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Selling Yoga

Premodern and early modern yoga comprise techniques with a wide range of aims, from turning inward in quest of the true self, to turning outward for divine union, to channeling bodily energy in pursuit of sexual pleasure. Early modern yoga also encompassed countercultural beliefs and practices. In contrast, today, modern yoga aims at the enhancement of the mind-body complex but does so according to contemporary dominant metaphysical, health, and fitness paradigms. Consequently, yoga is now a part of popular culture. In Selling Yoga, Andrea R. Jain explores the popularization of yoga in the context of late-twentieth-century consumer culture. She departs from conventional approaches by undermining essentialist definitions of yoga as well as assumptions that yoga underwent a linear trajectory of increasing popularization. While some studies trivialize popularized yoga systems by reducing them to the mere commodification or corruption of what is perceived as an otherwise fixed, authentic system, Jain suggests that this dichotomy oversimplifies the history of yoga as well as its meanings for contemporary practitioners. By discussing a wide array of modern yoga types, from Iyengar Yoga to Bikram Yoga, Jain argues that popularized yoga cannot be dismissedthat it has a variety of religious meanings and functions. Yoga brands destabilize the basic utility of yoga commodities and assign to them new meanings that represent the fulfillment of self-developmental needs often deemed sacred in contemporary consumer culture.
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Table of Contents

Note on Transliteration ; Preface ; Acknowledgments ; Chapter One: Premodern Yoga Systems ; Chapter Two: From Counterculture to Counterculture ; Chapter Three: Continuity with Consumer Culture ; Chapter Four: Branding Yoga ; Chapter Five: Postural Yoga as a Body of Religious Practice ; Chapter Six: Yogaphobia and Hindu Origins ; Conclusion ; Bibliography

About the Author

Andrea R. Jain is Assistant Professor of Religous Studies at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.


Andrea Jains Selling Yoga represents a major new advance in the critical discussion of the history of yoga and its modern constructions in an increasingly globalizing world. The reader is treated to any number of surprises here, from the unexpected importance of a censored and suppressed countercultural reception of yoga and tantra in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to a stunning embrace of both in the second half of the twentieth century within a new consumerist pop culture. In the process, Jain manages to avoid all of the usual moralisms, political and religious essentialisms, and naive orientalisms, opting instead for an approach that is robustly historical, theoretically sophisticated, and deeply, deeply humane. * Jeffrey J. Kripal, author of Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion *

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