TTY 2016: modern yoga

Yoga Comes to the West

The expression Modern Yoga is used here to signify those disciplines and schools that are, to a greater or lesser extent, rooted in South Asian cultural contexts and more specifically draw inspiration from certain philosophies, teachings, and practices of Hinduism. These teachings and practices, by virtue of export, syncretic assimilation, and subsequent acculturation processes, have by now become an integral part of (primarily) urban cultures worldwide and are usually represented, disseminated, and discussed primarily (though not exclusively) by way of the English language.       -Elizabeth De Michelis

This week we begin discussing the movement of Yoga to the west. This discussion will contrast some of the early impressions of Yoga and Yogis in the western, colonial imagination with the formal presentation of Swami Vivekananda and Neo-Vedanta at the Parliament of the World’s religion in Chicago, 1893. In this we see the transformation of the early imagination where Yogis were initially objects of fascination and repulsion into the respected and sophisticated image of Vivekananda. This establishes an important background for understanding the later forms of Yoga in the west that we will study next week. We will also consider several key types of Modern Yoga that have become prevalent in the west. On Wednesday we have a guest lecturer, Swami Girijananda, who will introduce and share her experience as a teacher and practitioner of Meditational Yoga.


  1. Read this short reading on modern yoga by Elizabeth De Michelis beginning with the subtitle, “Definition and Brief History of Modern Yoga.” This reading will provide you with an important foundation for understanding the various types of Modern Yoga we will discuss this week and next.
  1. Read this excerpt from Swami Girijananda’s book on Tonglen practice. This reading will prepare you for Wednesday’s lecture.
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