Yoga has come to be an icon of Indian culture and civilization, and it is widely regarded as being timeless and unchanging. Based on extensive ethnographic research and an analysis of both ancient and modern texts, Yoga in Modern India challenges this popular view by examining the history of yoga, focusing on its emergence in modern India and its dramatically changing form and significance in the twentieth century. Joseph Alter argues that yoga's transformation into a popular activity idolized for its health value is based on modern ideas about science and medicine. Alter centers his analysis on an interpretation of the seminal work of Swami Kuvalayananda, one of the chief architects of the Yoga Renaissance in the early twentieth century. From this point of orientation he explores current interpretations of yoga and considers how practitioners of yogic medicine and fitness combine the ideas of biology, physiology, and anatomy with those of metaphysics, transcendence, and magical power.
The first serious ethnographic history of modern yoga in India, this fluently written book is must reading not only for students and scholars but also practitioners who seek a deeper understanding of how yoga developed over time into the exceedingly popular phenomenon it is today.
Joseph S. Alter is Professor of Anthropology and Research Professor at the University Center for International Studies, University of Pittsburgh. He is the author of "The Wrestler's Body, Knowing Dil Das", and "Gandhi's Body".
List of Illustrations xi Preface xiii Acknowledgments xxi PART 1 INTRODUCTION AND ORIENTATION chapter 1 Historicizing Yoga: The Life and Times of Liberated Souls 3 CHAPTER 2 Yoga and the Supramental Being: Materialism, Metaphysics, and Social Reality 32 PART 2 YOGA'S MODERN HISTORY AND PRACTICE CHAPTER 3 Swami Kuvalayananda: Science, Yoga, and Global Modernity 73 CHAPTER 4 Birth of the Anti-Clinic: Naturopathic Yoga in a Post-Gandhian, Postcolonial State 109 CHAPTER 5 Dr. Karandikar, Dr. Pal, and the RSS: Purification, Subtle Gymnastics, and Man Making 142 PART 3 CONCLUSION 6 Auto-Urine Therapy--The Elixir of Life: Yoga, A yurveda, and Self-Perfection 181 CHAPTER 7 Mimetic Skepticism and Yoga: Moving beyond the Problem of Culture and Relativism 211 Notes 247 Glossary 273 References 283 Index 309