Bending India’s yoga traditions

Yoga is now a part of mainstream Western culture. But SHAMEEM BLACK, GradCertHE '12 explains this presents a few challenges for its originating country, India.

Modern yoga - once considered the esoteric pursuit of Indian ascetics - has fans all over the world.

The global yoga industry is valued at US$5.7 billion.

Its origins of health and spirituality have been well monitised.

But yoga isn't just important because it helps practitioners - known as 'yogis' - find health or wellness. Increasingly, yoga also allows people to tell new stories about themselves and how they fit into a globalised society.

In recent decades, a 'yoga fiction' genre has begun to crop up in English-language bookstores. 

As yoga memoirs, yoga chick lit, yoga comedies and yoga murder mysteries flood the literary marketplace in the West, they are changing the way we think about one of India's most popular cultural exports.

These yoga fictions paradoxically make India both more and less visible.

Hollywood has done its bit too, turning the likes of Eat, Pray, Love, the best-selling yoga memoir of Elizabeth Gilbert, into a feature film.

Stories about yoga and yogis have a long tradition in Indian narrative, folklore and oral culture. 

These fictional yogis didn't spend too much of their time in complicated physical postures or in deep meditative breathing.