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

4.3 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, U.S.A. (10 Feb. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195395344
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195395341
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 2.3 x 15.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 27,965 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

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.


Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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I ordered this book after picking up debates on it on various blogs talking about ashtanga yoga - although the author addresses modern yoga as practiced in the west in general, it is perhaps ashtanga whose myths are most challenged by the book.

I am an ashtanga student myself, practicing almost daily - and it's easy for me to see how the gymnastic origins of what we do, as postulated by Singleton, is completely credible. Having seen yoga practiced by saddhus in India (their practice is also covered in the book - then, as now, they were seen as outside of mainstream Hinduism and viewed with disdain or suspicion) it is clearly different (and, I would suggest, in some cases involves a whole other level of commitment). For some though, the idea that they are practicing something ancient, found in ancient texts and passed down from a guru in a cave in Tibet to Krishnamacharya, and then to Jois, is important and makes what they do more than just exercise. What actually makes it more than just exercise as usually understood these days is probably the breathing more than anything else - timing the movement with breathing. That too though, is, according to the book, borrowed from western exercise systems of the nineteenth and earlier twentieth centuries. I don't care much personally, as I find all the cod-sanskrit and po-faced spiritualism of some in the ashtanga scene more than a bit tedious (and, to be fair, from what I've seen of Jois himself, he never took it so seriously). A change in approach may be required though from those who currently insist, with a straight face, that bending over and touching the floor is veda-inspired and a step on the road to enlightenment.
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Format: Paperback
It takes a special and humble intelligence to wear one's learning lightly. Mark Singleton's book wins in being both academically rigourous but an accessable work, presenting challenges on tradition, mysticism and cultural translation. It is much more than a book about Yoga in the narrow or one for the narrowly Yoga focused. By turns anthropological study, detective story and at times humourous in puncturing obsessions with perfectionist fitness (the 'primary series' having its origins in a homework sheet!?) it stands also as just a good read. Rather like recipes I like to go back to where things started and a cursory investigation will tell you spaghetti is southern Italian pasta, and Bologna is in the north - spaghetti bolognaise is a geographical non starter. What is appealing is the author does not impose a conclusion as to the rightness or wrongness of how you, I or others interpret the receipe for Yoga. What you may be left with is that Yoga (as commonly available) has as much to do with ancient Indian spirituality and practice as my mum's spaghetti bolognaise has with Italian traditional food - I still love it though - and loving it with the discipline of knowledge that cultures bend, invent and coalesce traditions is a welcome headclearing freedom!
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Format: Paperback
I highly recommend this readable and detailed account of the origins of postures in modern yoga. Mark Singleton has done a work of significant research that traces the links between 19th century bodybuilding and gymnastics to yoga as practiced today in the west. It's well argued and backed up by pages of footnotes and references - and at the same time accessible and understandable.
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Format: Paperback
"Yoga Body"is based on the Mark Singleton's PhD thesis at the university of Cambridge.
The author studies the emergence of posture (asana) practice in "Hatha Yoga", between 1896,when Vivekananda's Raja Yoga--- that promoted a posture-LESS yoga--- was published, and the 1930s, when Krishnamacharya and others taught quite athletic poses and exercises in the close surroundings of the Maharajah of Mysore--India).

Krishnamacharya's teachings have been propagated all over the world by some of his well-known students such as B.K.S. Iyengar, K. Pattabhi Jois (who created "Ashtanga Yoga", a very dynamic, flowing style based on defined series of poses) , T.K.V Desikashar (Krishnamacharya's son, from the teachings of whom "Desikashar yoga" , Viniyoga and smaller schools derive).
M. Singleton's book questions not only the origins of current importance given to poses in yoga practice, but also a couple of assertions these teachers made in the name of Krishnamacharya and of "tradition".

According to M. Singleton, two trends met and influenced each other, leading to the development of new, "posture-based" hatha yoga:
1) The West was increasingly interested in methods of physical education (e.g. bodybuilding, Scandinavian gymnastics,...) in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, in a spirit of growing nationalism. The idea of muscular bodies being a token of physical, moral, see spiritual health/strength was diffused in India by the British army, Indian YMCA and education.
2) A part of the educated Indian elite was eager to prove the vigour of their nation's race and heritage to some contemptuous orientalists and British.
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