Yoga is commonly thought to be a pure, ancient Indian spiritual discipline that transcends cultural, temporal and spatial boundaries or a spiritual discipline corrupted by Indians (for export) and Westerners (for import) to accommodate Westerners
Calling these beliefs into question, Max Popov''s Radiant Bodies: The Path of Modern Yoga shows how yoga was transformed from a sacred practice into a health and fitness regime for middle-class Indians in India in the early and mid-twentieth century. Through a series of biographical narratives placed in a rich cultural context, Popov not only brings to life the formation of modern yoga as an exercise system in the early twentieth century but also its transformation over the course of the twentieth century into an embodied spiritual practice. Popov tells the story of this transformation through the lives and accomplishments of eleven key figures: six Indian yogis (Shri Yogendra, Swami Kuvalayananda, S. Sundaram, T. Krishnamacharya, Swami Sivananda and B. K. S. Iyengar), an Indian bodybuilder (K. V. Iyer), a rajah (Bhavanarao Shrinivasrao), an Indian diplomat (Apa Pant), an American-born English journalist (Louise Morgan), and a Russian-born yogi trained in India (Indra Devi). Their accomplishments are placed within the context of such Western trends as the physical culture movement, the commodification of exercise, the mystique of science, jazz age popular entertainment, militant nationalism, the age of anxiety and the quest for youth and beauty. Popov draws on extensive research from rare primary sources to present a cutting edge interpretation of the history of modern yoga. Radiant Bodies is a thoughtful book for the educated general reader that would also be of special interest for religion scholars and yoga professionals and practitioners.