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Yoga Body: The Origins of Modern Posture Practice Paperback – February 10, 2010


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (February 10, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195395344
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195395341
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.3 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #111,926 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

What Mark Singleton does prove, with massive, irrefutable, fascinating and often hilarious evidence, is that yoga is a rich, multi-cultural, constantly changing inter-disciplinary construction, far from the pure line that its adherents often claim for it. Wendy Doniger, Times Literary Supplement This book, an invaluable source on modern yoga, should be on the reading list of every serious student and teacher training program. Richard Rosen, Yoga Journal

About the Author

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.

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Customer Reviews

NOT that there's anything wrong with modern physical yoga asana practice!
A. Drugay
This is a great book for the yogi interested in reading about how modern yoga developed in India and made its way to the West.
Zenpunk
To make his thesis more interesting Singleton goes further but in doing so makes a number of claims that are inaccurate.
Anaxamander

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

49 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Mr. J. N. Blair on March 7, 2010
Format: Paperback
A new book has just come out into the crowded yoga marketplace: Yoga Body by Mark Singleton. Unlike so many of the other yoga products this is neither full of glossy photographs (though the front cover picture is quite cute) nor making any particular promises. Instead this is a book that seeks to question some of the assumptions underlying our yoga practice.

It is written by an academic - but an academic who has been a highly dedicated practitioner for more than 15 years. Mark is not only very adept in the physical postures (practising third series Astanga) but a serious student of yoga - he is qualified in the Iyengar school as well as within the Satyananda system - and a long-term meditator. This book might be dismissed by some as a product of "modern scholars who barely dip their toes into the ocean of yoga" - but such dismissals reveal inabilities to honestly consider the circumstances of this yoga which is practised by so many people across the world. Yet although this is an academic book (there are detailed footnotes and the bibliography runs to more than 30 pages) it is without doubt readable and accessible. There is a skilful balancing between the maintaining of academic credibility while ensuring that a good story is told well.

This is a book that made me pause and think. Its subtitle is `the origins of modern posture practice' and the aim is to understand the forming of yoga postures. What so many of us spend so much time doing - where has this come from? What are the influences that structure the shapes that upon which we expend so much effort? This book doesn't unfortunately touch on why so many of us are doing these practices but this wasn't a topic of Yoga Body.
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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Derek (True-Small-Caps.Blogspot.Com) on February 24, 2010
Format: Paperback
Mark Singleton's Yoga Body is a cultural history of asana practice, concentrating on the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Modern hatha yoga is only tenuously related to asana practice as described in the Sanskrit texts. Until the eighteenth century, real hatha yogins lived as itinerant petty criminals, despised and feared by Indians and British alike. Even Vivekananda, the great popularizer of Indian religion in the West, viewed hatha yoga as an inferior pursuit, and one that was perhaps not even a spiritual practice at all.

The sanitization of hatha yoga began with the European physical culture movement of the late nineteenth century. Gymnastics and bodybuilding became popular. A Christian man, it was held, should be a manly man. The movement was taken to India by the YMCA and by the British military, who included physical fitness in their training drills.

As Indian national pride developed in the early twentieth century, a desire developed to demonstrate that India had its own system of strength and fitness. Hatha yoga was then reinvented by grafting a careful selection of its elements on to the international culture of the body -- though research has shown that many of its supposedly traditional postures look remarkably like ones from nineteenth-century European fitness books, and many were invented on the spot by Tirumalai Krishnamacharya in Mysore in the 1930s.

Mark Singleton's well-documented research challenges the notion of the modern asana class as an ancient Indian tradition. The many period illustrations add charm to the book.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By G. A. BRAVO-CASAS on August 11, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Yoga Body is an important tool for every yoga scholar, well written and well documented. It is the author's PhD dissertation at the Faculty of Divinity, University of Cambridge, where he worked as Research Assistant to Elizabeth De Michelis. Mark Singleton teaches at St. John's College, Santa Fe (NM), and was one of the main contributors to the recent Encyclopedia of Hinduism (Routledge, 2007). Singleton is a fervent yoga practitioner and has yoga teaching diplomas in the Iyengar and Satyananda traditions. He concentrates on the transition from the classical conception of yoga as a philosophical system to the version we know today as postural yoga. Without denying that some Asanas were mentioned in classical texts (around 450 AD, Vyasa's comments on Patanjali's Yoga Sutra named 12 poses, and the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, around 1350, included 84), Singleton examines in detail why Asanas did not initially receive the same attention that they have in modern times.

This book goes further in the analysis of modern yoga than three previously published outstanding scholarly books: Joseph S. Alter, Yoga in Modern India (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004), Silvia Ceccomori, Cent ans de yoga en France (Paris: Edidit, 2001), and Elizabeth De Michelis, A History of Modern Yoga (London: Continuum, 2004).

After presenting a brief summary of the development of yoga since its origins to the first contact with Europeans, Singleton explains that postural yoga is a recent development with many sources, particularly from the physical education taught in the British Army. He traces many of the European roots of British gymnastics, including the German "physical revivalism" of J. F. C.
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