International Yoga Day – Yoga Secret History

By June 21, 2023No Comments



Today, India prime minister executed a few yoga poses with other international leaders.

“Modi flexes India’s cultural reach on Yoga Day with backbends and corpse poses on the UN lawn [and said:] It is a very old tradition, but like all ancient Indian traditions, it is also living and dynamic,” Modi said. “When we do yoga, we feel physically fit, mentally calm and emotionally content. But it is not just about doing exercise on a mat.”

Are yoga postures, Asanas, as known and practiced in the West, an old Indian tradition ?

In 2010, Mark Singleton[1],  senior researcher at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, authored the book Yoga Body: The Origins of Modern Posture Practice. The publisher’s intro to the book in amazon summarizes: “Singleton shows that, contrary to popular belief, there is no evidence in the Indian tradition for the kind of health and fitness-oriented asana practice that dominates the global yoga scene of the twenty-first century. Singleton’s surprising–and surely controversial–thesis is that yoga as it is popularly practiced today owes a greater debt to modern Indian nationalism and, even more surprisingly, to the spiritual aspirations of European bodybuilding and early 20th-century women’s gymnastic movements of Europe and America, than it does to any ancient Indian yoga tradition.” In fact, many postures were introduced in India in the 19th century by Scandinavian tourists.


Dr. Singleton was featured on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Secret History of Yoga’ available here. Also, youtube for more recent interviews.

The Secret History of Yoga – BBC Sounds  [already mentioned in my website in 2016].

What I find the most fascinating is that, although we are confronted with a decadent system that has contaminated every single part of humanity, the spiritual community has evolved; it is much more integrative, merging religious cultures and pushing the limits of human awareness towards new frontiers.

[1] Between 2015-2020 he was employed as a senior researcher at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, working on a five-year European Research Council-funded project entitled ‘The Hatha Yoga Project: Mapping Indian and Transnational Traditions of Physical Yoga through Philology and Ethnography’, in collaboration with two other scholars on this site (James Mallinson and Jason Birch).


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