In this episode, I spoke with Daniel Simpson about his wonderful new book, The Truth of Yoga: A Comprehensive Guide to Yoga’s History, Texts, Philosophy, and Practices, just published by North Point Press. It’s an easy read because Daniel is a professional writer having left a burgeoning career in journalism after he became disillusioned with mainstream media. Our conversation dives deep into the complex and patchy history of Yoga, swimming through early, classical and hatha yoga – along with some interesting observations on modern yoga, including whether Silent Disco Yoga is a thing! Kidding aside, this is a serious conversation – and I learned a great deal, especially just how fertile the soil was when the yogic traditions were taking hold – and the creative cross-fertilization between classical yoga traditions and the Buddhists at the time. This episode is a nice complement to our previous episode with Andrea Jain whose book was a scholarly critique of modern, global yoga.
A little more about Daniel….
Daniel Simpson teaches yoga philosophy at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, and at Triyoga in London. He earned his Master's degree from SOAS (University of London), and his thesis critiquing mindfulness in schools was published in the journal Contemporary Buddhism. He previously worked as a foreign correspondent – for Reuters, then the New York Times – after studying at Cambridge. His interest in yoga developed in parallel, including frequent trips to India since the 1990s.
I hope you buy his book, The Truth of Yoga – it’s well written and researched – but accessible and a quick read. Enjoy this episode!
In this episode I spoke with Andrea R. Jain, Associate professor of religious studies at Indiana University, Indianapolis about her new book Peace Love Yoga: The Politics of Global Spirituality, published by Oxford University Press. Our conversation explores how modern, commodified yoga serves a neoliberal agenda by containing social activism and political dissent, something she calls gestural subversion. As a religious studies scholar, Andrea takes modern yoga seriously – viewing its practitioners not as passive dupes but as people with agency – but whose identities have been shaped and formed to serve neoliberal ends. We touch on a range of topics and issues – from the “feel good” neoliberal discourse of yogaware – such as Spirtual Gangster clothing products, cultural appropriation and contested claims of spiritual “authenticity,” the global spread of capitalism where even in India neoliberal forces have led to coopting yoga for extremist and exclusionary nationalist agenda, as well as QAnon’s followers attraction to yoga.
Andrea is also author of a previous book - Selling Yoga: From Counterculture to Pop Culture and is currently the editor of the Journal of the American Academy of Religion. Her areas of research include religion and capitalism; global spirituality and modern yoga; the intersections of gender, sexuality, and religion; and theories of religion.