The roots of Yoga are a tangled web, with traditions from the East coming to the West, and the West both adapting these and, in some cases, reflecting them back. Its no surprise – Yoga is both evolving and difficult to define definitively. Some of you in my classes will have seen my Mirror Ball demonstration – Yoga being the centre yet the reflection you see depending on your perspective in viewing it.
This book is painting a picture of the history of Yoga in America – and thus more or less Europe by extension – through the 19th and 20th centuries and the lives of key proponents.
We see both saints and sinners in this journey – some of the early proponents of Yoga turned out to have mixed motives and to loose their direction, sometimes being a thin line away from abuse and cult, and you have to admire the author of this work in trying to separate fact from fiction and retain some objectivity. Equally we see an evolution as Yoga reinvents and refines its practices to reflect social trends; and whilst that may sound like a new phenomenon its very much the way yoga has evolved in the East over 3,000 years or so. Perhaps in 3000 years or so our contemporary changes will be seen as yet another staging post in yoga 5000ce.
This is a interesting and readable book, and certainly helped me to contextualise some of what I new about the history of modern yoga in the West. Sensibly its coverage of later years and the explosion of Yoga in the west in the last three decades is treated sparingly – that would be a book in its own right, and one thats still being written.
For anyone wanting to appreciate a little more about how we got to where we are, this is an interesting and readable work, and one to prompt some reflection.