Western exploration of Yoga and Eastern spirituality began in the 19th century when ancient Sanskrit texts were first translated into European languages and later into English. The Transcendentalists in New England, led by Ralph Waldo Emerson, took a keen interest in these sacred writings. His friend and colleague Henry David Thoreau has been called: “The First American Yogi.”
While Swami Vivekananda was the first Hindu Swami to visit America when he addressed the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago in 1893, Paramahansa Yogananda was the first to establish long-term residency in the United States, where he lived and worked for over 30 years from 1920 to his death in 1952.
Yoga’s rich history in America has been well-documented in three fascinating books by interviewees featured in AWAKE:
- American Veda, by Philip Goldberg
- The Subtle Body, by Stefanie Syman
- The Great Oom: The Improbable Birth of Yoga in America, by Robert Love
Also interesting, particularly in relation to the events mentioned in the “AWAKE: The Life of Yogananda,” is How the Swamis Came to the States, by Richard Leviton.