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If you’re not a regular NPR listener you may have missed yesterday’s episode of On Point with guest Stefanie Syman, author of The Subtle Body: The Story of Yoga in America, which coincidentally happened to be released yesterday as well, believe it or not (June 29). If you haven’t already heard about the book, we’ll tell you, it’s exactly as the title suggests, subtly.

Yes, it’s official, Yoga is as American as capitalism! Yoga has found its way to the mainstream (Ms. Syman cites the tipping point as yoga on the White House Lawn in ’09). But are these mutations and fusions, staged events in large parks, myriad of commodities, and use in TV ads and major motion pictures what yoga is really all about? For the good, the bad and the ugly it’s taken about 150 years of yoga assimilation to arrive where we are today, a billion dollar industry. But how did we get here? And can we accept that so many people flock to practice (spending tons of $$) for the physical aspect? Is American Yoga in the mind or the body, or can it be both? Does it matter?

Stefanie Syman, an ashtangi of 15 years, speaks on the beginnings of yoga in the land of the free including connections with Emerson and Thoreau – “The first lineage of American yogis”, the 1920’s spurt of hatha with Pierre Bernard and Yogananda, the 1940’s Hollywood wave (Greta Garbo was a fan), other open-minded folks like Aldous Huxley and Allen Ginsberg, Swami Satchidananda, and how we as a culture deal with these so-called yogi rock stars, some of whom inevitably, with so much power, stray to disillusionment and corruption. (*gasp*)

The interview is interesting stuff for sure and includes caller questions and Boston-based yoga teacher Barbara Benagh sharing comments. We may just have to add this book to the mile-long summer reading list. Speaking of which, we are hereby deeming 2010 the year of yoga media explosion! look out.

Listen to episode and read comments here
(bonus: interviewer Jane Clayson does sound a wee bit like ‘Delicious Dish’)

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13 comments… add one
  • can’t wait to read! looks good!

  • it was an inspiring and uplifting interview! i also can’t wait to read the book!

  • I am reading the book about Bernard and find it fascinating. The tantric yoga that he talked about and taught is not that far off from what I saw practiced at the Kumbh Mela.

  • Looking forward to this book. Thanks for the tip.

    Bob W.

  • “The most important things in life aren’t things.”
    You got some great material on here, I see why people love your blog so much. Will make sure we subscribe to rss and keep up with your new stuff. Thanks so much for writing. Me and my family are on 3 year trip around the world having a blast. Come visit our blog we update with all types of crazy stuff.

    Unstoppable Family
    Brian and Rhonda Swan

  • I love NPR and I love yoga! Thanks for the great find.

  • I find it interesting that there is not one mention of Desikachar, Krishnamacharya’s son, in the book!

  • admin

    have questions for the author? we’ll be interviewing with your Qs! submit them here
    Ask ‘Yoga In America’ Author Stefanie Syman Your Burning Questions

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