Happy International Yoga Day

This Sunday, 21st June, has been designated as the first ever International Yoga Day by the United Nations General Assembly. So, in the spirit of celebration, I thought I would discover yoga-related things in the collection. We have several books, two of which caught my attention. The first, in the catalogue, said that it had an introduction by W.B. Yeats. Being somebody who enjoys poetry, this captured my imagination. When I retrieved the book from the shelf I discovered that Faber & Faber had sent it to the RAS for review in 1938, just a year before Yeats died.

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The book’s title? Aphorisms of Yoga by Bhagwan Shree Patanjali, translated and with commentary by Shree Purohit Swami.
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And here is the beginning of Yeats’ introduction:
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This book seems a fairly easy and interesting read, as does the second book that caught my eye. This was a 1972, George Allen & Unwin Ltd. publication, The Yoga of Light: Hatha Yoga Pradipika India’s Classical Handbook by Hans-Ulrich Rieker, translated by Elsy Becherer. Again yoga is simply explained with the aid of helpful diagrams to illustrate the different positions:
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virasana and lotus positions

All seems fairly straightforward, until… I unpack some photographs taken by a Stan Harding, probably in the 1930s or early 1940s. It is not known how these photographs came to be in the RAS Collections but they certainly show yoga in its true light.

So, to celebrate International Yoga Day enjoy (or wince over) these pictures of an expert:

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