Avatar of admin


Yoga Landed in the U.S. Way Earlier Than You'd Think—And Fitness Was Not the Point

June 20, 2019 in History

By Philip Deslippe

Over a century ago, a Hindu monk named Swami Vivekananda spoke about yoga to a crowd in Chicago. In the decades since, it has gone from unknown to mainstream.

Every year on June 21, millions of flexible people in an estimated 84 countries around the world observe the International Day of Yoga. Large crowds move through postures together in San Francisco’s Marina Green park and on New Delhi’s Rajpath boulevard to mark the occasion, which was first proposed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014.

While yoga has become a mainstream path to wellness among everyday Americans and celebrities alike, the practice was once unheard of in the West., Vivekananda “marks a turning point in how Indian religiosity was understood outside of India.”

Vivekananda inspired and provided a model for several other South Asian teachers to follow his example and come to the United States over the next few decades. Among them was Yogananda, the founder of the Self-Realization Fellowship and author of Autobiography of a Yogi.

Hatha Yoga Revival Arrives in U.S.

It was during the 1920s and 1930s when yoga obtained a higher profile in America, not by Indian teachers who came to the United States, but largely by Indian immigrants. These individuals were already in the country and then lost their citizenship and rights through a series of court cases and federal legislation.

Dozens of these former students, professionals and political activists remade themselves into mystic authorities. They travelled the country, and made a living by giving public lectures, private classes, and often personal services. The American writer Charles Ferguson wryly described them in 1938 as traveling salesmen, telling readers that “every winter we can find advertisements of the appearances of Yogis in the cities of the East and during the spring and summer they work the back places.”

By the end of the 1930s, the revival of hatha yoga in India had made its way to the United States. Previous ideas of yoga as mental and magical started to wane, and the yoga familiar to contemporary practitioners with its postures and physical exercises began to take hold. Health and bodybuilding magazines began to tout yoga and yoga teachers began to add asanas to their classes.

A yoga class in Big Sur, California, 1959.

Hippie and New Age Movements Popularize Yoga

Starting in the early-1960s, several Americans such as Richard Hittleman and Lilias Folan used television to present approachable and practical …read more


Leave a reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.