[Editor’s Note: Part of an occasional series about yoga and its origins.]
Yoga garnered a significant amount of journalistic attention in 2013, but often not for spiritual reasons. A recent study has revealed that 15 million Americans now practice Yoga (mostly college educated women) and that almost half of them earn at least $75,000 annually. If you are looking to make money off of spirituality, Yoga perhaps now offers the best chance. Last year $27 billion dollars were spent in the U.S. alone on Yoga products. Yoga has truly become America’s next great prosperity gospel.
But let’s put to one side the lively debate in the Yoga community over whether the art form has been compromised by its new wealthy enthusiasts. The far more interesting question concerns how Yoga evolved from an ancient Indian spiritual discipline into a modern American exercise trend.
A number of scholars have embraced the task of explaining the reception of Yoga in “the West.” One of their aims is to challenge the idea that a “more authentic” form of Yoga has ever really been practiced in either Europe or the United States. They instead argue that Yoga was fundamentally transformed in India via the colonial encounter and thus remains caught up in European encroachments.