Spiritual Authenticity in a Secular Context: How Modern Postural Yoga is Searching for Legitimacy in All the Wrong Places
This paper examines the historical origins and spiritual context of contemporary yoga practice in the West. In an attempt to assess the spiritual significance of this somatic practice, this essay explores the way in which both critics and promoters of postural yoga frame their arguments for the value of contemporary yoga practice by showing either its disconnect from, or homogeneity with ancient Hindu traditions. By tracing the evolution of yogic practice from its scriptural origins to its contemporary manifestations, this paper argues that yoga has never been a static or perfectly defined entity. Rather, yogic practice has a long history of being re-interpreted to meet the specific spiritual needs of practitioners. Modern Postural Yoga (MPY) represents a continuation of this tradition of adaptation. Rather than being an inadequate replication of an ancient tradition, I argue that MPY is a distinctly modern practice that has been transformed to fit the contemporary spiritual needs of a secularizing and body-conscious Western society.
yoga; Modern Postural Yoga; New Age spirituality; physical culture; ancient Hinduism; spiritual legitimacy; cultural appropriation
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University of Victoria