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Inhaling SpiritHarmonialism, Orientalism, and the Western Roots of Modern Yoga$
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Anya P. Foxen

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780190082734

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190082734.001.0001

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Breathing for Nerve Force, Posing for Poise

Breathing for Nerve Force, Posing for Poise

(p.107) 3 Breathing for Nerve Force, Posing for Poise
Inhaling Spirit

Anya P. Foxen

Oxford University Press

Chapter 3 examines the relationship between lingering harmonial ideas and the nineteenth-century evolution of physical culture. Specifically it relates the development of Ling Swedish gymnastics, the Movement Cure, and American Delsarteism with the rise of alternative medical therapies and gender dynamics. In doing so, it points to two trends that speak to modern yoga’s form as well as its gender demographics. First, modern yoga—especially the vastly popular dance-like flow styles—looks most like the light calisthenics that would have been prescribed for women during this period. Second, these types of calisthenics were elaborated to address distinctly feminine concerns, such as dress reform, which led to a special focus being placed on elements that would become central to modern yoga practice in the West, namely a generalized emphasis on deep breathing (rather than the more specific techniques of pranayama) and attention to aesthetic form.

Keywords:   physical culture, Ling gymnastics, Swedish gymnastics, François Delsarte, Delsarteism, Mind Cure, Movement Cure, calisthenics, dress reform, pranayama

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