A Brief History of Yoga in the United States


Yoga Was First Introduced to America in the 1800s

Many people might get surprised upon learning that yoga has an extensive tradition in the United States. For majority of Americans, their facts of yoga may only point back to the 1960s, at the time the ideas of meditation and spiritualism were adopted by the counterculture of the country. But it might amaze you more to know that yoga practice has a far longer past record in the U.S. during the late 1800s.

In 1883, a certain salutation made my Swami Vivekananda marked the introduction of meditative ideas to the Americans. This Hindu man made a presentation in Chicago particularly at the World Parliament of Religions and greeted his American folks with a greeting that gained a round of applause from the huge audience attending the conference. His speech about the concept of body, spirit and mind made a remark to all religious leaders who were present on that event.

Yoga Was Seen From a Scientific Point Of View in 1919

Shortly following the entrance of Swami Vivekananda to the U.S., another man set up a branch in New York in 1919 to promote the principles of yoga. He is Yogendra Mastamani, a Hindu who created the Kaivalyadhama, a group which came from India and the frontline of yoga exploration from scientific point of view. This time, Mastamani pioneered Hath Yoga to the American land.

Starting in the 1930s, another person marked an achievement in bringing yoga to a new level of popularity. Jiddu Krishnamurti conducted eloquent seminars on the yoga of discernment or jnana-yoga, which was gladly received by the people including a number of celebrities such as Greta Garbo, Charlie Chaplin and some writers namely George Bernard Shaw and Aldous Huxley.

In 1924, the United States constitution enforced a restriction law on the number of Indians who entered the US territory so those students who want to explore the teachings of yoga had to cross the seas in order to reach the yogis of India. Theos Bernard was one of those students who traveled India and when he came back in 1957, he wrote a book entitled “Hatha Yoga: The Report of a Personal Experience” which became influential since then up to now. In the same year also, a Russian yogi named Indra Devi launched of the one pioneering Hatha Yoga Studios in Hollywood/LA area and was recognized as the “First Lady of Yoga”.

Richard Hittleman Brought Yoga to Mainstream America

But there is one notable person who deserves the credits of bringing yoga to mainstream America. He is Richard Hittleman, an American who studied yoga in India for several years and when he arrived home, he influenced the American society with his non-spiritual version of yoga. This became the catalyst of the widespread practice of yoga in the Western cultures and has become a mainstay in American lifestyle. Today, with the integration of digital technologies, yoga becomes more and more practical for those people who want to experience the benefits of this
meditative exercise.

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