The New Yoga

“Honest, insightful and revealing. Essential reading for yoga students and teachers alike.”


The New Yoga: From Cult and Dogma to Science and Sanity.

Where did most of your yoga moves come from? A guru from the annals of Indian folklore? Or were those “thousand-year-old poses” really a twentieth-century invention hidden behind a veil of tall stories? Were they based on movement science–or cooked-up creations with a big pinch of folklore? The New Yoga takes a brutally hard look at these critical questions. It proposes six radical steps to strip away the nonsense and provide common-sense yoga for the future, based on movement science:

  • Flexibility is not the primary goal. Really? Yes—more importantly are ten other benefits including proprioception and interoception, our two new buzzwords.
  • Mobility tops flexibility. Focus on better control over a safe range of movement.
  • “Practice and all is coming.” Not so! Despite the famous guru’s oft-quoted words, we may never achieve certain poses. And trying will lead to injury.
  • Avoid repetitive stress and encourage brain health with frequent and varying moves on and off the mat.
  • ‘Pretzel yogis’ pushing extreme flexibility leads to injury and misplaced envy. Hyper-mobility is not something to covet; it’s sad.
  • Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Maintain what works but question everything for good evidence.

Rob Walker quotes a wide range of experts and speaks from his own twenty-year yoga teacher-training experience. He dumps accepted dogma behind much current teaching and brings a fresh sparkle of evidence and science to twenty-first-century yoga.

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“Any assertion that transnational postural yoga is of a piece with . . . Indian yogic tradition is . . . highly questionable.”

-Mark Singleton (2010, 27)

Many yoga teachers have started to question what is taught in yoga, what is of value, what is questionable and what is frankly, dangerous, or at best ill-informed. Perhaps for the first time The New Yoga takes a hard look at those concerns, recounts current yoga’s strange and unlikely origins and then suggests how asana (poses) can become safer, more inclusive and evidence-based.

Many have been led to believe the poses that dominate the physical practice of today came from the misty origins of yoga over several millennia. The New Yoga points instead to an American physical culturist and a Danish gymnast (among others) as more influential to today’s yoga, than cavedwelling Tibetan mystics and Hindu seers of old.

But reluctant to throw out the baby with the bathwater, The New Yoga, seeks to maintain the amazing gifts and insights that come from Mysore, Pune and other Indian centres of yoga inspiration, albeit mostly created in the early 20th century.

Drawing on the wisdom of modern yoga historians, functional scientists, biomechanists, yogi anatomists and the author’s own experience, The New Yoga plays down the obsession with flexibility. Instead of the Cirque du Soleil image of yoga portrayed on Instagram, The New Yoga emphasizes strength, endurance, mindfulness, breath, posture and other gifts that yoga offers but are rarely the focus of current teaching.

The New Yoga recounts the myths and tales frequently fabricated to give authority to the guru’s own words. It shows the yoga we practice today was a transnational blend of gymnastics, body culture and performance with a tiny dash of ancient yogic spice.

It is a mixed blessing that there is no regulating authority governing the diverse world of yoga, as with massage and physical therapy. Yoga has always been free from the shackles of spiritual or secular authorities. But without official oversight, superficially trained teachers often teach the yoga of today in neighborhood studios. Some unquestioningly repeat the words handed down from generation to generation of well-meaning but sometimes poorly informed predecessors.

This book is not one of primary scholarship, but a serious attempt to bring an overview to the history of modern yoga and point us towards a more effective and safer future. Hopefully, this book will inspire yoga teachers to continually learn, question and grow; and for the discriminating students, they will choose yoga studios and teachers more wisely.

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