Yoga writ large helps illuminate the nature and the limits of evolving countercultures. Yoga in the 1960s and 1970s United States operated as a crucial vehicle for expressing critiques of patriarchy and sexual repression. Expressive forms of sexuality became pervasive in yoga culture, symptoms of the increased discursive and physical openness of the sexual revolutions. The broad-ranging spirituality associated with yoga often challenged rigid religiosity, frequently by pitting Eastern against Western belief systems, often oversimplifying this duality. The American encounter with yoga has been a vehicle for the rise of a capacious spirituality, often defined as “New Age” and more recently subsumed within the “spiritual-but-not-religious” movement, which today over 30 percent of Americans reportedly embrace. Yoga has been a crucial vehicle for expressing how Americans see themselves as spiritual, sexual, and physical beings, and the 1960s and 1970s represent a period in which these identities were articulated, if not always enacted, as distinctly countercultural. At the same time, this famously experimental era paradoxically corresponded to the incorporation of yoga into a popular mainstream fitness culture. The mainstreaming of yoga at times sapped this spiritual practice of a significant measure of radicalism and at others merely expressed that radicalism differently.
Research Article| July 03 2020
“The Siren Song of Yoga”: Sex, Spirituality, and the Limits of American Countercultures
Pacific Historical Review (2020) 89 (3): 379–401.
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Natalia Mehlman Petrzela; “The Siren Song of Yoga”: Sex, Spirituality, and the Limits of American Countercultures. Pacific Historical Review 3 July 2020; 89 (3): 379–401. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/phr.2020.89.3.379
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