Yoga in the Library-A Research Guide

By Posner, Beth | Reference & User Services Quarterly, Fall 2017 | Go to article overview

Yoga in the Library-A Research Guide


Posner, Beth, Reference & User Services Quarterly


Whether you want to update your library's shelves of yoga books or support academic research in Eastern spirituality and Hinduism, this issue's column on yoga resources should be of great benefit. The author has compiled an excellent list of sources for both the practitioner of this ancient art and those curious about the philosophy behind it.--Editor

Yoga is a living practice of popular appeal, as well as an age-old tradition of scholarly interest. It is about the mind and the body, as well as the meaning of life and the nature of the universe. First introduced by Vedic priests to northern India five thousand years ago, the earliest yoga texts are two thousand years old. Its modern resurgence can be traced from the mid-nineteenth century, when it was popularized by Indian yogis and Western transcendentalists fascinated by Eastern philosophy and religion. As for contemporary yoga, it borrows from earlier traditions and texts as it also continues to evolve into new styles and systems. In this way, yoga is likely to remain relevant and vital, now and into the future.

The continuing and growing popularity of yoga of all sorts around the world speaks to the universal impulse people have to be well. For many, the initial draw is undoubtedly the fitness benefits of yoga postures (asana)--in terms of flexibility, balance, strength, and even cardio (if you do them fast enough), as well as its contributions to stress reduction. There are also students and scholars in universities studying yoga from a scientific or medical viewpoint, as well as through a theological, philosophical, psychological, or literary lens. Moreover, there are plenty of people who, after taking a yoga class or two, will want to learn more about a practice from which they experience meaningful benefits.

It is not surprising, therefore, to find library-card-carrying yogis turning to their local library collections for more information about everything from the value and values of yoga to its practice and purpose. Librarians, in response, should be collecting and sharing yoga resources in answer to questions, such as: What are the differences between styles of yoga? What are the risks and rewards of yoga practice? What is the history of yoga? Do the spiritual aspects of yoga make it a religion? Is yoga dualistic or monistic? Why is the Bhagavad Gita, about a warrior, a classic yoga text? What is the connection of karma and reincarnation and enlightenment? Why do many yoga classes begin with chanting Om (pronounced as Aum)?

It is because of yoga's long history and intricate and all-encompassing philosophy that there are so many iterations and interpretations of the practice today. Traditional yoga still focuses on spirituality, using postures only as a way to center the mind and body for meditation and, ultimately, enlightenment. Yogic paths include raja yoga (focusing on meditation, which includes asanas), karma (action), bhakti (love or devotion), jnana (study), and tantra (ritual). Patanjali, a second-century Indian scholar and grammarian, writes about an eightfold path to living a good life, which includes asana practice, as well as ten ethical precepts: the yamas, which are requirements to be pure, content, disciplined, studious, and devoted, and the niymas, which are prohibitions against harm, deceit, theft, lust, and greed. Many types of yoga have also developed, such as Kundalini, Tantra, and Tibetan yoga. And, many teachers have gone on to develop their own schools, presenting yoga in their own ways, such as: Ananda, Anusara, Ashtanga, Bikram/Hot Yoga, Forrest, Integral, Iyengar, Jivamukti, Kripalu, Purna, Sivananda, Viniyoga, Vinyasa Flow, and Yin Yoga. Most share certain practices and beliefs, but because of their varying intensities and focuses, may not suit everyone. Each type of yoga also has its own texts, teachers, and traditions. Beyond these styles, there are classes in acro (acrobatic), partner, chair, hiking, restorative, tree, goat, laughter, and dog yoga (doga). …

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