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date: 24 February 2024

Modern Yogafree

Modern Yogafree

  • Andrea JainAndrea JainIndiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis


Modern yoga refers to a variety of systems that developed as early as the 19th century as a consequence of capitalist production, colonial and industrial endeavors, global developments in areas ranging from metaphysics to fitness, and modern ideas and values. Modern yoga systems transformed from largely controversial, elite, or countercultural ones to pop culture varieties when entrepreneurial gurus became strategic participants in a global market and succeeded in marketing yoga by establishing continuity between their yoga brands and dominant values and demands. Today, modern yoga is most frequently prescribed as a part of self-development believed to provide increased beauty, strength, and flexibility as well as decreased stress and that can be combined with other worldviews and practices available in the global market.


  • Mysticism and Spirituality
  • New Religions
  • Rituals, Practices, and Symbolism

The Early History of Modern Yoga

Beginning in the 19th century, yoga proponents modernized yoga through creative processes of translation and accommodation in response to a sustained and unprecedented increase in capitalist production as well as colonial and industrial endeavors and the consequent globalizing processes. Though modern yoga went global by the 19th century, its early history featured controversial, elite, or countercultural systems opposed to prevailing orthodoxies and disdained or condemned by the general populace, which often treated it as a corruption of authentic yoga or as an unwelcome foreign import.1 More than anything else, a bifurcation between yoga’s meditative, philosophical, and ethical dimensions, associated with classical yoga or raja (“royal”) yoga, and the physical techniques associated with hatha yoga influenced the early constructions of modern yoga and the public’s view of it.

Following the onset of British colonialism in India, elites from the United States, Europe, and India dismissed Indian systems of hatha yoga for what were considered extreme, barbaric, and anti-social practices. British colonialists and Christian missionaries along with those Indian elites who sympathized with either or both causes thought of Indians engaged in hatha yoga as backward and savage. Much of that denunciation was fueled by widespread stereotypes about hatha yoga. First, abilities to contort the body into what were considered bizarre postures were associated with the abilities of European and North American contortionists, and so hatha yoga was reduced to an Indian form of crass entertainment.2 Second, the supposed siddhis or magical powers of some hatha yoga practitioners resulted in their association of hatha yoga with occult magic.3 Mass-circulation writings on yoga reified colonialist and Orientalist stereotypes of hatha yoga as mysterious, bizarre, uncivilized, and threatening to modernity and rationality.4

Nineteenth- and early 20th-century yoga advocates in Europe and the United States were also subject to serious and persistent criticisms for participation in physical yoga. This was a period of religious questioning in light of modern analyses that challenged orthodox views. For example, Darwin’s theory of evolution questioned orthodox doctrines on creation and history. Whereas some mainstream denominations and new religious movements responded to such modern challenges by assimilating aspects of various worldviews, sometimes including modern scientific ones, others responded with religious fundamentalism.5 Many socially and politically influential people put fundamentalist standards in service of the active suppression of unorthodox ideas and practices. The famous efforts of the Postal Inspector Anthony Comstock (1844–1915) serve as a United States example.

Consider the life of Ida C. Craddock (1857–1902), an American yoga advocate who incited rage from Comstock and others.6 Craddock established the Church of Yoga in 1899. She reconstructed the tantric mystico-erotic dimensions of hatha yoga into a system for enhancing sexual pleasures within heterosexual marriage, and she considered God to be a third partner in marital sexual union. In 1902, after being convicted in a New York trial for charges of obscenity, Craddock spent three tortuous months in prison. Another federal trial threatened additional prison time. Craddock responded by taking her own life in order to die a free woman.

Pierre Bernard (1876–1955) was another turn-of-the-century American social radical and tantric modern yoga advocate. His disciples would continue to teach yoga well into the second half of the 20th century.7 Bernard held a life-affirming vision of yoga that combined modern yoga’s physical techniques—as detailed below, this form of yoga was influenced by modern physical culture—tantra’s erotico-mysticism, and a communal ethic based on his nondualist philosophy. Unlike many of his modern yoga contemporaries in the United States, including some Indian yoga gurus, who disseminated ascetic, intellectual, and meditational renditions of modern yoga, Bernard prescribed yoga as a means to pleasure. For that reason, given the puritanical mores that dominated society, he had to keep much of his teachings secret. Nevertheless, law enforcement, the media, and the Christian clergy made several attempts to stop Bernard from teaching yoga. For years, he and his students were run out of cities as far as London, where British authorities deported one of his disciples who tried to recruit students.

British High Court Judge in Calcutta Sir John Woodroffe (1865–1936) was another modern yoga advocate who kept much of his work on yoga secret.8 Having studied tantric texts, probably translated by his Bengali friend and pundit, Atul Behari Ghose (1864–1936), and under the pen name Arthur Avalon, which, in addition to keeping his actual name secret, may have represented both Woodroffe and Ghose, a number of texts on hatha yoga and tantra were published. Texts included The Serpent Power: The Secrets of Tantric and Shaktic Yoga (1919), which would become a part of a countercultural canon. More evidence of how hatha yoga was linked to negative stereotypes in the popular Euro-American imagination is tied to the tantric experiments of British occultist Aleister Crowley (1875–1947). As a result of those experiments, hatha yoga was associated with sex magic.9

Some wanted to salvage yoga from popular stereotypes and instead promote it as a philosophical, meditational, or ethical tradition. They reflected a general trend in the 19th- and early 20th-century global religious landscape. As mentioned above, this was a period of religious questioning in light of modernity, which resulted in the rise of new metaphysical, philosophical, and social movements. Transcendentalism, Theosophy, New Thought, Christian Science, and the Vedanta Society as well as Indian reform movements, including the Brahmo Samaj and the Ramakrishna Mission, were among the many movements that assimilated and syncretized ideas and practices from Christian Protestantism, modern science, yoga and other South Asian traditions, and sometimes Mind Cure, which invoked the power of the mind over the body in order to treat illness. William Walker Atkinson (1862–1932), for example, was a leading New Thought thinker who published a number of works on yoga, envisioned through the lenses of New Thought, Theosophy, and modern calisthenics.10 He published under the pseudonym Yogi Ramacharaka in order to give his works Indian authenticity.

In attempts to construct modern teachings, many yoga advocates elided certain aspects of yoga and emphasized others. Because of hatha yoga and tantra’s associations with what were considered bizarre postures, extreme asceticism, magic, sexual obscenity, and popular entertainment, they rarely took them seriously and were therefore less subject to controversy than figures like Craddock and Bernard. European and North American individuals and organizations who remained on the side of Christian orthodoxy, and especially those who held a fundamentalist ideology, however, in many cases feared all modern yoga movements.

