Friday, May 27, 2016

Start with Hollywood. It never fails.

A new book details how the Latvian Eugenia Peterson reinvented herself as Indra Devi and made yoga an American cult:
Her first stop was Shanghai, where her husband was posted in 1939 and where she would teach yoga to assorted diplomats and foreigners for the duration of the Japanese occupation. But it was in California that she would find her real calling, as the first yoga teacher in Los Angeles, teaching a Hollywood elite that even in the 1940s and 1950s was introducing wellness trends to the rest of the country. It was after moving there in 1947 that Eugenia adopted Devi as her official name, a clever branding move at a time of growing fascination with Asian spiritual traditions. 
Her clients included Gloria Swanson and Greta Garbo. She befriended Aldous and Maria Huxley. “Everywhere in the emerging new age culture was an assumed connection between health and salvation,” Goldberg writes. “Yoga as it eventually came to be practised in the US elevates exercise into a sacrament, merging the contradictory quests for beauty and selflessness.” Devi taught at Elizabeth Arden’s Maine Chance spa and wrote a self-help bestseller called Forever Young, Forever Healthy, followed by another bestseller, Yoga for Americans, a six-week home course...

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