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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: 9.1 x 0.9 x 6.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #79,236 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review


"Singleton's radical, meticulously documented, sensitive analysis makes perfectly clear that what has come to be regarded as a veritable icon of Indic Civilization -- postural yoga -- is, in fact, unambiguously the hybrid product of colonial and post-colonial globalization." --Prof. Joseph S. Alter, University of Pittsburgh. Author of Yoga in Modern India: The Body Between Science and Philosophy


"Mark Singleton's Yoga Body: The Origins of Modern Posture Practice is an outstanding scholarly work which brings so much insight and clarity to the historic and cultural background of modern hatha yoga. I highly recommend this book, especially for all sincere students of yoga." --John Friend, Founder of Anusara Yoga


"I have been reading yoga texts and practicing yoga for 40 years, and I have taught a university-level academic course on yoga for the last 15 years, so it takes quite a good deal to teach me things about yoga I did not already know. This book has done so. It has been extremely informative and is rich with historical details. The quantity of field research is quite extraordinary, the prose articulate, the diction intelligent, and the narrative sound. It is a must-read among yoga teachers and serious students, and has the potential to transform much of the yoga world. This book will echo loudly through the global yoga community." --Prof. Kenneth Liberman, University of Oregon. Author of Dialectical Practice in Tibetan Philosophical Culture


"From the moment I started reading Mark Singleton's Yoga Body I couldn't put it down. It is beautifully written, extensively researched, and full of fascinating information. It stands alone in its depth of insight into a subject which has intrigued me for forty years." --David Williams, Maui, Hawaii. The first non-Indian to learn the complete Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga syllabus.


"Mark Singleton has written a sweeping and nuanced account of the origins and development of modern postural yoga in early twentieth-century India and the West, arguing convincingly that yoga as we know it today does not flow directly from the Yoga Sutras or India's medieval ha?ha yoga traditions, but rather emerged out of a confluence of practices, movements and ideologies, ranging from contortionist acts in carnival sideshows, British Army calisthenics and women's stretching exercises to social Darwinism, eugenics, and the Indian nationalist movement. The richly illustrated story he tells is an especially welcome contribution to the history of yoga, demonstrating the ways in which an ancient tradition was reinvented against the backdrop of India's colonial experience." --Prof. David Gordon White, University of California, Santa Barbara. Author of The Alchemical Body, Siddha Traditions in Medieval India


"Mark Singleton gives us here a groundbreaking, pioneering work. By carefully tracing the key 'missing links' in the development of contemporary notions of hatha yoga, he presents a far richer and nuanced picture than previously known. Quite simply, this is a book that cannot be ignored, destined to be reckoned with in any further study of the topic. Thoroughly researched, extraordinarily well informed, and lucidly argued, I recommended it very highly to all serious practitioners and students of modern yoga who want a deeper understanding of its evolution." --Carlos Pomeda, founder of Yoga Wisdom for Modern Life.


"Mark Singleton's book Yoga Body traces the evolution of the ever expanding practice of asana world-wide. His work offers a much needed historical perspective that will help correct much of the mythology and group-think that is emerging in the modern asana based 'yoga world'. Any serious asana practitioner who wishes to understand the place of asana in the greater tradition of yoga will do well to read it carefully." --Gary Krafstow, the founder of the American Viniyoga Institute, author of Yoga for Wellness and Yoga for Transformation


"Yoga Body by Mark Singleton is a scholarly exploration of how modern yoga, as currently practiced in countless studios, gyms, and schools across the country, evolved [...] In essence, this very popular form of yoga was greatly influenced by modern physical practices, not just traditional spiritual or mystical ones. Singleton makes a cogent argument backed up by references from many studies and sources [...] a work of merit that sheds a great deal of light on the development of modern yoga [...] an important contribution to our understanding of yoga." --San Francisco Book Review


"Mark Singleton [...] asks a big question: Where did modern yoga come from? His reply will no doubt disturb a lot of folks [...] as Singleton clearly and convincingly demonstrates, the physical practice of today is less than 100 years old, and it has very little to do with either Patanjali's or Krishna's teaching. Instead, it's the product of such disparate elements as British colonialist policies in India, 19th century physical health movements in Europe and India, the invention of the camera, and the reformist programs of Indian yoga teachers like Shri Yogendra and T. Krishnamacharya. This book, an invaluable source on modern yoga, should be on the reading list of every serious student and teacher training program." --Richard Rosen in 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

51 of 56 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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19 of 20 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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31 of 35 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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