In the Path of Modern yoga, Elliott Goldberg Shows how the sacred Discipline of Yoga was transformed in the early 20 the century into a health and fitness regimen, giving prominence to the yogic postures traditionally used only as preparatory exercises for seated meditation. He establishes that far from corrupting the sacred tradition, as some believe, this emphasis on the moving body in yoga allowed for the creation of a sacred yoga for our times: an embodied spiritual practice.
Goldberg tells this sweeping story of modern yoga through the remarkable lives and accomplishments of 11 key figures: six Indian yogis (Sri Yogendra, Swami Kuvalayananda, S. Sundaram, T. Krishnamacharya, Swami Sivananda, and B.K.S. Iyengar), and Indian bodybuilder (K.V. Iyer), a rajah (Bhavanarao Pant Pratinidhi), an American-born journalist (Loouise Morgan), an Indian diplomat ( Apa Pant), and a Russian born yogi trained nationalism movement in India and such Western trends as the physical culture movement, the commoditization of exercise, 9th century new age religion, jazz age popular entertainment, and the quest for youth and beauty – revealing the multitude of diverse influences that have shaped yoga today.
Drawing on More than 10 year of research from rare primary sources and engaging with contemporary yoga scholarship, Goldberg presented papers at the Modern yoga Workshop at Combridge and at the American Academy of Religion (AAR), He lives in New York City.
Surely the most consequential and curious development in modern yoga is its emphasis on asana (postural practice). Although taking this strand of modern yoga as its subject, Elliott Goldberg's The Path of Modern Yoga is not by any means a survey of trends in postural yoga in the 20th century. It is instead a reconstruction of the course of modern postural yoga as a transformation from a set of primarily religious practices within traditional Hindu settings to an exercise regime deeply influenced by Western physical culture and health care and finally to an embodied spiritual practice that renews the spiritual aspirations of premodern forms of yoga within refined postural training. Goldberg tells this grande histoire of modern yoga by reconstructing a complexity of interwoven trajectories of the pioneers of modern postural practice that presents a new and deeply human perspective on the history of modern yoga. He interprets this intertwined network of life stories with impressive psychological sophistication and a good portion of humor. He blends in often surprising cultural and social circumstances-usually Western trends-to elucidate the larger contexts of personal achievements.
Goldberg also provides insightful interpretations of historical developments that lead us to a deeper understanding of the meaning of modern postural yoga. Academic studies on the history of asana have largely treated the yogic postures as a form of exercise, one largely influenced by Western gymnastics. Only a few attempts have been made to reconstruct historical perspectives on yogic practices generated by the experience of dwelling within asanas. Goldberg's reading of the achievements of the pioneers of modern postural yoga leads us closer to our actual experience of body-centered forms of yoga than any other historical study. Research on the history of modern yoga has recently flourished. I am certain that The Path of Modern Yoga will be accorded the place of prominence within this field of study that the book so richly deserves. But The Path of Modern Yoga also appears at a moment of widespread interest in yoga history within the general public as well as academia. Luckily Goldberg creates a multifaceted, in-depth, and sweeping history that is scholarly bur not academic. And unlike the usual academic treatise, his work is elegantly written, making it extraordinarily pleasurable to read. In short, it is a work of literature. Thus, his research findings, engagement with recent scholarship, and insights are accessible to a large audience.
Goldberg writes the sort of history that not only illuminates the past bur has an implicit practical goal for the future: in this case, to inspire a change in yoga practice-to push it toward being more existentially and spiritually meaningful. For this reason, not only readers interested in learning about the history of modern yoga (as well as the history of modern India and of modernity as an intercultural phenomenon) bur also yoginis and yogins who want to deepen their practice stand to profit greatly from reading this remarkable book.
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