American Transcendentalists are an example of those who stirred controversy for threatening Christian orthodoxy when they embraced yoga, even though their appropriations were largely ideological, not physical. Transcendentalism was a 19th-century American literary and philosophical movement that opposed mainstream intellectual culture, including its doctrinaire rationalism and privileging of Protestant Christianity. Transcendentalists believed that, by means of intuition rather than doctrine, one could achieve a transcendent spiritual state. Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882) and Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862), for example, thought their democratic religiosity, which privileged unmediated intuition as a means to realizing God, was compatible with nondualist yogic thought that maintained knowledge of ultimate reality could be discovered through turning inward, away from external doctrine.11

The Theosophical Society, founded by Helena Blavatsky (1831–1891) and Henry Steel Olcott (1832–1907) in 1875 in New York City, shared a selective appreciation of yoga. The Theosophical Society was made up of individuals who sought religious reform by means of synthesizing Asian and Euro-American metaphysical traditions. It was the Theosophical Society, and especially co-founder Blavatsky, that first reified the notion of raja yoga by equating it with a narrow philosophical and meditational tradition based on a selective reading of the Yoga Sutras, the source most widely cited on classical yoga to this day.12 They even arranged for the publication of an English translation of the Yoga Sutras in 1907. Another Theosophist, William Judge (1851–1896), provided a commentary on the Yoga Sutras in which he warned of the dangers of hatha yoga’s physical techniques, which he believed were “not spiritual.”13

But Europeans and Americans were not the only ones who reified and privileged a notion of raja yoga that censored physical practices and that was perceived to be compatible with modern ideas and values, especially a modern interpretation of advaita vedanta or neo-vedanta, which viewed nondualism as a rational Indian philosophy based on self development and ethical activism. More than any European or American, the Indian nationalist and Hindu reformer Swami Vivekananda (1863–1902) systematized such a narrow, modern version of yoga. He was one among many Hindus who expressed contempt for yoga’s physical techniques.14 Vivekananda prescribed what he considered authentic yoga according to his selective reading of the Yoga Sutras and, under the influence of colonialist, Orientalist, Christian missionary, and Theosophical condemnations of physical yoga, sought to deliver his alternative form of yoga to “the West.”

Vivekananda first visited the United States in 1893 with his famous speech to the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago in which he described the Hindu tradition as an experiential, not doctrinaire, philosophy compatible with modern thought. His appearance at the Parliament initiated a series of lecture tours throughout the United States. The guru joined Transcendentalists, Theosophists, and Hindu reformers in projecting modern values and ideas onto a reified notion of Hinduism. With his book entitled Raja Yoga (1896) and other texts, Vivekananda ossified the equation of raja yoga with a modern and nondualist vision.

Though he largely rejected yoga’s physical practices, Vivekananda sought to prove that raja yoga was scientific and, consequently, did invoke some components of hatha yoga, most notably the notion of the subtle body, which he argued had correspondences in the physical body as understood in modern anatomy and physiology.15 In this way, he argued, subtle energy could function as a healing agent.16 He suggested that health benefits, however, were inferior to the true aim of yoga: spiritual development.17 Vivekananda considered the psychological benefits of yoga to go hand-in-hand with spiritual development as well as an emphasis on the self that he thought was compatible with the modern democratic emphasis on the individual.

Vivekananda probably perceived yoga’s physical practices to be too heterodox to facilitate his global diffusion and universal application of Hindu thought, yet, simultaneously, he encouraged his disciples to turn inward, toward the self, rather than outward, toward orthodox sources of authority. His approach to yoga aimed toward enhancing life in the world, but not in the same ways that figures like Craddock or Bernard had in mind. Vivekananda, himself a celibate monk, was concerned not with enhancing bodily pleasures, but with enhancing life through a psychological process requiring self-control with the aim of self-realization.18 Popular in India, Vivekananda’s vision of yoga also appealed to many Americans who rejected mainstream forms of Protestant Christianity for new metaphysical movements and who shared an interest in wedding metaphysics with modern ideas and values, individualistic and democratic ideals, as well as the aim of self-realization.19

Paramahansa Yogananda (1893–1952), founder of the Self-Realization Fellowship, was the second Indian guru to travel from India to the United States and to attract a large following of Americans interested in modern yoga and Indian spirituality. For Yogananda, yoga was the scientific path to the experience of God, and that path was as much about Christ consciousness as Krishna consciousness. This was a hybrid product of Hindu, Christian, and modern ideas about the nature of God, the nature of the self, and the nature of the human body. By the late-20th-century influx of gurus to the United States and Western Europe, Vivekananda’s Vedanta Centers and centers for the Self-Realization Fellowship were already abundant and well established.

Modern Postural Yoga

Today most people associate modern yoga with modern postural yoga, a fitness regimen made up of sequences of bodily postures, which are often synchronized with the breath. The emphasis on posture practice that characterizes modern postural yoga departs not just from the early history of modern yoga, but also from the history of yoga in general. In other words, posture practice was not central to any yoga tradition prior to the 20th century.20

In response to early-20th-century transnational ideas and movements, including military calisthenics, modern medicine, and the Western European and North American physical culture of gymnasts, bodybuilders, martial experts, and contortionists, modern yoga proponents constructed new postural yoga systems.21 In short, postural yoga emerged “as a hybridized product of colonial India’s dialogical encounter with the worldwide physical culture movement.”22

The popular valorization of physical fitness traveled to British India where Indian yoga proponents assimilated physical culture.23 They salvaged hatha yoga from the onslaughts of Orientalist and reformist criticisms by prescribing it as physical fitness. Mark Singleton suggests that modern yoga proponents began constructing “‘indigenous’ exercise forms distinct (though often borrowing) from these imported systems . . . Often, nativized exercise such as this was also referred to as ‘yoga.’”24 Indian nationalists participated in this movement and turned to postural yoga as a way to promote a means to physical vigor, which symbolized Indian men’s resistance to colonial powers.

In many early postural yoga systems, physical enhancement was tied to spiritual development. In this way, postural yoga resembled some nonyogic organizations born of the global physical culture, such as the YMCA, which represented a reawakening of the sacralization of the body.25 Physical culture provided a context in which bodily strength and health were put in service of an ascetic and Protestant notion of self-control, moral development, and purity.

In India, the first two modern yoga institutions to publically disseminate loosely structured, nondogmatic modern postural yoga systems were the Yoga Institute at Santa Cruz, Bombay (established 1918), and the Kaivalyadhama Shrimad Madhava Yoga Mandir Samiti at Lonavla (near Pune) (established 1921). The works of Swami Kuvalayananda (1883–1966) and Sri Yogendra (1897–1989) on modern medical hatha yoga were also prominent in bringing a health-oriented hatha yoga practice into India’s public eye.26

Some yoga gurus played a particularly important role in making postural yoga a global phenomenon. Training students from the 1930s to the 1950s in Mysore, India, Tirumalai Krishnamacharya (1888–1989) constructed an aerobic system of yoga whereby the practitioner performed postures in repetition and in sequence.27 Sivananda Saraswati (1887–1963) was another yoga guru who trained students in Rishikesh, India. He transgressed the traditional guru-disciple model by disseminating his rendition of postural yoga across India and other parts of the globe through the distribution of English-language pamphlets.28 Sivananda formalized his attempts to distribute his yoga teachings when he established the Divine Life Society in 1936. Some of Krishnamacharya and Sivananda’s students became widely popular yoga teachers on the world stage. B. K. S. Iyengar (1918–2014) and K. Pattabhi Jois (1915–2009), for example, would successfully market postural yoga to a global audience in the second half of the 20th century.

