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Yoga Body

3.79  ·  Rating Details  ·  289 Ratings  ·  42 Reviews

Yoga is so prevalent in the modern worldpracticed by pop stars, taught in schools, and offered in yoga centers, health clubs, and even shopping mallsthat we take its presence, and its meaning, for granted. But how did the current yoga boom happen? And is it really rooted in ancient Indian practices, as many of its adherents claim?

In this groundbreaking book, Mark Singleton

ebook, 0 pages
Published February 10th 2010 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 2010)
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Jun 03, 2010 Andrea rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: yoga
"Yoga Body: The Origins of Modern Posture Practice"

I had to add the subtitle, b/c for some reason goodreads didn't. And it's really pretty important, imo. Because this is NOT just another yoga history book that focuses on the Yoga Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita and blahdeblah. This is an incredibly documented history of *modern* yoga practice - the practice you get at Yoga Tree or Yoga Mayu or wherever the heck you practice in whatever city you live. Whatever the lineage you practice! Ashtanga, Vi
Sep 20, 2011 Sam rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is ok. It has lots of great info but there are some problems. Singleton tries to cram so much research and history into 200 pages that it comes off like a whirlwind tour through a bunch of stuff that most people will not be even slightly familiar with. The book might have done well to be like 500 pages. On the other hand, Singleton's writing veers from captivating and insightful to reminding me of my college research papers, i.e. here's my thesis, here's my evidence, here are my refere ...more
Frank Jude
May 15, 2012 Frank Jude rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Already two years old, though I was aware of the general gist of this amazingly well-researched book, I only just got to read it and have learned so much more about the specifics of the history of asana and how it's come to be practiced as it is in the contemporary 'yoga world.' As Gary Krafstow writes: " 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.'"

Sadly, I've still not seen
Dec 04, 2010 Amber rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010, sacred-dance
This book was utterly fascinating!! I would only recommend it to serious yoga practitioners because it is very scholarly, complete with a sixteen page bibliography. Please read it with an open mind, as it will definitely shatter your preconceived notions of yoga.
Oct 24, 2011 Antiloquax rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Just read the first couple of chapters. Fascinating study of the rise of the physical side of Yoga (asanas) in what he calls "transnational anglophone yoga". Basically he is saying that in the oldest forms of Yoga, the postures were not that important - the emphasis was on meditation. The current state of Yoga (which is often just a form of gymnsatics) came about (he says) due to the interaction between Yoga and Western physical culture.
Oct 26, 2010 Eugene marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
slight diversion from normal reading habits, but: stumbled upon this author's article in yoga journal. it seemed like it should be a cover story--but the article is strangely buried within. dunno why exactly but thought its argument should get some passing around... i found the piece oddly shocking... yoga scholar singleton argues that the current popular asana practice of western yoga is not the centuries-old tradition it advertises itself to be but an odd and relatively new conflation of, amon ...more
Sep 01, 2011 Erica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was extremely excited about this book at first. And it did deliver much of what I wanted from it: a clear-eyed history of yoga focusing on the 20th century. Among the fascinating findings: yoga has <> been part of physical athletic body culture in America (alligned with the 'strenuous life' of Teddy Roosevelt, the muscle-building crazes of the early 20th century, etc). In addition, yoga was popularized in India in the 20th century as a way to find strength and beauty against their Britis ...more
Mar 23, 2014 Althea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had a religion professor in college who was an expert in Chinese Buddhism. She talked a lot about the ways Buddhism changed when it moved from India to China. The male Avalokiteshvara became the female Quan Yin as part of that transition. She also told us that many early sutras were authored in China by Chinese authors, then back-translated to create a Sanskrit "original" to give the sutra legitimacy.

I thought of this process time after time reading Yoga Body. It's fascinating to see the tran
Nov 26, 2010 Morgan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Awesome. Uses plenty if pictures and solid research to dismantle some of the doctrine we've been fed about yoga and it's origins, effectively blowing a hole in some of the West's tendencies toward orientalism and appropriation. If you're just flipping through this, the chapter on Mysore (chapter 9) is a hilarious standalone that explains a lot of what yoga is today and why.
Oct 10, 2010 JulieB rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book was a little too academic for my level of interest in the topic. The premise was intriguing - that modern yoga ("asana" posture practice) owes its roots as much to western physical culture as it does to any ancient eastern practice. I think I would have been more interested in reading the Malcolm Gladwell version of the material.
This book explores the history that produced the posture-based, physical-fitness-oriented, physical-image driven yoga prevalent today. In it, Singleton takes us on a guided tour of the social, political, class, and religious forces and events that have given rise to current "anglophone" yoga practice.

He makes a compelling case that the yoga most of us know today, far from being a rediscovered 5000-year-old practice (as many in e.g. the Ashtanga Yoga or Iyengar Yoga businesses might have us belie
David Haberlah
Jan 19, 2015 David Haberlah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: yoga
This well researched seminal book should be included in any Yoga Teacher Training course. It sheds much needed light on the dynamic history of the asana-focused Yoga practice of today, and thereby explains why it thrives particular well in the West and among female practitioners. Unfortunately, large parts of the book a poorly written, there is some repetition and certain chapters simply read like a PhD thesis. Having said that, others like the one on the origin of the Surya Namaskar sequence ar ...more
John Hawkins
Apr 08, 2016 John Hawkins rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting history of Modern Yoga. Mark Singleton de-mythologizes it. The book is heavily referenced with citations in the text with parentheses. This slows the reading down a bit.
As a Yoga teacher it is interesting to read how much the physical revival in Europe influenced Modern Yoga and how Swami Vivekananda, who Singleton says started Modern Yoga, detested Hatha (the physiological aspects of Yoga.) Never in the history has the emphasis in Yoga been so much on Hatha.
There is a chapter dedic
Sep 07, 2010 Amy is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Just awesome - takes all the fake preachiness out of the history and evolution of asana and looks at the historical reality of the practice. It's not what you think!
Laura Zuckoff
Oct 25, 2015 Laura Zuckoff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
5 Stars for content that has untangled much confusion and frustration for me, a yoga nerd with a deep committment to honesty and integrity as an instrutor.

