Yoga Body The Origins of Modern Posture Practice

Format: Paperback
Pub. Date: 2010-02-10
Publisher(s): Oxford University Press
List Price: $17.95

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Customer Reviews

Fascinating Textbook  March 30, 2011
Rating StarRating StarRating StarRating StarRating Star

Nice textbook! After reading Mark Singleton's textbook, Yoga Body, I agree that what is presented as an un-interrupted lineage of asana practice, is in reality, far more of a hybrid practice the current form of which is less than a hundred years old, or so. And also, that the supposed source textbooks for current Asana practice are either non-existent or have but scant references to poses currently in extant. That being said however.... I have no doubt that some forms of Asana ARE going back thousands of years.

Yoga Body The Origins of Modern Posture Practice: 5 out of 5 stars based on 1 user reviews.


The practice of yoga has become hugely popular in the West. Most people assume (and many claim) that 'postural' yoga - characterized by the familiar, demanding, physical poses - is an ancient Indian tradition. But in fact, as Mark Singleton shows, this type of yoga is quite a recent development, with its beginnings traceable to the middle of the 19th-century. Singleton here presents the first in-depth study of the origins of postural yoga, challenging many current notions about its nature and origins.

Yoga is so prevalent in the modern world--practiced by pop stars, taught in schools, and offered in yoga centers, health clubs, and even shopping malls--that we take its presence, and its meaning, for granted. But how did the current yoga boom happen? And is it really rooted in ancient Indian practices, as many of its adherents claim?

In this groundbreaking book, Mark Singleton calls into question many commonly held beliefs about the nature and origins of postural yoga (?sana) and suggests a radically new way of understanding the meaning of yoga as it is practiced by millions of people across the world today. Singleton shows that, contrary to popular belief, there is no evidence in the Indian tradition for the kind of health and fitness-oriented ?sana practice that dominates the global yoga scene of the twenty-first century.

Singleton's surprising--and surely controversial--thesis is that yoga as it is popularly practiced today owes a greater debt to modern Indian nationalism and, even more surprisingly, to the spiritual aspirations of European bodybuilding and early 20th-century women's gymnastic movements of Europe and America, than it does to any ancient Indian yoga tradition. This discovery enables Singleton to explain, as no one has done before, how the most prevalent forms of postural yoga, like Ashtanga, Bikram and "Hatha" yoga, came to be the hugely popular phenomena they are today.

Drawing on a wealth of rare documents from archives in India, the UK and the USA, as well as interviews with the few remaining, now very elderly figures in the 1930s Mysore ?sana revival, Yoga Body turns the conventional wisdom about yoga on its head.

Singleton’s thesis is the best effort yet to free yoga from fundamentalism. Singleton states the premise of his book clearly on the first page of his introduction. “The primacy of asana performance in transnational yoga today is a new phenomenon that has no parallel in premodern times.”

Author Biography

Mark Singleton teaches at St. John's College, Santa Fe, New Mexico. He is the editor, with Jean Byrne, of Yoga in the Modern World: Contemporary Perspectives. He lives in Santa Fe.

Author Biography

Mark Singleton teaches at St. John's College, Santa Fe, New Mexico. He is the editor, with Jean Byrne, of Yoga in the Modern World: Contemporary Perspectives. He lives in Santa Fe.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. vii
Introductionp. 3
A Brief Overview of Yoga in the Indian Traditionp. 25
Fakirs, Yogins, Europeansp. 35
Popular Portrayals of the Yoginp. 55
India and the International Physical Culture Movementp. 81
Modern Indian Physical Culture: Degeneracy and Experimentationp. 95
Yoga as Physical Culture I: Strength and Vigorp. 113
Yoga as Physical Culture II: Harmonial Gymnastics and Esoteric Dancep. 143
The Medium and the Message: Visual Reproduction and the Āsana Revivalp. 163
T. Krishnamacharya and the Mysore Āsana Revivalp. 175
Notesp. 211
Bibliographyp. 225
Indexp. 257
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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