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Sinister Yogis
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Since the 1960s, yoga has become a billion-dollar industry in the West, attracting housewives and hipsters, New Agers and the old aged. Marketed as a clear path to self-realization, mind expansion, and taut abs, yoga is also perceived as an ancient and unchanging Indian tradition based on the revelations of benign and limber sages. But this modern conception of yoga derives from nineteenth-century European spirituality, "Sinister Yogis" reveals, and the true story of yoga's origins in South Asia is far richer, stranger, and much more entertaining. To uncover this history, David Gordon White focuses on yoga's practitioners. Combing through millennia of South Asia's vast and diverse literature, he discovers that yogis are usually portrayed as wonder-workers or sorcerers who use their dangerous supernatural abilities - which can include raising the dead, possession, and levitation - to acquire power, money, and sexual gratification. As White shows, even those yogis who aren't downright villainous bear little resemblance to Western assumptions about them. By turns rollicking and sophisticated, "Sinister Yogis" tears down the image of yogis as detached, contemplative teachers, finally placing them in their proper context.
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David Gordon White is professor of religious studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the author of several books, including The Alchemical Body: Siddha Traditions in Medieval India and Kiss of the Yogini: "Tantric Sex" in its South Asian Contexts.

About the Author

David Gordon White is professor of religious studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the author of several books, including The Alchemical Body: Siddha Traditions in Medieval India and Kiss of the Yogini: "Tantric Sex" in its South Asian Contexts.

Reviews

"Sinister Yogis... successfully provides a fuller, more contextualized history of yoga, opening up some of the elisions that come when a tradition goes cross-cultural." (Times Literary Supplement) "This wondrously captivating, richly detailed book is a must for anyone interested in conceptions of the Indian yogi and of yogic practice." (Choice)"

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