My current obsession with yoga continues, so The Path of Modern Yoga by Elliott Goldberg seemed like a natural fit for my reading right now. I studied South Asian religion and philosophy in university, and I always knew that the ancient roots of yoga in India bore little resemblance to the LuluLemon yoga practice of today. In The Path of Modern Yoga, Elliott Goldberg shows how we got from there to where we are now by focusing on a few key yoga innovators.
Goldberg shows how yoga’s transformation from an ascetic practice aimed at spiritual enlightenment to a holistic approach to better health occurred, and it’s story is not quite as one might think. Most of the key transformation took place in the 19th century in India, rather than in the 20th century in North America. In the 19th century, yoga was transformed from a deeply spiritual and religious practice into a non-religious practice of the growing middle class. In both its 19th Century Indian incarnation and its 20th Century North American incarnation, engaging the middle class was key to yoga’s popularization.
My only real complaint about Goldberg’s book is that he doesn’t go far enough. That is, in his exploration he stops in the mid-20th century. That means he omits important developments like Bikram’s yoga and the commodification of yoga culture.
Who would like this book? This in not really a casual read. If you’re not into yoga and its history in a big way, The Path of Modern Yoga may provide too much detail. It is meticulously researched and well thought out, but not an easy breezy read. Certainly, a book like Hell-bent is a different sort of book, but is also much more readable account of one person’s journey into yoga’s underbelly.