Compiled by Dr. Lacretia T. Dye (Counseling and Student Affairs, College of Education and Behavioral Sciences, Western Kentucky University)
and Ms. Roxanne Myers Spencer (Educational Resources Center, Western Kentucky University Libraries)
Column Editor: Jack G. Montgomery (Professor, Coordinator, Collection Services, Western Kentucky University Libraries)
Yoga has become a program offering at many libraries: Public libraries often program free or low-cost yoga classes for their communities; academic libraries may offer yoga sessions to help ease stress during final exams. Some yoga practices are tailored to mothers and young children who enjoy learning poses called “Downward-Facing Dog,” “Eagle,” and “Frog.”
Yoga is an ancient spiritual discipline intended to bring harmony between mind and body. Modern yoga practice is rooted in ancient Indian practice (http://www.mea.gov.in/in-focus-article.htm?25096/Yoga+Its+Origin+History+and+Development), but recently, other sources have proposed its origins and history to be rooted in Africa (https://www.yogaskills.com/about-yirser-ra-hotep/), according to Yirser Ra Hotep (https://www.yogaskills.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/KemeticYogaArticle.pdf), founder of Kemetic Yoga (http://www.kemeticyoga.com/).
The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit root word “yuj,” meaning to join, to yoke, to unite. The “aim of Yoga is Self-realization, to overcome all kinds of sufferings leading to ‘the state of liberation’ (Moksha) or ‘freedom’ (Kaivalya). Living with freedom in all walks of life, health and harmony shall be the main objectives of Yoga practice” (Basavaraddi, 2012).
In American culture, the explosion of yoga studios and practices attests to its widespread acceptance in the West. As a series of poses that provides stretching and flexibility to those who practice it for its strengthening and relaxing effects, yoga is a tremendous boon to a healthy lifestyle. It is accessible to many with disabilities, via modified poses and props.
Recent medical reports have shown that gentle yoga practice may be as effective as physical therapy for low back pain, according to a report on NPR (http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/06/20/533505211/study-finds-yoga-can-help-back-pain-but-keep-it-gentle-with-these-poses) of a study done at Boston Medical Center, and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2017.
In an opinion piece by Arundhati Baitmangalkar, posted on the Seattle News website (http://seattleyoganews.com/yoga-in-india-yoga-in-america/), yoga is more accessible and commercial in America than in India. Teaching styles and the relationships between students and teachers differ from yoga practices in India, where a reverence for the teacher or “the ancient concept of Guru-shishya parampara (teacher-disciple traditions) is a strong part of the culture, both in and outside of yoga” (Baitmangalkar, 2014). In America, students may have their favorite teacher in a yoga studio, but the relationship is usually less formalized.
In the West, yoga has also become a billion-dollar industry (See the HuffPost blog article, “Yoga in America: Where Bowing to God is Not a Religion”: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jill-lawson/yoga-and-religion_b_4230240.html). It is practiced as an elite exercise program in high-end health clubs, complete with hundred-dollar-plus Lycra yoga outfits and designer yoga mats. Completely Westernized yoga practice is a far cry from the spiritual meditation and healthful practice developed thousands of years ago in India.
Librarians need to be aware that some of their religious patrons may have questions about practicing yoga. There are some concerns among more conservative religious traditions that practicing yoga may go against more orthodox Christian, Jewish, or Muslim beliefs (http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-25006926; http://www.christianspracticingyoga.com/is-yoga-a-religion/). Yoga has also become politicized: There is strong sentiment between extreme Left and Right positions that yoga in the West is unacceptable cultural appropriation (http://everydayfeminism.com/2016/05/yoga-cultural-appropriation/). In The Atlantic article “Who Owns Yoga,” (https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/01/who-owns-yoga/384350/) questions arise about yoga’s status. Is it a form of Eastern exercise, cultural appropriation, or another spiritual practice that has spread worldwide? The Atlantic piece explores the controversy over who yoga “belongs to.” India appointed a Minister for Yoga as part of a larger “Make in India” campaign; yoga and its associated products are a multibillion dollar industry in the United States.
Despite the controversies surrounding the evolution and practice of yoga, it remains a healthy practice promoting deeper breathing, increased strength and flexibility, and relaxation. Yoga is here to stay, and libraries are definitely on the bandwagon — or should we say “on the mat” with the practice! Below are some resources for more information about the known history and beneficial practices of yoga, as it evolves in our ever-more-commercialized culture.
