Customer Reviews: 21st Century Yoga: Culture, Politics, and Practice
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on October 3, 2012
I received my copy of 21st Century Yoga a couple of days ago and have not been able to put the collection down! I am a voracious reader, so I when I come across a book, essay, or article that stands out from the legion of texts that I have read: it really means something. This is the first Amazon review that I have ever written; I was motivated to write because of the impact that the essays had upon me. The collection comprises a diverse array of essays examining the various incarnations and manifestations of yoga in the present day. I was especially intrigued by the personal nature of many essays. Melanie Klein's essay, "How Yoga Makes You Pretty: The Beauty Myth, Yoga and Me" examines the way in which the practice of yoga powerfully counteracts the mainstream media "assault" upon the self-image and subjectivity of females (and also males). Klein combines historical and critical analyses of the culture's relentless "pursuit of pretty" with powerful personal experience. Klein so successfully taps into the universal female struggle against objectification and for acceptance that I felt as though she was telling my own story. For centuries women having been fighting an impossible battle to "measure up to mainstream standards of beauty." I describe this battle as 'impossible' because the ends are inherently unattainable. Mainstream media promises us that happiness lies in shedding that final five pounds, so we lose the five pounds and: surprise, surprise the promised 'happiness' eludes us. Maybe we try losing another five or maybe disillusioned and frustrated we pack on another five pounds, maybe we shelve the idea of weight loss altogether and turn instead to focus on 'improving' our wrinkles or our hair...however the specific cycle manifests itself, it is just that an endless self-reproducing cycle: the jungian equivalent of the Uroborus (the dragon or snake swallowing its own tail). And, as Klein argues, "The idea that we can simply 'turn off' or 'ignore' these messages is narrow in scope and shortsighted" (30). Until I began reading 21st Century Yoga, I had pretty much resigned myself to the futility of finding satiating peace and acceptance in regards to my body and appearance.
Oh, forget to mention...I am not even a Yoga-fan. I have taken two, maybe three, yoga classes and wasted most of each class giggling uncomfortability. While this book, certainly has inspired me to give yoga a second chance, its value and meaning are not restricted to yoga devotees!
This review is getting a little long but let me list some of the crucial topics that the essays in this book touch upon: Addiction, Anorexia, The Extension of Yogic Principles and Practices to the Outside Community, War: Yoga as a Means of Returning Equilibrium to Our World, Composition and Creation Facilitated by the Practice of Yoga, and Yoga and Violence.
I highly recommend this book for anyone searching for a way to lead a more meaningful and compassionate life. If you or anyone close to you harbors vague ideas about wanting to 'improve the world' but have no idea how to go about it or if it is even possible: this collection contains an invaluable dialogue providing fecund and fertile ground for reflection and discussion!
The holidays are still a couple of months away but I cannot think of a more perfect gift than 21st Century Yoga!
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on March 25, 2013
I would have given this three and a half stars, it is not a terrible book at all. The description very openly tells the reader that these are just the beginning stages of many discussions that need to be made, and that is true. The discussion of how yoga feeds into the unhealthy obsession with appearance and the materialism of our culture is very important, as is the real irony of discarding patriarchal, authoritative religion while embracing...a basically patriarchal, authoritative religion. There are important topics here, but they left me wanting more of the good essays, and less of the others. Some are not well constructed, or fail to make a point, or simply did not resonate with me.
A good, but not great book.
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on July 22, 2014
I recently moved from a city that was living their yoga on and off the mat to a city where almost everyone I was coming across was either really into the anti-women "new age movement" or think that yoga is just "another work out". I was questioning my own practice and everything that I thought I knew about yoga when I was recommended this book by a friend in my old town. This book validated everything that I was feeling. Must read for everyone that is fedup with the direction that yoga in the west (especially the western section of the united states where I now live) and the apathetic voice within the western yoga world community.
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on June 16, 2014
I really liked this book. i bought it to read about the eating disorders and yoga but the other essays are terrific. Some really interesting reading as a teacher and how the landscape has changed since the proliferation of "trendy" yoga studios. I own one and battle with my deep feeling that the whole "western" thing isn't really what yoga is about and yet you want to share the practice and make it as authentic as possible…

Would highly recommend this to anyone who likes a "political" view of yoga and the west.
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on November 27, 2012
21st Century Yoga: Culture, Politics, & Practice, edited by Carol Horton, Ph.D. and Roseanne Harvey, is a collection of essays written by ten yoga practioners from various walks of life discussing yoga in North America. Horton and Harvey chose the writers based on the relationships they had developed with them through blogging.

The questions were raised: Is the tradition of ancient yoga relevant in today's modern society? What is the State of the Union of yoga?

