Technology Isn’t Actually New to Yoga: A History of Multimedia & the Practice in America

In the age of Instagram, yoga historian Philip Deslippe takes a look at how yoga has in fact embraced new forms of media and technology since its debut in the West. The question now: What will be next?
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In the age of Instagram, yoga historian Philip Deslippe takes a look at how yoga has in fact embraced new forms of media and technology since its debut in the West. The question now: What will be next?
Outdoors meditation with smartphone app

In the introduction to the 2014 book Gurus of Modern Yoga, editors Mark Singleton and Ellen Goldberg tell readers that throughout the history of yoga “teachings, and gurus, have always adapted to the times and circumstances in which they find themselves.” The use of new forms of media and technology are one of the most significant ways that yoga has adapted over the last 125 years in America. The current popularity of yoga is due as much to its charismatic and influential teachers as it is to the printed page, the television camera, and the DVD. It may seem strange to place PBS stations on par with B.K.S. Iyengar, but it is doubtful that yoga in America would be as popular and prominent as it is today without both.

For many who see direct, in-person instruction as the touchstone for valid yogic practice, teaching through various forms of media can seem inferior, or even invalid, but they have also been incredibly democratic and given millions of people access to yoga despite being separated from direct contact with a teacher because of geographical distance, circumstance, or cost. A close look at many of the teachers who have used the printed page or screen finds them to be both aware of the limitations of their mediums and actively trying to expand beyond those limits. What follows are a few of the forms of media that have helped to shape the practice of yoga in America over the course of its history.

See also 7 Forgotten Early Yoga Teachers in America with Stories You’ll Want to Hear

About Our Expert
Philip Deslippe is a doctoral student in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of California Santa Barbara. More at philipdeslippe.com