Selected Yoga Informational Websites
Black Yoga Superstars — http://blackyogasuperstars.com/ — A site created to increase awareness in the Black community of the benefits of beginning a yoga practice. Included are a podcast, short excerpts explaining the benefits of yoga and the very first map of Black Yoga Teachers worldwide. Lastly the site offers affordable web design services for those black owned businesses.
Black Zen — http://www.blackzen.co/ — Black Zen describes itself as a social enterprise dedicated to improving the health and well-being of black and brown people through meditation. Free meditation with ‘soul’ focused on helping listeners with real issues can be downloaded for free. Another feature of this site includes the 90/10 blog, — Black Zen founders describe life as 10% of what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.
Book Retreats — https://bookretreats.com/s/yoga-retreats — This retreat-booking site offers a chance to book yoga retreats from selection of more than 600 groups and locations. Locations as varied as Bali, Thailand, South Africa, Nepal, and Pennsylvania are listed. Prices for retreats vary greatly as well, with some retreats only advertised for less than $100 and others going for more than $3000. Think of this site as the Airbnb of yoga retreats.
Do Yoga with Me — https://www.doyogawithme.com/ — For those ready to begin yoga practice, this site provides online access to many types of yoga videos: beginner, intermediate, advanced; yoga challenges. Includes a blog, and most of the site’s content is free, with a small subscription cost for other videos.
Exhale to Inhale — http://exhaletoinhale.org/ — This site was created to use yoga to support women who have experienced intimate partner violence and sexual assault. Although the resources are currently only available throughout New York City, the Hudson Valley, Connecticut, and Los Angeles; the founders hope to expand to other locations.
Kathmandu Yogi — https://kathmanduyogi.com/ — is more than a yoga site. This social enterprise produces limited edition yoga and meditation accessories ethically made by artisans living in Nepal. Through this site viewers can participate in free yoga challenges as well as purchase accessories to support. Additionally, the yogis at Kathmandu provide blogs and inspiration to support your yoga practice. One example of these blogs is a top 15 yoga website blog created to offer readers quality yoga sites.
Mind Body Solutions — http://www.mindbodysolutions.org/ — is a nonprofit organization founded by Matthew Sanford (http://www.matthewsanford.com/). Sanford was paralyzed from the chest down, yet continues to teach yoga and other healing techniques to those who have suffered trauma or disability. Mind Body Solutions is devoted to promoting healing for those who have experienced trauma, loss, or disability. Based in the Twin Cities area, Mind Body Solutions also provides yoga teacher training throughout the country.
Urban Family — http://www.urbanfamily.org/ — search this foundations site to learn and support initiatives, Heart of Yoga, and partnerships, such as Black Yoga Teachers Alliance, that use yoga to enhance the lives of families and communities. Initiatives include online sanghas (community meetings), partnerships with yoga teacher trainings and teacher trainings. A recent initiative creation was the Fiji Spirit Gathering, held in July 2017, an interactive learning celebration that included local tribal leaders and internationally renowned yoga teachers.
Yoga.com — http://www.yoga.com — and on Facebook (www.facebook.com/yoga), with more than 680,000 followers. Membership-based site with articles, apps, details on yoga poses (asanas) and a large social media community.
Yoga Alliance — https://www.yogaalliance.org/ — Yoga Alliance is internationally recognized for its credentialing of yoga instruction. There are three designations from Yoga Alliance: Registered Yoga Teachers, Registered Yoga Schools, and Yoga Alliance Continuing Education Providers. The initial yoga teacher certification is 200 hours of training and teaching experience that meet Yoga Alliance Registry Standards at a Yoga Alliance-registered yoga school. Yoga teachers promote their accredited standing as 200 RYT (registered yoga teacher) or for more advanced yoga teachers, 500 RYT, indicating training and teaching at the 500-hour level.
Yoga Calm — http://www.yogacalm.org/ — is yoga for kids and teens that goes beyond the usual yoga site. This site includes trainings, classes, workshops and blogs for adults who love/work with children and teens. Tips and techniques shared through the blog range from body based therapies for stress and trauma to how political rhetoric affects our kids. The site also includes course and certification options as well as international retreats. Members have access to an online yoga calm lesson plan library with over 800 lesson plans and a video library with over 70 training videos.
