Yoga By Thomas, Priya A.
The term ‘yoga’ refers to a heterogeneous matrix of philosophies and practices that originated in India and developed into a school of thought sometime between 150 and 500 C. E. Reinterpreted and redacted in multiple religious traditions over the course of its two-thousand-year history, yoga’s dynamic and discontinuous textual and performance traditions are far from monolithic. Modern yoga – a predominantly corporeal practice of postures and breathing techniques – developed in India in the 1920s and is not considered to be a direct successor of yoga’s classical or medieval traditions. Rather, modern yoga’s physical reinventions are emblematic of the accretions and innovations that attended India’s colonial and postcolonial relationship to transnational modernities. A reconfiguration of existing indigenous traditions vis-à-vis transnational influences, modern yoga is the embodiment of hybrid discourses including, but not limited to, the international physical culture movement; the growth of scientific and medicalized discourses of the body; Secularism; the doctrine of progress; Esotericism both in the East and the West; and transnational mobility and migrations of diaspora. In this way, modern yoga’s encounter with multiple modernities reshaped its theoretical and corporeal dispositions, forging a performance practice based on the individual accumulation of physical techniques for psychosomatic health, fitness, and personal development.