Stretching for Health and Well-Being: Yoga and Women in Britain, 1960-1980

In: Asian Medicine
Suzanne Newcombe
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In Britain, yoga became an increasingly popular group activity from the 1960s onwards in government-subsidised adult-education evening classes. Although yoga classes were open to everyone, women tended to make up 70 ro 90 per cent of the student base of most classes as well as the majority of yoga teachers. This article briefly outlines how yoga became popular in Britain and then explores yoga's particular appeal to women during this period. Yoga's popularity can be partially accounted for by the way it simultaneously supported women's traditional identities of wife and mother, as well as a more independent identity promoted by second-wave feminism. Women typically attributed better physical health and emotional well-being to their practice of yoga and this was an important reason for their participation in the classes. Additionally, yoga served as an important support for women becoming more aware of feelings of alienation from traditional biomedical practitioners.

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