The Popularization of Modern Yoga

Today, yoga is a part of popular culture in urban areas across the world. The postural practice most commonly associated with yoga underwent popularization when it began to coincide with transnational cultural developments in the late 20th century.29 First, freedom in physical mobility allowed consumers to travel to other parts of the world and adopt disparate wares and businessmen and -women, artisans, and proselytizing teachers to disseminate their teachings or wares beyond their home states or regions. Strict immigration restrictions from India to the United States and parts of Europe were lifted in the 1960s. Second, disillusionment with established religious institutions was widespread as many urban individuals felt threatened by social environments they no longer controlled in light of globalization and other modern social processes.30 Spiritual teachers broke into the competitive spiritual market with what they prescribed as solutions to the problems of excess and chaos in modern life.31 They also provided group identity to otherwise uprooted individuals along with a “re-enchantment of the world” or “remystification of the world” through their divinity and miracles.32 Many of these were modern yoga gurus.33

The British-American counterculture serves as one example of those drawn to gurus offering messages distinct from what were perceived as the oppressive, puritanical orthodoxies of the previous generation.34 Because many countercultural participants, including high-profile ones, such as the Beatles, experimented with yoga, yoga became an increasingly visible lifestyle option desired for its perceived ability to improve everyday life as well as, for some audiences, for its promise of salvation.35

Numerous 20th-century developments led to yoga’s popularization. Yoga received positive media attention, and mass-marketed books prescribed yoga as one part of self-development, a goal rooted in the Protestant notion of individual salvation, that could be combined with other ideas and practices.36 Indian gurus as well as European and North American yoga proponents began to reconstruct modern yoga in ways that universalized it by attributing to it benefits that were removed from specific Indian nationalist and mystical contexts and instead reflected dominant self-developmental desires.37 Furthermore, instead of relying on yoga’s transmission through the traditional guru-disciple relationship, usually in the isolated context of an ashram, gurus began to market yoga to mass audiences.38

Many of the earliest widely marketed modern yoga systems could be typologized as modern soteriological yoga, not modern postural yoga.39 These systems, unlike the popularized systems of postural yoga, have emphasized traditional devotion to guru figures and have maintained strict organizational structures and doctrinal commitments.

Though some scholars suggest we consider systems of modern yoga as examples of transplantation of movements from India to Euro-American contexts,40 many of these yoga systems began to take form long before their diffusion beyond India and remained prominent in India after their diffusion.41 By the 1960s, urban areas across the world had assimilated to an emergent transnational culture that featured a consumer-oriented approach to worldviews and practices as individuals chose from a variety of such to construct individual lifestyles. Godmen, defined by C. J. Fuller as contemporary ascetic guru figures who find fame within and at times beyond India and are revered and worshiped as divine, were in particularly high demand in the global spiritual market.42 A godman is treated as a literal avatar or “descent” of God.

Though generally a male-dominated area, sometimes these figures have been godwomen.43 Sri Anandamayi Maa (1896–1982) attracted numerous followers in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, with her abilities to enter mystical ecstasies and to hold difficult yogic postures. A Mormon woman from Utah, Daya Mata (born Faye Wright) served as president of the Self-Realization Fellowship from 1955 to 2010 and served as the spiritual leader of thousands of members across the world who affectionately referred to her as Sanghamata, “Mother of the Society.” Guru Anjali was a guru from Bengal who established an ashram in 1972 in Long Island where she taught a unique, universalistic version of raja yoga as she believed it was codified in the Yoga Sutras. Gurumayi Chidvilasananda (b. 1955) succeeded Swami Muktananda (1908–1982) in leading Siddha Yoga. She oversees ashrams and centers in thirty countries worldwide and makes shaktipat and Siddha Yoga celebrations available to thousands at a time by means of webcasts. Another noteworthy godwoman is Ma Yogashakti (b. 1927) who has ashrams in Delhi, Mumbai, London, New York, and Florida. Perhaps the most famous of all modern godwomen, Mata Amritanandamayi (b. 1953), widely known as Amma or “mother” and the “hugging saint,” embraces thousands of people nearly every day.44 Millions of people across the world revere this global guru as a living embodiment of the goddess.

The case of Muktananda illustrates many of the patterns that characterized godmen and godwomen and their followings. Beginning in the 1960s, Muktananda served as the guru of a Hindu movement, Siddha Yoga, based on ideas and practices primarily derived from tantra, and promising God-realization through the kripa or “grace” of the guru. Muktananda constructed and introduced Siddha Yoga in the 1960s and disseminated it to mass audiences in the 1970s and early 1980s.

Muktananda was believed to be a siddha or “perfected one” and therefore equivalent to God. He was known for his democratic and experiential approach to God and the immediate experience of God that he offered. Experience of God came in the form of shaktipat diksha or “initiation through the descent of shakti,” a form of initiation through the spontaneous awakening of the feminine divine energy believed to reside in all beings.45 In Siddha Yoga, shaktipat is transmitted by the guru to the devotee in an initiatory ritual involving a look, a touch, or Muktananda’s initiatory method of choice, a strike on the head with a wand of peacock feathers.

Muktananda first responded to 1960s popular spiritual demands in an entrepreneurial fashion, marketing Siddha Yoga to the masses throughout India where he was more akin to a modern godman than to a traditional guru.46 Muktananda introduced Siddha Yoga to disciples at his ashram, Shree Gurudev Ashram (later renamed, Gurudev Siddha Peeth), which came to resemble a European or American style retreat center more than a traditional ashram, in Ganeshpuri, India. Disciples ranged from becoming fully initiated monastic members of Muktananda’s community where Siddha Yoga functioned as an all-encompassing worldview and system of practice to incorporating Siddha Yoga into their spiritual repertoire as one part of an eclectic path toward God- or self-realization. As the Shree Gurudev Ashram Trust, which has administered the financial and legal affairs of the ashram since 1962, accumulated funds, the ashram continued to grow.

Muktananda also reached out to disciples by encouraging an exoteric discourse about the transformative experiences triggered by initiation into Siddha Yoga. He functioned as a model of that discourse by publicly sharing his own experiences. Siddha Yoga was one among many types of yoga available in the spiritual market, so the accessibility of testimonials about its effectiveness could attract disciples as they shopped around and calculated the pros and cons of the various gurus and spiritual wares available. The discourse was dominated—and continues to be dominated today—by testimonials of shaktipat, that initiatory ritual that the guru, in this early period of Siddha Yoga’s history, delivered to his disciples one at a time.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Muktananda’s active steps toward the mass diffusion of Siddha Yoga expanded to other parts of the world, especially to Britain, France, and the United States.47 The very method through which people learned Siddha Yoga changed when, instead of relying on one-on-one transmission through the traditional guru-disciple relationship in the isolated context of the guru’s ashram, Muktananda went out in search of disciples, actively marketing Siddha Yoga, which was now immediately accessible to vast numbers of spiritual seekers. Accessibility also increased when Muktananda first introduced the Intensive, a choreographed retreat during which the guru would bestow shaktipat to several, sometimes hundreds, of people at a time.

In 1975, Muktananda took a number of additional steps toward making Siddha Yoga accessible, including establishing the Siddha Yoga Dham Associates (SYDA) Foundation, the organization responsible for the financial and organizational structure of Siddha Yoga outside of India. Organizational developments also included the introduction of Siddha Yoga courses and teacher training programs as well as establishing departments for the publication of Siddha Yoga books. By the time of Muktananda’s death in 1982, Siddha Yoga ashrams and centers had been established in India, the United States, Europe, and Australia.

Other late-20th-century godmen and contemporaries of Muktananda similarly advanced nonpostural modern yoga systems. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi began disseminating his Transcendental Meditation in 1959 throughout India and then beyond when he traveled to various destinations across the world. Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada (1896–1977) traveled in 1965 to the United States and established the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), which provided a modern form of bhakti or “devotional” yoga, in 1966. In 1969, Satya Narayan Goenka (b. 1924) left his home in Myanmar to travel to India with the mission of spreading vipassana (“insight meditation” prescribed as a “universal” form of Buddhist meditation). He and his disciples would soon diffuse vipassana beyond India to locations including the United States, Western Europe, and Southeast Asia. Sathya Sai Baba (1926–2011) disclosed that he was the incarnation of God in 1963 after which the International Sathya Sai Organization disseminated his teachings through a network of over twelve hundred centers in over one hundred countries. All of these gurus succeeded, especially Maharishi, in attracting countless disciples.

