The Yoga Bums

Rebecca Mead writes the New Yorker [Mead’s personal website has disappeared; track her down at the New Yorker]: “Ashtanga is hard-core yoga; and Pattabhi Jois’s school in Mysore is for those practitioners who are at the crystalline center of the hard core. Ashtanga, like any institution, has a sharply defined hierarchy, and getting your training from Jois himself has a status rather like that, among early psychoanalysts, of having been treated by Freud. Beginning in the sixties and seventies, Jois instructed a trickle of Westerners who made it to Mysore, and they spread his teachings back home, prompting more followers to make the pilgrimage. In the past several years, yoga has become widespread in the American mainstream, and Ashtanga has experienced a corresponding boom: these days, Jois often has as many as eighty students from the West studying with him, paying around five hundred dollars a month for the privilege. In India, where the annual per-capita income is less than four hundred dollars, this makes him a wealthy man. He is the engine of any number of local businesses–inns, restaurants, Internet-access outlets–that have sprung up to accommodate the tastes and needs of all the spirituality-seeking Westerners flocking to the city to absorb his wisdom.”

Rebecca Mead wrote this article for the August 14, 2000 issue so it is already dated in many respects. Four months later, she penned another significant New Yorker article about weblogs [link no longer available]. It put blogging “on the map.” This kind of literary archaeology is interesting, because it informs the present. The article’s precursor of the Kadetsky book mentioned below. This kind of social commentary is a New Yorker trademark. To show that she can be ecumenical in apply her wit to yoga styles, she also wrote about Birkam Choudhury: Calling all heat-seeking New Yorkers [link no longer available] about the same time.