Book Review: The Path of Modern Yoga
Through the stories of eleven key figures, ranging from Indian yogis to an American-born journalist, author Elliott Goldberg engagingly recounts the path of modern yoga. The approach is scholarly but interesting. For the person willing to learn about how modern yoga came to be, this book will not only accomplish that, but will also deepen one’s spiritual practice.
One of the six Indian yogis talked about in this book, Shri Yogendra, believed that “freewheeling experience” (not adhering to rules) in the profane world is one of the keys to self-realization. Yogendra was the person that commodified yoga. He brought it out of the religious space and into the marketplace as something that can be bought and sold.
This story of Yogendra is one example of how Goldberg tells the story of modern yoga, bringing it from an ancient religious practice to a modern spiritual one. The book creates an account of how yoga moved from mainly seated meditation to mainly physical postures. The transition was not a corruption of the practice but a successful growth into an embodied spiritual practice.
The book touches on a wide range of topics from yoga for anxiety to mixing yoga and bodybuilding, from contortionism to becoming a western, female yoga teacher. The treatment of the path to modern yoga is no doubt thorough and informative. It may serve as a great reference to you in your journey to learn more about how yoga came to be what it is today.
The book negates the idea that yoga is specific to one form or one religion. It has truly been brought to the masses for them to enjoy. The final chapter of the book discusses how the physical motions of yoga have deeper, spiritual meanings or realities as part of B. K. S. Iyengar’s lessons.
“The dynamic meditation that Iyengar created from his asana practice is new, brash, relevant, coherent, wise, and exalted,” Goldberg writes. “Not that it can’t be placed within a powerful religious and philosophical current that originated in the West: New Age Spirituality.”
The Path of Modern Yoga is an in-depth treatment of yoga with focus on some of the key figures who have shaped it. It is an interesting and scholarly approach to a well-researched topic that many yogis might have wondered about. It shows how postural yoga has become part of health and wellness culture today.