Mark Singleton’s work: Yoga Body

11 May 2014

I never really have known what to say when family, friends or even acquaintances ask me questions about yoga’s relation to Hinduism and its ties to Indian culture. I always just responding by saying that I really enjoy my yoga practice and it definitely it part of my spiritual life, but I was really unsure about the history of the kind of yoga that I practice. If you’re in this same position, consider picking up a copy of Yoga Body: The Origins of Modern Posture Practice by Mark Singleton.

Singleton takes the reader on a journey through the ages to investigate the origins of the yoga that is becoming more and more popular in the United States and around the world. He terms this asana-based yoga “transnational anglophone yoga”, in order to distinguish it from the traditional spiritual yogic practices. His thesis is that the yoga we practice today did not emerge from a direct lineage of traditional India yogic practice. Instead, he supports in great detail the idea that the yoga we know today draws more deeply on the Indian nationalist and European bodybuilding and gymnastic movements.

This book is meticulously researched and written. It was so fascinating to read about how hatha yoga was disregarded by early yogis as not actually being yoga, because it didn’t focus enough on the spiritual practices. And that early yogis who engaged in physical feats of strength, endurance and extreme flexibility were equated with characters from circus side shows. From there, I really enjoyed the journey through the Indian physical culture movement and the investigation into how that shaped “transnational anglophone yoga.” I learned about the impact that print photographs of yogic activities had on the development of yoga as we know it in North America today.

For anyone interested in how the yoga we practice today developed over the ages, this is a great read. What facet of this developmental journey will spark your interest?

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