The Great Oom by Robert Love
Wow, this book is one roller-coaster ride of a story! Beautifully written and diligently researched, this biography of the mystical and mysterious Pierre Bernard, the first American yogi, is absolutely a must read for anyone interested in the history of yoga in America. Robert Love follows “the Great Oom” throughout his life: from his birth in Iowa, to the meeting of his Guru, through the scandals, legal battles, and jail time, and to the rise and eventual fall of his yoga empire. Having to constantly avoid scandal and criminal persecution in the 1920’s, Bernard and his Tantrik Order eventually move to an estate in Nyack, New York.
Funded by wealthy friends, Bernard turns this run down estate into a lavish country club-cum-ashram. Bernard’s story turns surreal when he becomes a real estate agent, baseball team owner, performing elephant trainer, and a financial backer of one of the first commercial airports. Sadly (but justifiably) his former students leave him penniless and many of them go on to further fame and success as yoga became more accepted and popular by mainstream American society.