlIy) femaIe, s¡iriluaI lo (moslIy) secuIar, seclarian lo universaI,
mendicanl lo consumerisl, medilalionaI lo ¡osluraI, inleIIecluaI lo ex¡erienliaI,
esoleric lo accessibIe, from oraI lo hands-on leaching, from lexluaI lo ¡holo-
gra¡hic re¡resenlalions of ¡oses, from conlorled sociaI ¡ariahs lo Iilhe sociaI
vinners. Yoga has never been a slabIe enlily, il can mean aImosl anylhing
lo aImosl anybody. Su¡remeIy ada¡labIe, ¡oslure ¡raclice varranls use of
an overused vord: meme. Yoga nov beIongs lo vhal Srinivas Aravamudan
in Guru |ng|isn (2OO6) caIIs lhe ¨gIobaI ¡o¡uIar¨÷a ¡oslcoIoniaI reaIm of
reIigious cosmo¡oIilanism.
RecenlIy, lhe Hindu American Ioundalion announced a cam¡aign lo ¨Take
ßack Yoga¨ from lhe secuIar reaIm of hlness. In com¡Iemenlary fashion, India's
NalionaI Inslilule of Science Communicalion and Informalion Resources has
calaIoged hundreds of asanas in ils TradilionaI KnovIedge DigilaI Library in
an allem¡l lo deler inleIIecluaI ¡ro¡erly lhieves Iike CaIculla-born, ßeverIy
HiIIs÷based ßikram Choudhury, vho conlroversiaIIy co¡yrighled a sequence
of lvenly-six yoga ¡oses vilh lhe I.S. Ialenl Òfhce. Choudhury, vho, Iike
Iierre ßernard, hobnobs vilh ceIebrilies and coIIecls cIassic cars, s¡onsors lhe
Yoga Asana Cham¡ionshi¡ and ho¡es lhal Halha viII someday earn recogni-
lion as an ÒIym¡ic s¡orl. A macho, ¡oIarizing hgure, Choudhury has earned
lhe scorn of sincere AngIo-American Halha yogis vho cIaim lo be leaching
lhe unaduIleraled ¨CIassicaI Yoga¨ of Ianlañ|aIi. Hovever, if Mark SingIelon
is righl, Choudhury, a former Indian veighlIifling cham¡ion vho Ieads his
cIasses Iike bool cam¡s, may be cIoser lo lhe s¡iril of lhe originaI÷lhal is lo
say, Iale im¡eriaI÷Mysore ¡raclice lhan anyone eIse in America.
}ared Iarmer, De¡arlmenl of Hislory, Slony ßrook Iniversily, is lhe aulhor of
1rccs in Pcrc!isc. A Cc|ijcrnic Hisicrq (forlhcoming, Norlon).
1. Markel survey resuIls from hll¡|ournaI.com1adverlise1¡ress_reIeases11O,
afhIialion numbers from The Iev Iorum on ReIigion and IubIic Life, ¨I.S. ReIigious
Landsca¡e Survey: ReIigious AfhIialion: Diverse and Dynamic,¨ Iebruary 2OO8, avaiIabIe
al hll¡:11reIigions.¡ See aIso Gur|eel S. ßirdee el aI., ¨Characlerislics of Yoga
Isers: ResuIls of a NalionaI Survey,¨ jcurnc| cj Gcncrc| |nicrnc| Mc!icinc 23 (Òclober 2OO8):
1653÷58, and Roberl ß. Sa¡er el aI., ¨IrevaIence and Iallerns of AduIl Yoga Ise in lhe
Iniled Slales: ResuIls of a NalionaI Survey,¨ A|icrnciitc 1ncrcpics in Hcc|in cn! Mc!icinc 1O
(March1A¡riI 2OO4): 44÷49.
2. See David Gordon While, 1nc Ycgc Suircs cj Pcicnjc|i. A Bicgrcpnq (forlhcoming).
3. GeraId }ames Larson and Ram Shankar ßhallacharya, eds., Ycgc. |n!ic´s Pni|cscpnq cj
Mc!iiciicn, voI. 12 of |ncqc|cpc!ic cj |n!icn Pni|cscpnics (2OO8), 136.
4. See aIso David Gordon While, 1nc A|cncmicc| Bc!q (1996), WiIIiam R. Iinch, Wcrricr
Ascciics cn! |n!icn |mpircs (2OO6), and Irederick M. Smilh, 1nc Sc|j Pcsscssc! (2OO6).
5. See Suzanne Nevcombe, ¨The DeveIo¡menl of Modern Yoga: Survey of lhe IieId,¨
Rc|igicn Ccmpcss 3 (2OO9): 986÷1OO2, Mark SingIelon and }ean ßyrne, eds., Ycgc in inc Mc!crn
Wcr|! (2OO8), and David Gordon While, ed., Ycgc in Prcciicc (2O12).
6. }ose¡h S. AIler, Ycgc in Mc!crn |n!ic (2OO4), 26.
7. WaIler Harding and CarI ßode, eds., 1nc Ccrrcspcn!cncc cj Hcnrq Dcti! 1ncrccu (1958), 251.
8. LIizabelh De MicheIis, A Hisicrq cj Mc!crn Ycgc (2OO4), 15÷16.
9. See Dean R. Hoge el aI., Vcnisning Bcun!crics (1994), Roberl Wulhnov, Ajicr Hcctcn
(1998), Wade CIark Roof, A Gcncrciicn cj Scc|crs (1993) and Spiriiuc| Mcr|cip|ccc (1999).
1O. See Mimi Svarlz, ¨The Yoga MoguI,¨ Ncu Ycr| 1imcs Mcgczinc, }uIy 25, 2O1O, for a
¡rohIe of one of lhe Ieading conlem¡orary yoga enlre¡reneurs (Anusara founder }ohn Iriend).
11. Calherine AIbanese, A Rcpu||ic cj Min! cn! Spirii (2OO8), 347.
12. Wade CIark Roof and Mark SiIk, Rc|igicn cn! Pu||ic Iijc in inc Pcciµc Rcgicn (2OO5), 113.

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