Transnational Yoga at Work: Spiritual Tourism and Its Blind Spots (Lexington Books, 2022) is an ethnography about local wageworkers in the Indian branches of a transnational yoga institution and about yoga practitioners and spiritual tourists who visualize peace through yoga. Practitioners' aspirations for peace situate them at the heart of an international movement that has captured the imagination of cosmopolitans the world over, with its purported benefits to mind, body, and spirit. Yoga is thought to offer health, vitality, and relief from depression through control of body and breath. Yet, the vision of peace in this institution is a partial vision that obscures the important but seemingly peripheral others of its self-conception.
Through in-depth ethnographic analysis, this book explores the processes through which global spiritual movements can have peace front and center in their vision and yet condone and perpetuate cycles of injustice and social inequality that form the critical and problematic foundations of our global economy. The book privileges the experiences and hardships faced by Indian wageworkers--most of them women --but it also offers a sympathetic portrayal of international yoga practitioners and of the complex patterns of work and worship central to a global mission.
Raj Balkaran is a scholar of Sanskrit narrative texts. He teaches at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies and at his own virtual School of Indian Wisdom. For information see rajbalkaran.com.