The Story of Yoga

From Ancient India to the Modern West

Alistair Shearer

The fascinating story of how an ancient Indian practice became a truly global phenomenon.

Bibliographic Details
The Story of Yoga Hardback
January 2020£25.00
9781787381926 384pp
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How did a venerable Indian spiritual discipline turn into a £20 billion-a-year mainstay of the wellness industry? What happened along yoga’s winding path from the caves and forests of the sages to the gyms, hospitals and village halls of the modern West?

This comprehensive history sets yoga in its global cultural context for the first time, leading us on a journey from arcane religious rituals and medieval body-magic, through Christianity and the British Empire, to Indian nationalists and the twentieth-century West. Yoga has now become embedded in powerful social currents including feminism, digital media, celebrity culture, the stress pandemic and the quest for authentic identity.

Shearer’s revealing history boasts a colourful cast of characters past and present, in an engaging tale of scholars and scandal, science and spirit, wisdom and waywardness. This is the untold story of yoga, warts and all.


Alistair Shearer is a cultural historian specialising in the art and architecture of the Indian subcontinent and a former lecturer at SOAS University of London. He is a teacher of meditation and the psychology of yoga, and his translation of the Yoga Sutras has remained in print for almost forty years. Alistair is the co-creator of an award-winning retreat hotel in Kerala.


‘The history of East meeting West through Yoga is as complex and enigmatic as it is important. Alistair Shearer unfolds the narrative with just the right combination of scholarly rigour and compelling prose.’ — Philip Goldberg, author of American Veda and The Life of Yogananda

‘Frequently amusing, but always scholarly and engaging, Shearer’s study deftly works it way through the history of yoga, from the purity of Patanjali’s Sutras to the mix’n’match brands endorsed by modern celebrities.’ — John Zubrzycki, author of Empire of Enchantment: The Story of Indian Magic