Book Club: The Subtle Body - The Story of Yoga in America

2 hours
Event Type
Yoga Book Club
Title page from The Subtle Body with someone doing wheel pose

We will gather, dine (vegetarian, GF, and DF options available) and discuss this month's book, "The Suble Body - The Story of Yoga in America". If you are new to joining our book club, we are so excited to have you! Please come with no pressure or hesitation if you read the book, are thinking about reading the book, or you tabbed out half your book and have additional notes. We can't wait to meet you!

Being part of a book club offers the opportunity to expand your knowledge, explore new genres, and connect with like-minded individuals who share a love for literature. It pushes you out of your comfort zone, encourages thought-provoking discussions, and broadens your perspective through diverse perspectives and interpretations. In short, it's a fulfilling experience that enriches both your reading life and social life, so we hope you'll join us!

In The Subtle Body, Stefanie Syman tells the surprising story of yoga's transformation from a centuries-old spiritual discipline to a multibillion-dollar American industry.

Yoga's history in America is longer and richer than even its most devoted practitioners realize. It was present in Emerson's New England, and by the turn of the twentieth century it was fashionable among the leisure class. And yet when Americans first learned about yoga, what they learned was that it was a dangerous, alien practice that would corrupt body and soul.

A century later, you can find yoga in gyms, malls, and even hospitals, and the arrival of a yoga studio in a neighborhood is a signal of cosmopolitanism. How did it happen? It did so, Stefanie Syman explains, through a succession of charismatic yoga teachers, who risked charges of charlatanism as they promoted yoga in America, and through generations of yoga students, who were deemed unbalanced or even insane for their efforts. The Subtle Body tells the stories of these people, including Henry David Thoreau, Pierre A. Bernard, Margaret Woodrow Wilson, Christopher Isherwood, Sally Kempton, and Indra Devi.

From New England, the book moves to New York City and its new suburbs between the wars, to colonial India, to postwar Los Angeles, to Haight-Ashbury in its heyday, and back to New York City post-9/11. In vivid chapters, it takes in celebrities from Gloria Swanson and George Harrison to Christy Turlington and Madonna. And it offers a fresh view of American society, showing how a seemingly arcane and foreign practice is as deeply rooted here as baseball or ballet.

If you purchase your copy of the book at Excelsior Bay Books and mention the book club you can receive 10% off. Please call ahead to confirm availability.