When I was in college, I found myself with a copy of Richard Hittleman’s Introduction to Yoga, a little paperback that promised “peace and physical fulfillment.” I’d seen the loose-limbed author on our local PBS-TV station, and something about what he was teaching spoke to me on a deep level. I lay on the floor in my bedroom in “deep relaxation” pose, practicing abdominal breathing, hoping to feel the prana stream out from my torso to my fingertips. I tried and mastered a few of the beginning poses and kept at it for a while, but soon enough, yoga was just another one of many passing interests to a young man.
In the ensuing decades, I hit the yoga mat from time to time – at a retreat in the Catskill Mountains, at the Kripalu Center in Massachusetts, at health clubs – wondering how it came to pass that this foreign practice, with its Sanskrit terms, chanting, and incense, had become so American. I blithely presumed that the news of yoga had arrived in this country with the Beatles – attached to their fleeting affiliation with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi – after which it had been subsumed in the countercultural hunger for all things Eastern.
–by Robert Love