Sinister Yogis

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The question of whether many practitioners, whose involvement with yoga is primarily influenced by experiencing physical or emotional benefits, will be aware of this challenge, or indeed care, is to be seen. Although he notes points of similarity between contemporary yoga and older forms, his focus is firmly on the points of difference.

By taking this as his focus, he strengthens the ongoing drive to unpack the historical developments of yoga, and helps to complicate an otherwise simplistic, linear narrative. Unlike other studies of the history of yoga, White looks much further back in time. Yogi practice, for White, includes practices aiming toward the attainment of supernatural powers — which primarily entails gaining control over the bodies of others by manipulating methods of perception.

Sinister Yogis

In his construction of a two-sided picture of yoga yoga practice vs. As such a popular global practice, representations of yoga take on a political dimension, and various parties have a vested interested in how yoga and its history are presented. However, it is equally important that such research does not pass judgement on contemporary forms of yoga. It seems that some historians of South Asian traditions and particularly those traditions undergoing a renewed explosion of popularity such as yoga and tantra convey a preference for historical, textual presentations of yoga — before discourses of orientalism and forces of capitalism left their imprint.

Thankfully, White largely avoids passing judgement and allows the listener to make their own comparisons between contemporary yoga and the variety of historical forms that he presents. Alter, J. Princeton: Princeton University Press. De Michelis, E.

Sinister yogis (Book, ) []

London, New York: Continuum. Singleton, M. In: Singleton, M. Yoga in the Modern World: Contemporary Perspectives. To uncover this histor Since the s, yoga has become a billion-dollar industry in the West, attracting housewives and hipsters, New Agers and the old-aged. Get A Copy. Hardcover , 1st edition , pages. More Details Original Title.

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Aug 29, Cain S. White's book is textually rich, and manages to convey the essence of the diverse varieties of historical yogic doctrines and praxis. His central thesis is that today's multimillion dollar industry of eclectic yoga has little to do the "historical", "doctrinal", and "soteriological" yoga of ancient India, and in fact it is a product of Swami Vivekananda's poor understanding and unbounded enthusiasm about yoga philosophies.

Essentially, yoga had nothing to do with enhancing one's health, or losing White's book is textually rich, and manages to convey the essence of the diverse varieties of historical yogic doctrines and praxis. Essentially, yoga had nothing to do with enhancing one's health, or losing weight right until the 's when there appeared a string of ill informed proponents, from Swami Vivekananda to Madam Helena Blavatsky, who collectively created an atmosphere where idiosyncratic "yoga" systems with their emphasis on postures, breathing, and meditation became the norm.

Paramhansa Yogananda's mission of unifying yoga with Western theological traditions, in his own syncretic and unified view, also went a long way in encouraging developments like California yoga, designer yoga etc. The practice of yoga historically was about the ability to possess others' bodies at will, read others' minds, possess and enliven corpses for personal gain, and ascend to the sun in ritual apotheosis as a warrior ascetic.

During yoga's formative development, as a local response to Brahmanism, yogis were looked upon with general unease: they were infamous for their sexual exploits, one reportedly sinister sage would multiply himself into six identical bodies, and copulate with six women simultaneously because of his yogic powers as a "mahayogi". A particularly brilliant incident detailed in the book pertains to Emperor Akbar, who during his long phase of religious experimentations became enamoured by magician yogis.

According to one report, which White documents, once a famous "jougee" came to visit the emperor as he had learned of his interest in the discipline.

Akbar asked him for a demonstration, to put his soul into a fawn which was in the palace, the yogi did this and then put the emperor's soul back in his own body. Then, his interest awakened, Akbar asked the jougee to put his soul into his body, and asked that the jougee's soul to be allowed to enter his own. This too the jougee performed, and then put the emperor's soul back in his own body.

Now the emperor was convinced of this man's supernatural power, and he promised him his patronage. But, secretly he was afraid of this man's insane abilities and he ordered his soldiers to decapitate him as he prepared to leave. This the soldiers did. But, the ministers, and courtiers then noticed that Emperor Akbar was a totally changed man.

He did not have any memories of his own life, and took to his harem with renewed and unseemly voluptuousness, and his manners had changed noticeably. The writer, a traveler, gives an account of the local opinion of Akbar's courtiers and ministers: they were convinced that the jougee had divined Akbar's plan to assassinate him and had switched souls with the emperor before he was decapitated. Jun 16, Aparna rated it it was amazing. Excellent, objective work on the yogic tradition, surfing easily over it's new age and neo-saffron reclamation.


This is how this book is useful to those who practice and love yoga: to understand the troubled history of this practice to foreground it's super capitalistic at present. One can choose to retain what is good for personal practice. Mar 16, Phil rated it it was amazing Shelves: tantra , india. Of the three, I would say that Sinister Yogis is the most accessible, although like the other two, it is not exactly a page-turner either. White asserts that, in contradiction to the majoritarian view of Yoga practice, the yogis in these narratives are not introspective or inward-turning.

In addition, Sinister Yogis examines portrayals of yogis as power-brokers, ascetic warrior-mercenaries and traders; and the British criminalisation of yogis in the nineteenth century. Sinister Yogis is without doubt a ground-breaking approach to the historical representation and understanding of yoga traditions and aims. It overturns much of what is considered canonical in terms of how we think about yoga and yogis. Apr 14, Rj rated it did not like it.

Not at all what one expected. Far too much esoteric information about yoga and yogis.

Oct 21, David rated it liked it Shelves: gnostic-dementia , india , religion , cultural-anthropology , mysticism , academic , eurasia , religious-studies , 21st-century , cultural-history. White's yogis were, for the most part, not all that villainous nor was the book all that engaging. In fact, Sinister Yogis is marketed, somewhat incorrectly, as a rollicking and sophisticated narrative but it is actually a very academic and contemplative work geared in language and style for other academics. In the end, the book was informative, as are most University of Chicago books, but not engaging or particularly enlightening about the history of the yogi in Asia.

One of the most disappoint White's yogis were, for the most part, not all that villainous nor was the book all that engaging. One of the most disappointing aspects of the book was the Kindle formatting. Readers cannot change the font and font sizes jump from the slightly too small to be comfortable to the legally blind with a single tap. It appears the Amazon file format overlays an old htmlz format that is a very poor choice for ebooks today.

Be aware of this criticism if you are intending to buy the Amazon Kindle book. Rating: 3 out of 5 stars. Apr 06, Kristian Petersen rated it it was amazing Shelves: new-books-in-religion.

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Rowny Professor of Comparative Religion at the University of California, Santa Barbara, to pursue an investigation into the development of yogic practices.