The successes of modern soteriological yoga systems testify to the increased visibility and adherence to yoga in the late 20th century, especially in the 1960s and 1970s, in areas across the globe.48 The entrepreneurial spirit that characterized the consumer culture landscape influenced gurus of modern soteriological yoga, especially insofar as they actively sought disciples and encouraged spiritual seekers to select and combine yoga with previously held beliefs or practices according to individual preferences. Given their strategies to attract and retain disciples in the context of consumer culture, it would be fit to call these men and women entrepreneurial gurus.49

The entrepreneurial spirit, however, was strongest among proponents of postural yoga.50 Long-term commitment to soteriological yoga systems frequently required adherents to learn Sanskrit or other Indian languages in order to systematically study large bodies of sacred literature and to adopt an inferior position vis-à-vis a guru for years.51 Furthermore, the fact that entrepreneurial godmen required serious adherents to privilege particular worldviews over others, despite their claims to universalism or nonsectarianism, made them less successful in the global yoga market than the thoroughly individualistic varieties of postural yoga.52 For example, Maharishi and Prabhupada’s rejection of an entirely consumer-oriented approach to religious and body practices in favor of particularized philosophical and devotional commitments situated them both under the Hindu canopy.53

Other times, they were situated in esoteric traditions.54 For example, Muktananda’s end-of-life choice to embrace transgressive tantric dimensions of yoga that were not previously a part of his public persona contributed to the decline in Siddha Yoga’s success. There were accusations of improprieties against Muktananda following his death—Muktananda was accused of having sex with young female disciples, including some teenagers, as a part of esoteric rituals.55 Muktananda was a part of a much larger pattern in this regard. There was an eruption of sex scandals beginning in the 1960s that involved yoga gurus, many of which were initially believed to embody the ascetic celibate ideal prescribed by figures such as Vivekananda but were eventually outed as sexually active, usually with young, white, female students. These scandals left the public thinking the “guru model” was problematic for what were perceived as its inherently undemocratic tendencies. Many suspected that the guru model was an extreme form of authoritarianism that inevitably led to demise. Some scholars agreed.56 Soteriological yoga systems also privileged goals removed from the immediate aims of the everyday lives of the masses.57 Proponents of ISKCON, for example, shared a view of the current age of time as particularly degraded largely due to materialism, scientific technology, and consumerism.58 According to Steven J. Gelberg, “The devotee sees the whole modern world, one might say, as an unpleasant intrusion into sacred time and space.”59 ISKCON, therefore, offered an alternative, “antimaterialistic lifestyle.”60 In short, by rejecting an overwhelmingly consumer-orientated approach to religious wares and maintaining devotional, philosophical, or esoteric underpinnings, soteriological yoga systems required adherents to drop out of conventional life to a degree, whereas postural yoga systems did not.

Postural yoga’s popularization is explained in part by the fact that it more often provided direct access to the perceived benefits of yoga, rather than indirect access through the intermediary role of a teacher or text.61 Increasingly, postural yoga gurus’ marketing campaigns attempted to convince people to choose their particular renditions of yoga as one part of individual programs of self-development that could be combined with other aspects of one’s life.62 They marketed forms of yoga that did not privilege any religious, ethnic, or national metanarrative, but facilitated individual choice.63 More specifically, many marketed postural yoga in ways that avoided associations with either religious mystical traditions or Indian nationalism. All of this amounted to them responding to a market in which wares were most successful when they could be easily fit into individualized lifestyles.64 Consequently, many postural yoga gurus, such as Iyengar, Bikram Choudhury (b. 1946), and John Friend (b. 1959), abandoned all or many of the rules, such as those dealing with alms, celibacy, scriptural study, and retreat from society or social norms that traditionally separated the yoga practitioner from society so that they could market a form of yoga that functioned as fitness, something increasingly valorized in urban areas around the world.65

Selvarajan Yesudian (1916–1998) was one of the first Indian yoga advocates to mass-market postural yoga beyond India. Born in Madras, Yesudian traveled to Europe in 1936 to study medicine. He met the Hungarian spiritual teacher and mystic, Elisabeth Haich (1897–1994), and they authored the widely successful Hungarian-language publication Sport és Jóga (Sport and Yoga) (1941). The book featured illustrations of photographs of the fit Yesudian performing postures, breathing exercises, and meditation. The book was translated into several different languages, including German in 1949 and English as Yoga and Health in 1953. Together, Yesudian and Haich also opened yoga schools in Zurich and Ponte Tresa, Switzerland. Both schools remained open until 1989.

Sivananda’s appeal to disciples from all over the world made Rishikesh a major hub for postural yoga practice. Yoga was an easy and universally accessible practice, according to Sivananada, that did not require the practitioner to give up ethnic, philosophical, or religious commitments. Instead, yoga was meant for anybody interested in enhancing the body and mind through physical exercise. Sivananda’s universalization of yoga reached its culmination in 1959 with his English-language book, Yogic Home Exercises: Easy Course of Physical Culture for Modern Men and Women.

One of Sivananda’s students from Germany, Boris Sacharow (1899–1959), having never actually traveled to Rishikesh, became a disciple through the guru’s English-language pamphlets. In 1947, Sivananda gave him the title yogiraj, or “master of yoga.”66 With this honorary title serving to legitimize his yogic expertise, Sacharow opened the first yoga school in Germany.67 Another one of Sivananda’s students, Vishnudevananda (1927–1993), established International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta centers and ashrams in locations around the world as well as the Sivananda Yoga Teachers’ Training Course, which serves to regulate Sivananda Yoga to this day.

Some of Krishnamacharya’s students became postural yoga entrepreneurs, delivering postural yoga to consumers beyond India. Indra Devi (1899–2002) taught postural yoga in China and then the United States after studying yoga with Krishnamacharya in Mysore.68 She was originally from Riga, Latvia (formerly Livonia), but eventually ended up in Hollywood, California, where her clientele included celebrities, such as Gloria Swanson.

Iyengar was another entrepreneurial postural yoga guru who had studied under Krishnamacharya.69 Iyengar lived and studied in Mysore for three years (1934–1937) after which he moved to Pune where he eventually became quite popular as a yoga instructor. Iyengar’s postural yoga system attracted a number of wealthy and influential celebrities, including the famous violinist, Yehudi Menuhin (1916–1999) in 1952. With celebrities’ patronage, in the 1950s, he traveled to London, Switzerland, the United States, and Paris to teach postural yoga. By Iyengar’s third trip to London in 1960, he had established a permanent group of students. From this point on, he would return every year to teach them.

Iyengar prescribed a thoroughly individualistic system of postural yoga that was a rigorous and disciplined form of body maintenance that required the use of fitness tools, such as belts, bricks, and ropes. He published his Light on Yoga in 1966, and it instantly became the global standard reference on modern yoga as a body practice.70 Although postural yoga practitioners already had three reference works on yoga postures—Yesudian and Haich’s Sport és Jóga (1941), also published in English as Yoga and Health (1953), Theos Bernard’s Hatha Yoga (1944), and Vishnudevananda’s The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga (Vishnudevananda 1960)—Iyengar’s book was particularly attractive to a consumer audience insofar as it included step-by-step instructions so that individuals could choose yoga as one part of their self-development regimens without having to give up other lifestyle commitments. They could even do yoga in the privacy of their own homes. Furthermore, the book provided detailed biomedical explanations of each posture and its fitness and health benefits.

In the late 1960s, a mass market for postural yoga classes emerged, and Iyengar Yoga classes even became available at American YMCAs and through the Clapton Adult Education Institute in London. This was a thoroughly body-centered, fitness variety of yoga.

