One link between yogic practice and museums may come from viewing yogis, yoga teachers, and yoga promoters as performing work comparable to museums in the nearly century and a half history of modern yoga’s global spread. As museums curate, exhibit, frame, spotlight, and annotate their works to an anticipated audience, yoga has similarly been consciously displayed and promoted. Modern yoga’s history can be emplotted through the way it has exhibited itself.
The most evocative question raised in the podcast’s conversation is whether yoga and art have something in common—a sort of contemplative aspect—that can help us understand something fundamental about the nature of the sacred. Sullivan is certainly correct in pointing out that art is not meant to be contemplated for its own sake in pre-modern India any more than in pre-modern Europe. Such an approach, if we are to call it spiritual, only makes sense from a modern metaphysical perspective—specifically one geared at the various modes of finding deeper meaning within the self.
Yoga, in its modern form, should be of great interest to scholars of religion. While it certainly has roots in Vedic culture, the vast majority of Western practitioners do not see it as “religious”, but rather to do with health or “well-being”. Yoga’s status as religious has been in court, but nevertheless it continues to be practised in business, schools and, as Bruce Sullivan tells us, museums.
The current proliferation of studies exploring the development of contemporary yoga can be seen as a direct challenge to popular perceptions of yoga as a timeless and unified practice which are reproduced (often as a marketing ploy) in non-academic contexts.
In its earliest uses, the word “yoga” meant “yoke,” primarily yoking a warhorse to a chariot. In the classical period, yoga took on a variety of other meanings, including yoking the mind-body complex through meditative practices, such as breath control and mantras, to achieve liberation. In this interview, we discuss the history and development of yoga in its South Asian contexts, and then examine its transformations across the globe into the contemporary era.
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In this interview with Chris, Altglas discusses the complex genealogy of ‘bricolage’, tracing a movement from forms of cultural warfare to ‘playful, postmodern bricoleurs’ – what many might be tempted to dub ‘pick and mix spirituality’. However, as Altglas goes on to demonstrate, with a particular empirical focus upon Hindu-based Yoga centres and the Kabbalah centre, far from a carefree process of shopping at the ‘spiritual supermarket’, ‘the original meanings and otherness of elements used in this religious bricolage matter, and in fact limits, the popularization of “exotic” religions’.