There’s no denying the shift that’s happened in the yoga community in the last decade: It has become more popular, more mainstream, more commercial, and information about the practice is more immediate thanks to blogging. A new book out this week, 21st Century Yoga: Culture, Politics, and Practice, explores North American yoga and its connection to increasingly relevant issues for the yoga community including body image, addiction recovery, and contemporary spirituality. The compilation of essays was written by yoga practitioners that are also teachers, studio owners, psychotherapists, political activist, and interfaith ministers. It’s the brainchild of popular bloggers Roseanne Harvey (It’s All Yoga, Baby) and Carol Horton, who after examining these issues in their own blogs decided to get more perspectives and go deeper.
We wanted to learn more about this project and how it came to light, so we asked Horton and Harvey to share some of their insights with us in an exclusive interview.
Tell me about why this book is important to the overall conversation about yoga happening right now?
Carol: In the past few years, there has been more debate over the pros and cons of contemporary North American yoga than ever before. This year has been particularly intense, with questions about yoga and commercialism, politics, regulation, leadership, sexuality, and injuries taking center stage. Because most of this discussion happens online, it tends to fly by very fast. As a book, 21st Century Yoga invites us to slow down and think into some of the big questions facing the yoga community in different, and hopefully new and interesting ways.
How is it different than other books that are out now about modern yoga?
Carol: Until just a few years ago, most yoga books focused on how to do asana or understand traditional yogic philosophy. Recently, some important books on modern yoga history, as well as yoga memoirs and collections of blog-style essays have been published. 21st Century Yoga is the first book to feature a set of chapter-length essays focused exclusively on important issues in contemporary North American yoga, such as yoga’s connection to body image, commercialism, addiction recovery, community building, political activism, and contemporary spirituality.
You’re both very popular bloggers. Why did you decide to put this together in book format instead of publishing through your blogs?
Roseanne: While we love the immediacy and reach of blogging, there’s something powerful and substantial about a book. Our contributors had the time and space necessary to revise, edit, and polish their essays. It’s great to have an idea and bang out a blog post. But it’s another thing to dig into that idea, develop it, receive feedback, and refine it. It’s a valuable process that often doesn’t happen in the blogosphere.
How did you choose the contributors?
Roseanne: We made a list of people whose writing we liked, then we emailed them to see if they’d be interested in contributing. While not everyone we originally contacted was able to find time to contribute, we’re absolutely thrilled to have pulled together the amazing collection of writers that we have.
What do you hope readers will take away after reading the book?
Carol: We hope that 21st Century Yoga will contribute to the conversation about the current state and future direction of North American yoga, and encourage others to join that discussion. We don’t believe in providing pat answers that pretend to define what yoga is or should be. But we do think it’s important to reflect on the nature of contemporary practice and share our ideas with each other. Ideally, readers will be inspired to keep thinking into the issues that speak to them most deeply and connect with others who care about them too.
You’ve been vocal about the types of marketing people are using to sell yoga. How do you plan to do things differently to get this book in front of people?
Roseanne: We were thinking of making a video with a woman in her underwear doing advanced asanas. It would totally go viral.
But seriously, we have basically no budget for this book, so we are relying on guerrilla marketing (social media, word of mouth) to spread the word. In the spring, we launched an Indiegogo campaign to cover expenses for the book, and that was our first round of promotion. Our 10 amazing contributors are enthusiastic about the project and will share it with their students and networks. We’ve reached out to the communities around both of our blogs. A small but vocal buzz has already started, and we hope this will grow as people read the book.
For more information and to purchase the book, go here.