‘Modern’ Yoga and ‘Traditional’ Sādhus

From Tapas to Modern Yoga - Sādhus’ Understanding of Embodied Practices - Daniela Bevilacqua

Daniela Bevilacqua [+-]
SOAS, University of London
Daniela Bevilacqua (Rome 1983) received her PhD in 2015, in Civilizations of Africa and Asia from Sapienza University of Rome and in Anthropology from the University of Paris Nanterre. Her PhD research was published by Routledge (2018) under the title Modern Hindu Traditionalism in Contemporary India: The Śrī Maṭh and the Jagadguru Rāmānandācārya in the Evolution of the Rāmānandī Sampradāya. She is a Research Associate at SOAS, after working for the ERC-funded Hatha Yoga Project (2015-2020). Her research has aroused particular interest because of its methodology and results. Her article, “Let the Sādhus Talk. Ascetic understanding of Haṭha Yoga and yogāsanas”, published in Religions of South Asia, (Vol 11, n. 2, pp. 182-206) has been translated in German, French and Portuguese. She has been invited to give lectures in various universities (Cambridge, London, Haifa, Prague, Turin, Milan) as well as to present her research in various yoga teacher training courses and yoga studios. She has published several articles in peer review journals and book chapters for publishers like Routledge and Palgrave on Hindu asceticism, female asceticism, etc. She is currently editing two volumes, one forthcoming for Amsterdam University Press and another will be a special issue of the Journal of Yoga Studies (JoYS).


Chapter 7 deals with transnational, modern yoga and assesses how this yoga is influencing the practice of sādhus. Therefore, it deals with sādhus who learned about yoga in modern centers and also who hold degrees, including PhDs in Yoga, as well as sādhus who simply took “western yoga classes” in order to teach abroad, distinguishing, nevertheless between yog (i.e. the practice taught by their guru) and yoga (i.e. the modern practice). Likewise, it discusses the influence that some traditional orders (in particular the Nāth sampradāya) have on the international yoga community and how more and more foreigners seek “traditional” gurus for their practices. The role of social media and the Internet in influencing the practice and the way some sādhus talk about yoga will also be analyzed. Finally, the controversial figure of Bābā Rāmdev, the role of the International Day of Yoga and their reception by the ascetic community will be presented.

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Bevilacqua, Daniela. ‘Modern’ Yoga and ‘Traditional’ Sādhus. From Tapas to Modern Yoga - Sādhus’ Understanding of Embodied Practices. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. Mar 2024. ISBN 9781000000000. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=44384. Date accessed: 07 Dec 2022 doi: 10.1558/equinox.44384. Mar 2024

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