Even though Sivananda died in 1963, many of his disciples succeeded in popularizing body-centered yoga in this period. Most significantly, Chidananda Sarasvati (1916–2008), who became president of the Divine Life Society following Sivananda’s death in 1963, traveled throughout the world teaching postural yoga and attracting disciples. His disciples included Lilias Folan, who would become famous for teaching postural yoga on American television. Yet, even before Folan’s television debut, Richard Hittleman’s Yoga for Health had become syndicated on various television stations all over the United States by 1970, and by 1971 it was shown on British television. Eleven years after Hittleman’s 1961 debut of Yoga for Health, in 1972, Folan debuted Lilias, Yoga, and You! The show first aired on Cincinnati’s PBS station but within the year was on several PBS stations across the country.

In the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, the yoga market came to feature endless yoga brands constructed and marketed for immediate consumption.71 This signaled a seismic shift in how yoga advocates established and acknowledged authority. Throughout much of yoga’s history, proponents established and acknowledged authority primarily through lineages based on transmission from guru to disciple. Proponents now established and acknowledged authority by branding yoga.72

In an effort to meet increasingly popular individual needs, many proponents began to market yoga as a universal and scientific system that anyone could adopt as part of her or his larger worldview and practice.73 In order to do that, proponents made yoga stand out in the marketplace by branding and packaging it in ways that made it seem valuable, accessible, and unique.74 The second half of the 20th century witnessed an explosion of postural yoga brands that became popular due to their universalization, accessibility, and ways of conceptualizing the body.75 The market for fitness regimens, in which improving the body requires rigorous self-control through diet and exercise, has witnessed robust growth. Furthermore, modern biomedical language has come to dominate the way people think and talk about their bodies. Successful yoga entrepreneurs exploit these pop culture trends by constructing brand images that represent dominant ways of conceptualizing the body, fitness, and health.76

Yoga entrepreneurs’ efforts have served to make yoga attractive to large target audiences of consumers. Most postural yoga entrepreneurs—for example, Choudhury, Jois, or Iyengar—have built large organizations for mass marketing the easily accessible wares associated with their yoga brands, Bikram Yoga, Ashtanga Vinyasa, and Iyengar Yoga respectively.

Today, most yoga consumers shop for conveniently located yoga classes that are open to the general populace and for other yoga products, such as yoga pants or mats, that are available in local shopping malls or through online retail sites. Popularized yoga systems offer similar ends—self-development through physical and psychological transformations—and, consequently, the only way for a consumer to differentiate one set of yoga products and services from another is to interpret the idiosyncratic meanings that brands signify.77 Brands signify different meanings by being “packaged” differently, and consumer choice is entwined with constructing a sense of identity. Consequently, yoga entrepreneurs manage their brand images in ways that aim to make consumers feel personally connected to them.

Choosing products and services almost always requires the consumer to spend money, and the amount of spending on yoga depends largely on brand.78 A consumer can purchase a pair of yoga pants, for example, with an unfamiliar brand at the popular retail store, the Gap, for $16.95 or purchase a pair from Lululemon, a high-end yoga-apparel brand that on average charges $98 for yoga pants. For thousands of dollars, a consumer can purchase a spot in a yoga retreat or training in locations throughout the United States, Europe, or even in the Bahamas or Brazil, with popular yoga teachers and methods, such as Baron Baptiste’s Power Vinyasa Yoga or David Life and Sharon Gannon’s Jivamukti Yoga. Spending on yoga is steadily increasing. In the United States alone, spending on yoga per year doubled between 2008 and 2012 when it climbed to $10.3 billion.79 The process of yoga branding and the process of the economic exchange of yoga commodities, however, are distinct, even though they usually overlap.80 Yoga brands are filled with meaning insofar as they signify what practitioners desire and deem valuable. Choosing yoga brands might involve paying high prices for expensive commodities, such as a class with a teacher trained in the official Bikram Yoga method, but it could also involve free yoga goods, such as donation-based yoga classes, increasingly available across the world. Either way, practitioners choose brands based on what they consider the most effective and accessible path or, more likely, brand to achieve whatever they desire or value as individual consumers.

Review of the Literature

The pioneering modern academic source on yoga is Mircea Eliade’s Yoga: Immortality and Freedom (1958). Eliade’s monograph is a late Orientalist study concerned with identifying the “ideal of Yoga.”81 The author attends to what he considers yoga’s sameness across traditions, arguing that its aim is an “eternal present” in which the practitioner is liberated from the temporal human condition.82 Eliade does not distinguish between premodern yoga and modern yoga as such a typology did not exist at the time the book was written.

Since Yoga’s publication, however, scholars have increasingly attended to the particularities of yoga traditions, including modern yoga ones, acknowledging that the practices, ideas, and even aims of yoga vary largely based on social context. In other words, these scholars have resisted misrepresentations of yoga as a timeless, monolithic tradition characterized by an unchanging essence. Instead, they have pointed to empirical data supporting the position that yoga has always been made up of a variety of complex ritual, religio-philosophical, and narrative traditions, and has been perpetually shaped by its many social contexts.

Scholarship that attends to modern contexts in which yoga has been reconstructed in idiosyncratic ways is a relatively new development in the academic study of yoga. In fact, it took nearly fifty years after the publication of Eliade’s Yoga for scholars to attend to modern yoga as an independent category of study.

The study of modern yoga can be said to have become a concretized field with Elizabeth de Michelis’s A History of Modern Yoga (2004). De Michelis boldly and accurately notes that the “corpus of disciplines and beliefs” under the “Modern Yoga” category had never before been studied as “a discrete historical phenomenon or as a self-standing conceptual category” until the publication of her monograph.83 De Michelis explores the 19th-century context in which modern yoga emerged when “Western individuals interested in Indian religions” interacted with “Westernized Indians.”84 She especially attends to the interactions between Vivekananda and turn-of-the-century Americans interested in yoga. Having traced modern yoga’s history from the mid-19th century up to its late-20th-century popularization, de Michelis offers a fourfold typology comprising Modern Psychosomatic Yoga, Modern Meditational Yoga, Modern Postural Yoga, and Modern Denominational Yoga. Citing Arnold van Gennep on rites of passage, de Michelis argues that Postural Yoga classes like those of Iyengar Yoga function as a “healing ritual of secular religion.”85 Also citing Victor Turner, de Michelis argues that Postural Yoga classes function as a “liminal space” in which practitioners undergo both physical and psychological transformations and healing before being reintroduced to “everyday life.”86

Since de Michelis’s groundbreaking book, scholars have produced other noteworthy academic studies that attend to the particularities of modern yoga traditions. Some have been essays in edited volumes that analyze specific modern yoga gurus and their idiosyncratic movements, including those in Thomas A. Forsthoefel and Cynthia Ann Humes’s Gurus in America (2008) and Ellen Goldberg and Mark Singleton’s Gurus of Modern Yoga (2014).

Catherine Albanese’s A Republic of Mind and Spirit: A Cultural History of American Metaphysical Religion (2007) situates modern yoga within the context of American religious history. Albanese places modern yoga along the same historical trajectory of American “metaphysical religion,” the earliest precursors of which go as far back as Hellenic and Hermetic thought.

Many studies have focused on yoga’s intersections with modern science and physical culture, demonstrating how, in response to early-20th-century transnational ideas and movements, including military calisthenics, modern medicine, and the Western European and North American physical culture of gymnasts, bodybuilders, martial experts, and contortionists, yoga proponents constructed new postural yoga systems.

