Yoga and Physical Education: Swami Kuvalayananda's Nationalist Project

In: Asian Medicine
Joseph S. Alter
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In the 1920s, Jagannath G. Gune adopted the tide Swami Kuvalayananda and established a research centre for the scientific analysis of yoga in Lonavala, a hill station near Pune. Gune's training under Rajrama Manikrao had been in 'traditional' athletics and gymnastics, as these were understood to be the means by which to promote a form of strong, masculine, assertive anti-colonial nationalism. However, once Gune became the disciple of the sage Madhavadasji, and received training in āsana and prdāṇāyāma, he began to reconceptualise the logic of physical education and physical fitness. For Kuvalayananda, yoga was inherently scientific, but also in need of scientific analysis to prove its relevance in the context of modernity. Based on laboratory research on the physiological effects of āsana and prdāṇāyāma, and by virtue of his appointment as the director of physical education and sports in the Bombay Presidency, Kuvalayananda developed a 'scientific' regimen of both individual and mass drill āsana. In this article, I examine the logic of Kuvalayananda's reconceptualisation of physical education by means of yoga with special reference to questions of gender and nationalism in the discourse of science and in the embodiment of that discourse in practice.

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