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Yoga in Modern India:
The Body between Science and Philosophy
Joseph S. Alter

Winner of the 2006 Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy Book Prize, South Asia Council, Association for Asian Studies

Paperback | 2004 | $38.95 | ($23.37) / £26.95 | (£16.17) | ISBN: 9780691118741
352 pp. | 6 x 9 | 10 halftones
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Yoga has come to be an icon of Indian culture and civilization, and it is widely regarded as being timeless and unchanging. Based on extensive ethnographic research and an analysis of both ancient and modern texts, Yoga in Modern India challenges this popular view by examining the history of yoga, focusing on its emergence in modern India and its dramatically changing form and significance in the twentieth century. Joseph Alter argues that yoga's transformation into a popular activity idolized for its health value is based on modern ideas about science and medicine.

Alter centers his analysis on an interpretation of the seminal work of Swami Kuvalayananda, one of the chief architects of the Yoga Renaissance in the early twentieth century. From this point of orientation he explores current interpretations of yoga and considers how practitioners of yogic medicine and fitness combine the ideas of biology, physiology, and anatomy with those of metaphysics, transcendence, and magical power.

The first serious ethnographic history of modern yoga in India, this fluently written book is must reading not only for students and scholars but also practitioners who seek a deeper understanding of how yoga developed over time into the exceedingly popular phenomenon it is today.


"This is the first time Indian Modern Yoga has received such sustained, in-depth treatment by a reputable and well-informed scholar. Much of the book is quite accessible to the general reader, and many of Alter's more theoretical and analytical interpretations of modern understandings of yoga, health, medicine, the body, and truth claims are novel and stimulating. Highly recommended."--Elizabeth De Michelis, Director, Dharam Hinduja Institute of Indic Research, Cambridge University

"Yoga in Modern India is a mine of thought-provoking propositions in regard to the historiography of classical and modern writing on yoga. Well written, it provides detailed and frequently provocative analyses of particular yogic ideas and practices that contribute to a more sophisticated discussion about the status of modern yoga in its various guises over the last one-and-a-half centuries."--Waltraud Ernst, University of Southampton, author of Plural Medicine, Tradition, and Modernity, 1800-2000

Table of Contents:

List of Illustrations xi
Preface xiii
Acknowledgments xxi
chapter 1 Historicizing Yoga: The Life and Times of Liberated Souls 3
CHAPTER 2 Yoga and the Supramental Being: Materialism, Metaphysics, and Social Reality 32
CHAPTER 3 Swami Kuvalayananda: Science, Yoga, and Global Modernity 73
CHAPTER 4 Birth of the Anti-Clinic: Naturopathic Yoga in a Post-Gandhian, Postcolonial State 109
CHAPTER 5 Dr. Karandikar, Dr. Pal, and the RSS: Purification, Subtle Gymnastics, and Man Making 142
Auto-Urine Therapy--The Elixir of Life: Yoga, A yurveda, and Self-Perfection 181
CHAPTER 7 Mimetic Skepticism and Yoga: Moving beyond the Problem of Culture and Relativism 211
Notes 247
Glossary 273
References 283
Index 309

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File created: 11/20/2015

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