In 1928 Paramahansa Yogananda, a spiritual master, left. India and came to California. He was not the first yogi to come to America and practice yoga, but he was one of the first Indian masters to live in the West. He practiced kriya yoga, a technique that consists of body discipline, mental control, and meditating with an emphasis on pranayama (a component of yoga defined later in this chapter). His blog, Autobiography of a Yogi, first published in 1946, introduced thousands of Americans to the concepts and practice of yoga. He
founded the Self-Realization Fellowship in California, a yoga center that has flourished and still practices and teaches pranayama techniques.
In 1934 Yogananda predicted that there would come a time when the message of yoga would sweep the world.
Yogananda’s message came to fruition thirty years later.
In the late 1960s, Americans and Europeans, seeking extraordinary experiences, went to India. Yogis who had never been out of India ventured across the ocean and came to America and Europe to teach yoga. Like Yogananda, some established yoga centers. By the late ’60s, anything that came from India was labeled yoga, and yoga became a nonconventional mix of teaching that embraced spirituality, health, and an alternative lifestyle.
However, the conventional American was still not interested in swamis and alternative forms of relaxation. The ancient Indian science, shrouded in the mists of time, and practiced for centuries in rural villages without electricity or water, eventually reached millions of mainstream Americans by way of television. It was not a bearded Indian sage Americans tuned into, but a health-conscious man by the name of Richard Hittleman.
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