In Yoga in Modern India: The Body Between Science and Philosophy (2004), Joseph S. Alter provides the first in-depth study of how yoga was “modernized, medicalized, and transformed into a system of physical culture” in modern India.87 Alter focuses on 20th-century Indians, especially Kuvalayananda, who reconstructed yoga through a combinative approach that appropriated from the premodern lenses of yogic metaphysics as well as the modern lenses of biology, physiology, and anatomy. Alter suggests that modern yoga as physical culture is a 20th-century invention primarily based on modern ideas about science and medicine.

Mark Singleton’s Yoga Body: The Origins of Modern Posture Practice (2010) continues that line of research by exploring the development of modern postural yoga and showing that there is no direct, unbroken lineage between premodern yoga traditions and modern postural yoga even though premodern yoga functions as “the touchstone of authenticity” for modern yoga proponents.88 In other words, postural yoga is new, not a continuation of some static premodern yoga tradition from which practitioners and nonpractitioners alike often claim they originate.

Singleton suggests postural yoga was created out of colonial India’s dialogical encounter with the worldwide physical culture movement, and modern postural yoga proponents salvaged hatha yoga in particular from the onslaughts of Orientalist and reformist criticisms by prescribing it as physical fitness. Most radically, Singleton argues postural yoga was the “cultural successor [of] established methods of stretching and relaxing” that were already common in parts of Western Europe and the United States.89

Modern postural yoga exercises were not associated with yoga outside of India until Indian gurus Tirumalai Krishnamacharya (1888–1989) and Sivananda Saraswati (1887–1963) connected the two and trained students who went on to teach modern postural yoga throughout the world.90 Studies focused on those world-renowned teachers include N. E. Sjoman’s monograph, The Yoga Tradition of the Mysore Palace (1999), which analyzes the formative years of Krishnamacharya’s students, K. Pattabhi Jois and B. K. S. Iyengar, who taught the most widely practiced schools of modern postural yoga, Ashtanga Yoga and Iyengar Yoga, respectively. Notably, Sjoman also discusses the influence of military calisthenics on the yoga program Jois and Iyengar learned as students. More recently, Michelle Goldberg’s The Goddess Pose: The Audacious Life of Indra Devi, the Woman Who Helped Bring Yoga to the West attends to the life and work of another student of Krishnamacharya’s, Indra Devi, who taught postural yoga in Hollywood, California, where her clientele included celebrities, such as Gloria Swanson. On Sivananda, his students, and their Divine Life Society, Sarah Strauss’s Positioning Yoga: Balancing Acts Across Cultures (2005) provides an important analysis of their contributions to the creation and global dissemination and popularization of modern postural yoga.

Some scholars have evaluated modern yoga’s commodification and popularization in the context of contemporary consumer culture. Though most scholarship on modern yoga gurus and yoga systems have focused on Hindu or nonsectarian systems of modern yoga, Andrea R. Jain attends to the study of Jain modern yoga as it occurs in the Jain Shvetambara Terapanth, illuminating its intersections with more popular modern yoga systems as well as its nuances.91 Most notably, Jain suggests that the Terapanth has prescribed modern yoga for enhancing the body according to modern health and fitness paradigms and that this shift away from a traditional Jain ascetic ideal signifies a practical change in the practitioner’s everyday body-maintenance regimen but does not signify a soteriological shift for the advanced adept.

Allison Fish engages with questions of ownership and whether or not individuals or organizations can claim copyrights over certain commodities and services available in today’s global yoga industry.92 She evaluates the 2002 case involving Bikram Choudhury and his Bikram’s Yoga College of India’s failed attempt to enforce copyrights over Bikram Yoga’s sequence of twenty-six postures on yoga studios claiming to teach Bikram Yoga but not conforming to the College’s standards. Fish argues this case serves as an example of how debates over ownership in the global yoga market, given the difficulty in locating and defining yoga, has consequences for how open source and Intellectual Property Rights are defined and how information management strategies emerge (2006).

Andrea R. Jain’s Selling Yoga: From Counterculture to Pop Culture (2014a) explores how modern yoga transformed from a largely countercultural phenomenon to a part of pop culture when yoga entrepreneurs became strategic participants in a global market and succeeded in “selling yoga” by establishing continuity between their yoga brands and the dominant demands of consumer culture.93 Yoga entrepreneurs prescribed the commodities associated with their yoga brands as a part of self-development believed to provide increased beauty and flexibility as well as decreased stress and that can be combined with other worldviews and practices. Finally, Selling Yoga evaluates pop yoga exempla and demonstrates how they can serve as bodies of religious practice when they destabilize the basic utility of commodities and assign to them new, often sacred, meanings.

Further Reading

  • Albanese, Catherine L. A Republic of Mind and Spirit: A Cultural History of American Metaphysical Religion. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2007.
  • Alter, Joseph S. Yoga in Modern India: The Body between Science and Philosophy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004.
  • Alter, Joseph S. “Modern Medical Yoga: Struggling with a History of Magic, Alchemy and Sex.” Asian Medicine, Tradition and Modernity 1.1 (2005): 119–146.
  • Altglas, Véronique. From Yoga to Kabbalah: Religious Exoticism and the Logics of Bricolage. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.
  • Carrette, Jeremy, and Richard King. Selling Spirituality: The Silent Takeover of Religion. New York: Routledge, 2005.
  • de Michelis, Elizabeth. A History of Modern Yoga: Patañjali and Western Esotericism. New York: Continuum, 2004.
  • Fish, Allison. “The Commodification and Exchange of Knowledge in the Case of Transnational Commercial Yoga.” International Journal of Cultural Property 13 (2006): 189–206.
  • Forsthoefel, Thomas A., and Cynthia Ann Humes, eds. Gurus in America. Albany, New York: State University of New York Press, 2008.
  • Goldberg, Ellen, and Mark Singleton, eds. Gurus of Modern Yoga. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.
  • Goldberg, Michelle. The Goddess Pose: The Audacious Life of Indra Devi, the Woman Who Helped Bring Yoga to the West. New York: Knopf, 2015.
  • Goldberg, Philip. American Veda: From Emerson and the Beatles to Yoga and Meditation. New York: Random House, 2010.
  • Jain, Andrea R. “The Dual-Ideal of the Ascetic and Healthy Body: The Jain Terāpanth and Modern Yoga in the Context of Late Capitalism.” Nova Religio 15.3 (February 2012): 29–50.
  • Jain, Andrea R. Selling Yoga: From Counterculture to Pop Culture. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014a.
  • Jain, Andrea R. “Who Is to Say Modern Yoga Practitioners Have It All Wrong?: On Hindu Origins and Yogaphobia.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 82.2 (June 2014b): 427–471.
  • Locklin, Reid, and Julia Lauwers. “Rewriting the Sacred Geography of Advaita: Swami Chinmayananda and the Sankara-Dig-Vijaya.” The Journal of Hindu Studies 2.2 (2009): 179–128.
  • Love, Robert. The Great Oom: The Improbable Birth of Yoga in America. New York: Viking, 2010.
  • Lucia, Amanda J. Reflections of Amma: Devotees in a Global Embrace. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2014.
  • Newcombe, Suzanne. “Stretching for Health and Well-Being: Yoga and Women in Britain, 1960–1980.” Asian Medicine: Tradition and Modernity 3.1 (2007): 37–63.
  • Schmidt, Leigh Eric. Heaven’s Bride: The Unprintable Life of Ida C. Craddock, American Mystic, Scholar, Sexologist, Martyr, and Madwoman. New York: Basic Books, 2010.
  • Singleton, Mark. Yoga Body: The Origins of Modern Posture Practice. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.
  • Sjoman, Norman E. The Yoga Tradition of the Mysore Palace. New Delhi: Abhinav Publications, 1996.
  • Strauss, Sarah. Positioning Yoga: Balancing Acts Across Cultures. New York: Berg, 2005.
  • Taylor, Kathleen. Sir John Woodroffe, Tantra and Bengal: “An Indian Soul in a European Body?” New York: Routledge, 2001.
  • Urban, Hugh B. Tantra: Sex, Secrecy, Politics, and Power in the Study of Religion. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2003.