I will be sending my former students a note of apology for the myths and misunderstandings I am guilty of perpetuating.

3 stars for the thing reading like a dissertation, which means many people who might otherwise benefit from the content, might not find the presentation reader friendly.

Anyway, I loved the message and am grateful for the piece
Bernie Gourley
Jul 25, 2015 Bernie Gourley rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: yoga
I was excited to stumble across this book because it proposed fresh insights into the history and development of posture-centric yoga. Singleton’s premise is that yoga as it’s practiced in studios around the world today (i.e. practices focused heavily on asana, or postures) has almost nothing to do with historic yogic traditions and is to a large extent European (or Western) fitness practices fed back to the world with a patina of Indian-ness instilled by a few Indian fitness teachers (e.g. T. K ...more
Dec 07, 2013 Jobie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I did enjoy this book though I feel like it took almost two years to read. It is so overstuffed with facts that the historical narrative gets bogged down and lost. I do appreciate the meticulous research done by the author. I was interested in everything the author had to say. One suggestion would be to have written the narrative backwards. It would have allowed the author to paint the big picture of where yoga is now and then layer the details in topically instead of chronologically. That may h ...more
Jul 29, 2013 Geoff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: health, read-in-2013
Yoga Body is a mixed bag. It is a scholarly book that dives deep into the physical culture of India in the late 19th and early 20th century. It is such a scholarly book in fact, that I can't tell you how many times I fell asleep reading it. I am deeply interested in Singleton's chosen topic, but the writing is so dry that I ended up being slightly bored, and mostly disappointed. Which isn't to say that I disagree with his conclusion, just that it could have been presented in a much more appealin ...more
Jan 04, 2015 Rayrumtum rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: couldn-t-finish
I found this too technical for someone interested in the history of yoga. A 500 hour certified teacher would undoubtedly get more out of it than me. It read more like someone's dissertation. I read the first 2 chapters and skimmed the rest. I will put it on the shelf to try again later.
Dec 10, 2014 Petras rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lots of information about the origins of modern yoga -- great read for those who are interested in the history of it all. I was hoping the book wpuld also cover the later developments too though.
Aug 17, 2016 Colleen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: yoga
I was so looking forward to reading this book - until I started and find it is set in a sans serif typeface! Virtually unreadable. Oxford University Press should know better - I'm horrified to see this book looking like it's the first publication of a back room publisher.
Daniel Wise
Aug 01, 2016 Daniel Wise rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I can easily see why this book does not average 5 stars...because it pretty much crushes much of the contemporary Yoga story. Ancient practices? Highly unlikely, and proof is offered in a systematic and scholarly way in this work. Kudos to Singleton for tracing the story of our current Acrobatic Asana styles to the Mysore era of the late 1930's and influence of western acrobatics, bodybuilding and gymnastics.
This should be a required text for any series practitioner of modern Asana, as well as
Megan Peters
Mar 26, 2016 Megan Peters rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this in pieces and jumped around. It's very academic and at times went over my head. I was searching for a deeper, more cultural explanation of yoga and how it's changed over the centuries (and how it evolved in the Western world) that it's been around and this does an excellent job of it. I wish it had been a little ... "Dumbed down!"
Apr 04, 2014 Margaret rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: yoga
Love the connections between Indian Nationalism, physical culture, and contemporary yoga practice. It's an academic book for a university press, which means that there's less narrative than I like. I would love to read a journalist's take on the same material.
Jan 28, 2012 Meg rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spirituality, history
This book was much more dry and scholarly than I expected/ wanted, so I took a break after a couple of chapters to read Stefanie Syman's "The Subtle Body", which helped give me a more layperson-oriented introduction to some of yoga's recent history. When I returned to this book, I was able to follow more easily. Many terms and references are not defined or described in detail, so the book can be confusing if you're not already a scholar in the history of yoga and Indian spirituality.
Carol Horton
A path-breaking work on the history of modern yoga. Nothing else comes close to providing us with such a detailed examination of the formative roots of what is widely considered to be "yoga" today (i.e., asana practice). While written for an academic audience and perhaps a bit of a stretch for the general reader, anyone who is serious about understanding the development of modern yoga should definitely take the time to grapple with this important book.
Jan 21, 2013 Alanna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kind of hard going since it's an academic text, but would strongly recommend to anyone seriously interested in understanding yoga. With all the misinformation spread around about it, it's important to understand history that has been subjected to rigorous reviews and fact checks. It doesn't have to inform your personal experience of yoga, but all practitioners should know the real story.
Nathalia Berkowitz
Yoga Body: The Origins of Modern Posture Practice
Like another reviewer, I think the whole title is important with this book. It's a social history and interesting and informative. It is, of course, a partial history - it would/will be interesting to see what Mark Singleton would come up with if he traced through other strands of yoga history. I'm waiting for the next installment!
Virginia Beam
Yoga Body should be required reading for every yoga teacher. Yes, it's pretty dry at points and could have used a lot of polish, but it's a brilliant and unprecedented examination of the relatively modern genesis of the postures practiced in modern yoga classes--and, importantly, why this does not make said modern yoga practices "inauthentic" or "unspiritual."
Apr 10, 2016 Russell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a great book for anyone who wants to understand the true origins of modern yoga. It's more densely academic than its cover indicates, and the language is inflated accordingly, but the amount of research Singleton has done is impressive and he presents his arguments clearly.
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