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What is yoga? Stereotypical images of people practicing this ancient art range from white-bearded Indian mystics chanting 'om' on mountaintops to urban fitness fanatics contorted into uncomfortable looking positions. We recognize the name, but may not realize how the set of ideas and practices known as yoga moved from its birthplace on the Indian subcontinent to become a global phenomenon. Positioning Yoga considers how the recent development of yoga, from its introduction to Western audiences by the Indian Swami Vivekananda at the 1893 Parliament of the World's Religions in Chicago through to the present day, has generated specific forms of modern practice. Strauss takes us on an illuminating journey from India to Germany and America, and back again to India. While acknowledging yogas point of origin, Strauss explores how yogic practices and ideas have been transformed when they cross cultural boundaries.Yoga can be defined in many ways as an attitude, a philosophic system, a set of practices, a way of being in the world but its definition is always located within a particular historical context.
What makes yoga practitioners affiliated with Swami Sivanandas Divine Life Society of Rishikesh, India - whether they hail from India, North America, or Europe - unique? What values around the world have supported the surging popularity of yoga over the past century? This absorbing book considers how lifestyle values have made yoga a global industry and shows how culture is produced and disseminated across boundaries.
Sarah Strauss is Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Wyoming .