Yoga for Everyone — https://www.nytimes.com/guides/well/beginner-yoga — the New York Times has created a website to encourage those unfamiliar with, or perhaps intimidated by recent media yoga hype, to learn more about yoga, its history and varied practices. This site is an excellent introduction and jumping-off point for those who are curious about exploring a personal yoga practice.
Yoga Journal — http://www.yogajournal.com — the premier Western magazine of yoga practice is available as a print subscription, but the website contains a wealth of free resources, including Yoga 101 (http://www.yogajournal.com/yoga-101), a history of yoga (See “A Beginner’s Guide to the History of Yoga”: http://www.yogajournal.com/yoga-101/the-roots-of-yoga) and interviews with luminaries such as Baron Baptiste, Deepak Chopra and Cyndi Lee (see “Is Yoga a Religion?”: http://www.yogajournal.com/yoga-101/yoga-religion).
Yoga U Online — https://www.yogauonline.com/ — is a resource and subscription-based site that offers articles and practice videos based on their passionate belief about “making the healing benefits of yoga more widely known.” The site includes a Wellness Blog, Practice Channel, and Online courses.
YogaFit — https://www.yogafit.com/ — is a yoga fitness teacher training company that prepares health club and fitness facility instructors to teach yoga as exercise at the 200, 500, and 1,000 hour accredited Registered Yoga Teaching (RYT) levels. The training eliminates the traditional Sanskrit terms and incorporates other fitness moves in their training. YogaFit offers short workshops in various cities; some public libraries send their staff for training, then include yoga fitness in their programming.
Yogasteya — https://yogasteya.com — is not only the ideal site for the new yogi or yogini but it is very welcoming for all shapes, sizes and abilities. Viewers can watch varied level tutorials (gentle, energizing, powerful). Yoga-related blogs are provided along with a list of common yoga series.
Selected Resources List
Baptiste, B. (2016). Perfectly imperfect: The art and soul of yoga practice. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House. Baptiste’s extensive study, from his early years to renowned yoga masters, led to the development of Baptiste Yoga, a yoga methodology for practice and teacher training, which has been presented all over the world.
David, E., and Hopper, E. (2011). Overcoming trauma through yoga: Reclaiming your body. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books. Those who have suffered trauma or abuse lose confidence in their bodies and minds to protect them from further harm. This book offers the healing power of connection — mind, body, and spirit — through selective yoga practice.
Desikachar, T. K. V. (1999). The heart of yoga: Developing a personal practice (rev. ed.). Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions. Readers will get a deeper look at the meanings and practices of yoga. Those who are intrigued but perhaps confused by the different schools of yoga will get a clearer picture of the varied ancient and modern practices.
Gates, R. (2002). Meditations from the mat: Daily reflections on the path of yoga. New York, NY: Anchor Books. In easily read sections for daily practice and understanding, Gates offers wisdom, coaching, and guidance on the deep transformations possible from practicing yoga mindfully.
Saidman Yee, C. (2015). Yoga for life: A journey to inner peace and freedom. New York, NY: Atria Books. Saidman Yee has turned an adventurous and dangerous life around with the help of practicing yoga. From her first yoga class, she felt a change within, which led her to bring yoga to the center of her life practices.
Satchidananda, Sri Swami. (2012). The yoga sutras of Patanjali. Buckingham, VA: Integral Yoga Publications. Patanjali is credited with developing the classic Sutras (thought-threads), which are at least 4,000 years old. This title is a classic introduction, covering the yogic teachings on ethics, meditation, and physical postures, as well as guidance for dealing with situations in everyday life.
Selected Yoga DVDs
Easy yoga: The secret to strength and balance with Peggy Cappy. (2014). PBS. Renowned yoga teacher Peggy Cappy has taught yoga to those with a variety of physical limitations and has brought about a quiet revolution by reaching those who never thought they could practice yoga.
Rodney Yee’s complete yoga for beginners. (2014). Gaiam. Presented in sections including basics, flexibility, energy, relaxation, with a bonus download for those with limited time to practice.
Yoga for families: Connect with your kids. (2009). Bayview Entertainment/Widowmaker. The combination of playful, careful instruction, energetic movement, and time for relaxation make this an ideal family workout.