Suzanne Newcombe [+]
Open University and Inform, King's College London
YOGA IN BRITAIN reveals how yoga came to be an accepted, mainstream activity in the twentieth century. During this period, yoga transformed from an esoteric concept into a something that would be taught to thousands of middle-class women in adult education classes. For the post-war welfare state, yoga was understood as having potential public benefit in promoting physical health and wellbeing. The structure of yoga classes which developed in this context established certification structures and secular, replicable class forms. This setting is crucial for understanding the methods and expectations found in globally popular forms of yoga. Moreover, yoga has not developed in a linear manner. Old and new forms co-exist, adapting to suit the specific needs of particular populations. In twentieth-first century Britain, yoga cannot be collapsed into a form of neoliberal commercialism or cultural appropriation, although these influences on yoga in Britain are also evident. Using extensive archival evidence and oral history interviews, the book reveals the diversity of individuals involved with the popularisation of yoga. In Britain, as throughout the globe, yoga continues to be understood and practiced in very distinctive ways by different people.