a journey through yoga in america with NPR

Lots of people in America do yoga! (image via onthepointradio.org)

The NPR radio show On Point featured a fascinating program about yoga in the West this morning. Author Stefanie Syman, whose book The Subtle Body: The Story of Yoga in America was just released today, shared her research on the history of the practice in North America. Boston-based yoga teacher Barbara Benagh was also a guest.

The conversation was a brief history of yoga in America and its mainstreaming in Western culture. I found it interesting how Stefanie noted that the media around yoga tends to be humorous and derivative, often trivializing it. She didn’t offer an explanation as to why that happens, but I know that it’s something that I’ve noticed in my obsessive media scrutiny.

When asked if there was a great thing about this moment in yoga, both guests had a positive response. Stefanie believes that there are more teachers than ever, meaning that there is lots of choice and availability. Barbara took note of the everyday effects of the practice, which impact our physical health and ultimately, lead to more social responsibility.

What I found especially fascinating about the broadcast, which also took live phone calls, was the response from listeners. Everyone who called in had some kind of insight to share, and the final caller – who encouraged people to just do it, just find the spirit in yoga for yourself – was especially inspiring and a natural conclusion to the show. The page for the show on the On Point website received over 50 comments, with the first one coming in hours before the show aired (and it was suitably crazy, which garnered a response from other commentors). It’s good to know that people outside of the yoga blogosphere bubble have things to say about yoga, too…

Check out the comments and listen to the show here!

  1. I’m going to have to check out that show! I feel so positive about the effects of yoga in my community. I teach in the studio and help the “yoga people” further their study. I also teach in the worksite around Vermont and give yoga to people who haven’t moved consciously in years.

    To see someone come up from a chair backbend (hands planted behind the hips, full lungs, chest lifted, head dropped back) with a huge smile on their faces is the greatest gift I can receive and give at the same time.

    It’s amazing. I am studying to become a yoga therapist as these worlds of health care and alternative medicine come together.

    • i hope you enjoy the show, anna! i’m glad to hear that you’ve seen the positive effects of yoga in your community. amazing! good luck with your yoga therapy study…

  2. those were some seriously loquacious callers.

    wish they had a bit more to say about “om” though. i think about it sometimes and would have liked a more solid opinion as opposed to an anecdote.

  3. Media around yoga definitely tends to be humorous and derivative, which I suspect is because yoga has a reputation for being humorless, or at least, overly sincere…something bloggers like myself–no need to thank me, it’s my pleasure–work tirelessly to change. I’d like to say more on the subject, but of course need to get back to burning the midnight oil coming up with sardonic witticisms for my next post…and what *isn’t* the media derivative about?

    I agree about “this moment in yoga”…for all I read about overcommercial, competitive, and even abusive yoga in the world at large, I never cease to be amazed by just how many incredibly capable, dedicated, serious-but-far-from-humorless yoga teachers there are closer to home (as well as in the blogosphere). Then, on the other hand, a number of teachers have suggested that I should do teacher training…