Is yoga religious? This question has not only been asked recently by the broader public but also posed in the courts. Many argue that...

Is yoga religious? This question has not only been asked recently by the broader public but also posed in the courts. Many argue that of course it is. The story of yoga in the popular imagination is often narrated as an ancient wisdom tradition that informs contemporary postural movements which are intricately connected and indivisible. Others contend that  contemporary yoga is simply a set of health practices that have nothing to do with religion. In Selling Yoga: From Counterculture to Pop Culture (Oxford University Press, 2014), Andrea Jain, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis, helps us navigate the recent history of yoga in the west and the debates surrounding its ‘religious’ nature. Overall, what we find is that while yoga has been mediate through an emerging global consumer market and branded for strategic purposes it can still be seen to serve the function of a body of religious practice for many practitioners. In our conversation we discussed Hindu, Buddhist, Jain variations of yogic practice, Ida Craddock’s Church of Yoga, legal definitions, Iyengar Yoga, Siddha Yoga, and Anusara Yoga, Theosophists and Transcendentalists, Swami Vivikenanda’s Vedanta Society, counterculture yogis, consumer culture and the mass market, Christian Yogaphobia, the Hindu American Foundation, and the politics of yoga.

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