Mark has written a few times on this site about contemporary controversies concerning yoga, at one time a distinctively religious practice but today a nearly universal feature of the lucrative secular campaign in quest of “wellness.” Here’s a new book that chronicles yoga’s path: The Story of Yoga: From Ancient India to the Modern West (Oxford University Press), by Alistair Shearer.
“How did an ancient Indian spiritual discipline turn into a $20+ billion-a-year mainstay of the global wellness industry? What happened along yoga’s winding path from the caves and forests of the sages to the gyms, hospitals and village halls of the modern West?
This comprehensive history sets yoga in its global cultural context for the first time. It leads us on a fascinating journey across the world, from arcane religious rituals and medieval body-magic, through muscular Christianity and the British Raj, to the Indian nationalist movement and the arrival of yoga in the twentieth-century West. We discover how the practice reached its present-day ubiquity and how it became embedded in powerful social currents shaping the world’s future, such as feminism, digital media, celebrity culture, the stress pandemic and the quest for an authentic identity in the face of unprecedented change.
Shearer’s revealing history boasts a colorful cast of characters past and present, who tell an engaging tale of scholars and scandal, science and spirit, wisdom and waywardness. This is the untold story of yoga, warts and all.”