Recommended Reading: The Origins of Modern Posture Practice
Yoga Body is part of the author’s (Mark Singleton) PhD disseration at Cambridge University. While it can be a bit dry in some places, it provides a wonderful overview of current (academic) research into how modern Yoga Asanas evolved.
I recommend Yoga practitioners read the final Chapter first (“T. Krishnamacharya and the Mysore Asana Revival”), as many will recognize many of the key figures discussed. Krishnamacharya is best known for having taught some seminal Yoga teachers (B.K.S. Iyengar and Pattabhi Jois among others) who went on to popularize asana practice in the West. In the final chapter, Singleton provides convincing documentary evidence (and supporting interviews) that explains how Krishnamacharya (and his students) likely put together the sequences many have come to enjoy. Krishnamacharya was heavily influenced by the gymnastics, body-building, and physical education trends of the time. Suryamanaskar, which later became central to Krishnamacharya’s Mysore style, wasn’t part of yogasana when he first started teaching. Singleton argues that Suryamanaskar arose from a multitude of influences — and not the Vedas or some ‘lost texts’ as Pattahbi Jois claimed (see page 180).
Yoga Body is a must-read for Yoga practitioners curious about how some of the more popular asanas (and modern postural Yoga itself) came to be.
- Audio interview with author Mark Singleton.
- Mark Singleton responds to critical comments by Srivatsa Ramaswami.
- The Magazine of Yoga has a two-part conversation with Mark (part I and part II).