This fascinating and remarkable book documents the history of hatha yoga and it’s practice of asanas (the physical postures) as it was metamorphosing in the late 1800s and early 1900s. During that period a “physical culture” was emerging in the West (and became imported to British occupied India) that involved refining the body through strengthening and stretching exercises. It is these body building and gymnastic techniques that Singleton documents how they slowly influenced and redefined the practices, concept and public option of hatha yoga.
What I found most interesting is that prior to this development Hatha Yogis were considered to be derelicts and ruffians and were avoided by both native Indians and Westerners alike. I also loved the numerous historical photographs reprinted throughout the book, that further illustrated the connections and influences between physical culture and yoga asana. Singleton’s well-documented research will challenge the common belief of Westernized yoga practice as an ancient Indian tradition, and will certainly ruffle a few yogis’ feathers. But if you are at all interested in the historic and cultural background of modern hatha yoga then I highly recommend you read this book.
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