  • 1. On this countercultural pattern in the early history of modern yoga, see Andrea R. Jain, “From Counterculture to Counterculture,” Selling Yoga (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), 20–41.

  • 2. Mark Singleton, Yoga Body: The Origins of Modern Posture Practice (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 57–59.

  • 3. Singleton, Yoga Body, 64–66.

  • 4. Singleton, Yoga Body, 56.

  • 5. The term fundamentalism dates to the early 20th century, when the Bible Institute of Los Angeles published a series of booklets called The Fundamentals (1910–1915), which were the impetus for a movement that came to be known as fundamentalism. Early fundamentalists denounced modern ideas about the study of culture, history, and religion, and called for Christianity to return to what they considered its “fundamentals,” including belief in the inerrancy of the Bible. The term fundamentalist was eventually more broadly applied to those from any religion who seek a return to what they perceive as the unchanging essence or “fundamentals” of their religions. On fundamentalisms, see Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby, eds., The Fundamentalism Project. 6 vols. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993–2004).

  • 6. On the life of Ida Craddock, see Leigh Eric Schmidt, Heaven’s Bride: The Unprintable Life of Ida C. Craddock, American Mystic, Scholar, Sexologist, Martyr, and Madwoman (New York: Basic Books, 2010).

  • 7. On the life of Pierre Bernard, see Robert Love, The Great Oom: The Improbable Birth of Yoga in America (New York: Viking, 2010).

  • 8. On the life of Sir John Woodroffe, see Kathleen Taylor, Sir John Woodroffe, Tantra and Bengal: “An Indian Soul in a European Body?” (New York: Routledge, 2001).

  • 9. Hugh B. Urban, Magia Sexualis: Sex, Magic, and Liberation in Modern Western Esotericism (Los Angeles: University of California Press), 111.

  • 10. Catherine L. Albanese, A Republic of Mind and Spirit: A Cultural History of American Metaphysical Religion (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2007), 358–362.

  • 11. See Arthur Versluis, American Transcendentalism and Asian Religions (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993); and David Weir, American Orient: Imagining the East from the Colonial Era Through the Twentieth Century (Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2011).

  • 12. Elizabeth de Michelis, A History of Modern Yoga: Patañjali and Western Esotericism (New York: Continuum, 2004), 178.

  • 13. Albanese, Republic of Mind and Spirit, 352.

  • 14. Singleton, Yoga Body, 44–49, 70–80.

  • 15. de Michelis, History of Modern Yoga, 166–167

  • 16. de Michelis, History of Modern Yoga, 163–168.

  • 17. Swami Vivekananda, Raja Yoga, in The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda (Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1992 [1896]), 20.

  • 18. See, for example, Gwilym Beckerlegge, “Swami Vivekananda (1863–1902) 150 Years On: Crucial Studies of an Influential Hindu Guru,” Religion Compass 7.10: 444–453.

  • 19. For a history of American metaphysical religion, see Albanese, Republic of Mind and Spirit.

  • 20. On the absence of a direct lineage between the South Asian yoga traditions and modern yoga as posture practice, see Singleton, Yoga Body, 29–33.

  • 21. Joseph S. Alter, Yoga in Modern India: The Body Between Science and Philosophy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004); de Michelis, History of Modern Yoga; Singleton, Yoga Body; and Norman E. Sjoman, The Yoga Tradition of the Mysore Palace (New Delhi: Abhinav Publications, 1996). Though hatha yoga is traditionally cited as the source of postural yoga, equating them does not account for postural yoga’s historical sources. Such an equation would also fail to account for the variety of methods and aims that hatha yoga systems themselves have embraced since their emergence in the 10th to 11th centuries that are not present in postural yoga, from identification with the divine while remaining in the body to supernatural powers and other mundane objectives.

  • 22. Singleton, Yoga Body, 80.

  • 23. Singleton, Yoga Body, 81–82.

  • 24. Singleton, Yoga Body, 82.

  • 25. Singleton, Yoga Body, 84, 89–94, 119.

  • 26. See Alter, Yoga in Modern India.

  • 27. Singleton, Yoga Body, 176–177. Singleton adds that the Ashtanga Vinyasa system of K. Pattabhi Jois directly developed out of Krishnamacharya’s system, and various other contemporary popular forms, such as “power yoga,” “vinyasa flow,” and “power vinyasa,” that emerged primarily in the United States since the 1990s also developed out of that system. Furthermore, the postural yoga of B. K. S. Iyengar, which is less aerobic than those systems developed by Jois and his students, directly developed out of Krishnamacharya’s system; see Singleton, Yoga Body, 176–177.

  • 28. Sivananda’s reliance on printed materials for the dissemination of his teachings was a break from the traditional transmission of yoga in the one-on-one guru-disciple relationship; see Sarah Strauss, Positioning Yoga: Balancing Acts Across Cultures (New York: Berg, 2005).

  • 29. Jain, Selling Yoga, 42–72.

  • 30. Sudhir Kakar, Shamans, Mystics and Doctors: A Psychological Inquiry into India and Its Healing Traditions (Boston: Beacon Press, 1983), 191–192; and Deborah A. Swallow, “Ashes and Powers: Myth, Rite and Miracle in an Indian God-man’s Cult,” Modern Asian Studies 16 (1982): 123–158.

  • 31. C. J. Fuller, The Camphor Flame: Popular Hinduism and Society in India, revised and expanded ed. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004 [1992]), 177–181; Kakar, Shamans, Mystics and Doctors, 191–192; and Swallow, “Ashes and Powers,” 153. Peter Brent was the first scholar to use the term godmen in his text, Godmen of India (New York: Quadrangle Books, 1972).

  • 32. Lawrence A. Babb, Redemptive Encounters: Three Modern Styles in the Hindu Tradition (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1987); and Richard Gombrich and Gananath Obeyesekere, Buddhism Transformed: Religious Change in Sri Lanka (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1988).

  • 33. Jain, Selling Yoga, 42–94.

  • 34. Amanda Porterfield, Transformation of American Religion: The Story of a Late-Twentieth-Century Awakening (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 164–165, 203.

  • 35. Jain, Selling Yoga, 43.

  • 36. Jain, Selling Yoga, 42–72.

  • 37. Jain, Selling Yoga, 42–72.

  • 38. Jain, Selling Yoga, 42–72. An ashram is a South Asian center of monastic retreat for religious study and training, usually under the guidance of a guru.

  • 39. On the modern soteriological yoga typology, see Jain, Selling Yoga, 49–65.

  • 40. See, for example, Lola Williamson, “The Perfectibility of Perfection: Siddha Yoga as a Global Movement,” in Gurus in America, ed. Thomas A. Forsthoefel and Cynthia Ann Humes (Albany: State University of New York Press), 149; and Sarah Caldwell, “The Heart of the Secret: A Personal and Scholarly Encounter with Shakta Tantrism in Siddha Yoga,” Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions 5.1 (October 2001): 25.

  • 41. Jain, Selling Yoga, 46–47.

  • 42. Fuller, Camphor Flame, 177–181.

