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The Great Oom: The Improbable Birth of Yoga in America

Robert Love.
Publisher Viking  
Format hardcover
Product Dimensions 9.5 x 6.5 x 1.25 inches
ISBN 9780670021758
Pages/Publication Date 402/2010
Daedalus Item Code 30329
This item is not available.
Stumbling upon the forgotten origins of yoga in America when he moved to the former grounds of the Clarkstown Country Club in Nyack, New York, former Rolling Stone managing editor Robert Love traces the career of "The Great Oom," Pierre Bernard, a self-styled guru who first introduced the philosophies of yoga and tantra in this country. This surprising, sometimes comic story moves from moonlit tantric rituals in San Francisco to a luxurious ashram on the Hudson River—the first in the nation—paid for by the Wall Street traders and Gilded Age heiresses who were Bernard's followers, as Love delves into the murky intersection of mysticism, money, sex, and celebrity that gave rise to the creation of one of America's most popular practices.

"A lively and idiosyncratic Bernard biography ... [with] wonderful anecdotes.... [Bernard] is a colorful, still-marginal figure who was prescient about the popularity of yoga in American life. He was also a headline-making swami-entrepreneur who defied his bland Iowa origins to become one of the most renowned eccentrics of the Jazz Age. And the legacy of his program and his acolytes is still with us."—NYTimes

"Few Americans practicing hatha yoga today will have heard of Pierre Bernard, the 'first American yogi.'... Born in Iowa in 1876, the future guru found the unlikeliest of mentors, a yoga master from Calcutta. Once he became adept at yoga's most dramatic practices, Bernard, a brilliant, charismatic, and fearless entrepreneur, weathered scandals, legal battles, and jail to create a Jazz Age empire that attracted the rich and famous. Yoga was the magnet, but Bernard's upscale bohemian commune also offered semipro baseball, theatrical productions, circuses, and sexual freedom. Bernard concurrently managed banks, became an 'aviation czar,' broke hearts, and made enemies. Love writes with all the zest, wit, and empathy his protean subject deserves as he tells this dazzling tale of a self-made man of holistic convictions and archetypal flaws."—Booklist (starred review)

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