Counterpoint: No need to thank Vivekananda

Last weekend, we highlighted a piece in the New York Times that drew a hard and fast yoga line back to Vivekananda.

The crux was: Vivekananda’s appearance in 1893 at a religion conference in Chicago kicked off the yoga craze in America.

Not so fast.

In a counterpoint at Religion Dispatches, Andrea R. Jain says it isn’t so easy to trace Western yoga back to this one guy. “No, I Don’t Owe My Yoga Mat to Vivekananda” is the title. Quick highlights:

I wasn’t surprised, since Vivekananda is often valorized as the great deliverer of yoga to “the West” or the “Father of modern yoga” in the popular press. But frankly, I’m tired of hearing it. And it’s just not true.


Before Vivekananda came to the United States with his version of yoga and gave his famous speech to the World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893, which triggered the speaking tour that would take him all over the country, other Americans’ embrace of yoga was stirring plenty of conversation.

Jain goes on to discuss Pierre Bernard and Ida C. Craddock as to other early yogis and notes that Vivekananda was never “popular” in the way we think of that word. (He was no Bikram, in other words!) She also points out there was plenty of interplay between the “physical culture” of the West and Indian elites that created the asana practice we all know today.

She concludes: “So no, I will not thank Vivekananda for my mat. He wouldn’t approve of what I do on it anyway.”

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

2 thoughts on “Counterpoint: No need to thank Vivekananda”

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