Was there a definitive answer to these questions? No. But, these essays made me think, which is the intention of the book. I believe deeply in the tradition of yoga. Personally, I don't like seeing the practice watered down and asana (physical postures) being the main focus. Some of the contributors addressed this, while others took a more political approach to the whole of yoga. A couple of them irritated me, while with others, I felt a kinship.

Whether I saw eye to eye with them or not, all of the contributors offered well thought out, passionate essays based on their personal experiences. Anorexia, war, drug abuse, beauty, yoga as responsible business, financial crisis, and building community were among of the topics discussed. What makes this work is that these are not big name, celebrity teachers, so there is less expectation of hearing about a particular agenda. It feels fresher, like voices from the crowd.

I could go through each chapter and give my opinions in this review, but I want you to read it without my bias. This is an important book for modern yogis, especially for those of us who teach. There are viewpoints offered that should be discussed if we want yoga to continue as a vehicle for healing and community, and not be just a workout. In the final chapter, Angela Jamison suggests that we should keep "speaking openly about esoterica" to help us move through this confusing time in yoga. Just like we need DNA from our ancestors to be born in this physical body, we need the ancient traditions as building blocks in our modern practice.
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on July 2, 2013
This was a fascinating collection of essays exploring the on the ground reality of modern yoga in America. The editors brought together many voices, and created a dialogue about how yoga is changing. In some essays I felt myself cheering the author, laughing out loud or getting a little misty eyed. In other essays I found myself irritated with the author, either because we fundamentally disagreed, or I found their way of expressing their point over blown and pedantic. But I enjoyed that conflict; I liked being compelled to consider things from another point of view. If you are a yoga teacher or serious student, you will enjoy this book. Because each section of the book is written by a different author I found that I preferred to take a little break to mentally digest in between chapters.
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on November 20, 2012
This book is greatly needed in today's society. It is a collection of essays from teachers and scholars around the globe beginning provocative conversations about where Yoga is in today's modern world. I believe it is a must-read for all teachers, and practitioners of Yoga.

The essays take a look at some challenging aspects of our human race such as; addiction, body-image issues, commercialism, and social & environmental activism. My favorite chapters are 7 & 9.

This entire book is thought-provoking, and inspiring. By beginning the conversations in our society about what it is that we are doing, and why, it brings us to face our truth, gives us permission to examine it, to feel it and to be aware of our impact as a human race, to our communities, our earth, and our relationships. This is no single-sided promotion of any one viewpoint, but rather opens a platform for thought and speech, giving us tools for self-study and raises awareness of how our individual impact affects the whole world because we are not separate.

The authors display courage to share their personal path through Yoga, and how this relates to the general public/our society. Whether you personally identify with their experiences or not, there are practitioners out there who will (possibly whomever you practice with), and we need to be open and compassionate with EVERY spirit that makes our world glisten. The authors are bringing up issues that are typically not discussed, or hidden within the psyche of our communities, the writing is bold, provocative, examining and invites Self-study, activism and change. Thank you for putting this out
there! Jai!
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on December 1, 2012
This collection of evocative texts fills a too-long empty niche on North American bookshelves and in yoga bags by bringing a diverse set of perspectives to bear on the assumptions, intentions, and conceptual maps we bring to our mats. If we are to access more fully the potentials of yoga as a body, mind, and ethical practice, we need a set of inquiries such as these to engage our awareness, understandings, and imagination. 21st Century Yoga is an invitation to deepen our experience of practice, to develop a dialogue with others, and to consider the implications of yoga practice not only for the individual but also for the societies in which we act. A source of many delights and expansive questioning, this book is a critical resource for thoughtful growth on the mat and in our communities.
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on November 15, 2012
Yoga means many things to many people. Some complain that it has completely lost its connection to its Indian roots. I say, who cares? Like everything else in life, yoga is evolving and changing over time and space. This books offers different perspectives on yoga in America today. It's a fascinating read for anyone with an interest in yoga.
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on December 22, 2012
The essays in this book explain yoga's evolution in the west. Likewise, they also shed light on some of the myths of yoga--what it does for its practitioner v. what people think it does. A practicing Ashtangi, I purchased this book for Angela Jamison's essay, "How Yoga Messed With My Mind." I especially enjoyed hearing how Jamison came to yoga, and her experiences in Santa Monica when yoga was, very contrary to Ashtanga, "stretching in a group while listening to Sheryl Crow." I, of course, remember when my yoga was like this too because at the turn of the 21st century, that is what was available. 21st Century Yoga is an important book because it brings yoga's evolution in the west to the present and offers insight to the nuances of different philosophical and disciplinary perspectives.
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