  • 43. See, for example, the essays in Karen Pechilis, ed., The Graceful Guru: Hindu Female Gurus in India and the United States (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004); Christopher Key Chapple, “Raja Yoga and the Guru: Gurani Anjali of Yoga Anand Ashram, Amityville, New York,” in Gurus in America, ed. Thomas A. Forsthoefel and Cynthia Ann Humes (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2005), 15–35; and Selva J. Raj, “Passage to America: Ammachi on American Soil,” in Gurus in America, ed. Thomas A. Forsthoefel and Cynthia Ann Humes (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2005), 123–146.

  • 44. See Amanda J. Lucia, Reflections of Amma: Devotees in a Global Embrace (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2014).

  • 45. Paul E. Muller-Ortega, “Shaktipat: The Initiatory Descent of Power,” in Meditation Revolutions: A History and Theology of the Siddha Yoga Lineage, ed. Douglas Renfrew Brooks, Swami Durgananda, Paul E. Muller-Ortega, William K. Mahony, Constantina Rhodes Bailly, and S. P. Sabharathnam (South Fallsburg, NY: Agama Press, 1997), 426–428.

  • 46. On Muktananda as an entrepreneurial guru, see Andrea R. Jain, “Branding Yoga: The Cases of Iyengar Yoga, Siddha Yoga, and Anusara Yoga,” Approaching Religion 2.2 (2012): 3–17; Andrea R. Jain “Muktananda: Entrepreneurial Godman, Tantric Hero,” in Gurus of Modern Yoga, ed. Ellen Goldberg and Mark Singleton (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), 190–209; and Jain, Selling Yoga, 50–55. For an account of Muktananda’s endeavors prior to his first world tour, see Brent, God Men of India, 230–282.

  • 47. On Siddha Yoga in the United States, see Williamson; on Siddha Yoga in Britain and France, see Véronique Altglass, From Yoga to Kabbalah: Religious Exoticism and the Logics of Bricolage (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).

  • 48. Jain, Selling Yoga, 65.

  • 49. Jain, Selling Yoga, 49–65.

  • 50. Jain, Selling Yoga, 65–70.

  • 51. Jain, Selling Yoga, 65.

  • 52. Ibid.

  • 53. On the ethnic and religious metanarratives of Maharishi and Prabhupada, see the following articles: on Maharishi, see Cynthia Ann Humes, “Maharishi Mahesh Yogi: Beyond the TM Technique,” in Gurus in America, ed. Thomas A. Forsthoefel and Cynthia Ann Humes (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2005), 55–79; on Prabhupada, see Tamal Krishna Goswami and Ravi M. Gupta, “Krishna and Culture: What Happens When the Lord of Vrindavana Moves to New York City,” in Gurus in America, ed. Thomas A. Forsthoefel and Cynthia Ann Humes (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2005), 81–95.

  • 54. Jain, Selling Yoga, 65.

  • 55. See Caldwell, “Heart of the Secret,”; Hugh B. Urban, Tantra: Sex, Secrecy, Politics, and Power in the Study of Religion (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2003), 243–250; Jain, “Branding Yoga”; Jain, “Muktananda”; and Jain, Selling Yoga.

  • 56. See, for example, Joel Kramer and Diana Alstad, The Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian Power (Berkeley, CA: Frog, Ltd., 1993); Camille Paglia, “Cults and Cosmic Consciousness: Religious Vision in the American 1960s, Arion 10.3 (2003): 57–11; E. Puttick, “Sexuality, Gender and the Abuse of Power in the Master-Disciple Relationship: The Case of the Rajneesh Movement,” Journal of Contemporary Religion 10.1 (1995): 29–40; E. Burke Rochford Jr., Hare Krishna Transformed (New York: New York University Press, 2007); and Anthony Storr, Feet of Clay, a Study of Gurus (London: Harper-Collins, 1996).

  • 57. Jain, Selling Yoga, 65–66.

  • 58. Steven J. Gelberg, “Exploring an Alternative Reality: Spiritual Life in ISKCON,” in Krishna Consciousness in the West, ed. by David G. Broomley and Larry D. Shinn (Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 1989), 138; and John A. Saliba, “Christian and Jewish Religious Responses to the Hare Krishna Movement in the West,” in Krishna Consciousness in the West, ed. David G. Broomley and Larry D. Shinn (Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 1989), 227.

  • 59. Gelberg, “Exploring an Alternative Reality,” 138.

  • 60. Saliba, “Christian and Jewish Religious Responses,” 227.

  • 61. de Michelis, History of Modern Yoga, 250.

  • 62. Jain, Selling Yoga, 65–70.

  • 63. Jain, Selling Yoga, 66.

  • 64. Ibid.

  • 65. Jain, Selling Yoga, 66–67.

  • 66. Strauss, Positioning Yoga, 41. Strauss cites C. Fuchs, Yoga in Deutschland: Rezeption-Organisation-Typologie (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1990).

  • 67. Strauss, Positioning Yoga, 41–42.

  • 68. On the life of Indra Devi, see Michelle Goldberg, The Goddess Pose: The Audacious Life of Indra Devi, the Woman Who Helped Bring Yoga to the West (New York: Knopf, 2015).

  • 69. On Iyengar as an entrepreneurial guru, see Jain, Selling Yoga, 68–70, 82–85.

  • 70. de Michelis, History of Modern Yoga, 198.

  • 71. Jain, “Branding Yoga”; and Jain, Selling Yoga, 73–94.

  • 72. Jain, “Branding Yoga,” 4; and Jain, Selling Yoga, 74.

  • 73. Jain, Selling Yoga, 75.

  • 74. Jain, Selling Yoga, 76.

  • 75. Jain, “Branding Yoga,” 6; and Jain, Selling Yoga, 77.

  • 76. Jain, “Branding Yoga,” 6; and Jain, Selling Yoga, 78.

  • 77. Jain, “Branding Yoga,” 9; and Jain, Selling Yoga, 80.

  • 78. Jain, “Branding Yoga,” 7; and Jain, Selling Yoga, 80–81.

  • 79. Dayna Macy, “Yoga Journal Releases 2012 ‘Yoga in America’ Market Study,” press release for Yoga Journal, December 6, 2012.

  • 80. Jain, “Branding Yoga,” 7–9; and Jain, Selling Yoga, 81–82.

  • 81. Mircea Eliade, Yoga: Immortality and Freedom, trans. Willard R. Trask (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990 [1958]), 363.

  • 82. Ibid.

  • 83. de Michelis, History of Modern Yoga, 2.

  • 84. Ibid.

  • 85. de Michelis, History of Modern Yoga, 252. On rites of passage, see Arnold Van Gennep, The Rites of Passage (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1965 [1908]).

  • 86. de Michelis, History of Modern Yoga, 252–257. On ritual liminality, see Victor Turner, “Liminality and Communitas,” in The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure (New Brunswick, NJ: Aldine Transaction Press, 2008 [1969]), 94–130.

  • 87. Alter, Yoga in Modern India, 10.

  • 88. Singleton, Yoga Body, 14.

  • 89. Singleton, Yoga Body, 154.

  • 90. Singleton, Yoga Body.

  • 91. Andrea R. Jain, “The Dual-Ideal of the Ascetic and Healthy Body: The Jain Terāpanth and Modern Yoga in the Context of Late Capitalism,” Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions 15.3 (February 2012): 29–50; and Jain, Selling Yoga.

  • 92. Allison Fish, “The Commodification and Exchange of Knowledge in the Case of Transnational Commercial Yoga,” International Journal of Cultural Property 13 (2006): 189–206.

  • 93. Jain, Selling Yoga.