Yoga: The Art of Transformation | Catalogue

Detail, of the book cover Yoga: The Art of Transformation

All over the world, millions of people—including 20 million Americans—practice yoga for health benefits and to find spiritual calm. Practitioners and non-practitioners alike are aware of yoga's origins in India. But very few know of yoga's rich visual history, which reveals its profound philosophical underpinnings, its goals of transforming both body and consciousness, the diverse social roles yogic practitioners have played, and its transformations over time and across communities.

Yoga: The Art of Transformation, the world's first examination of yoga's visual history, will explore:

  • yoga's meanings and transformations over time, including its entry into the global arena
  • yoga's goals of spiritual enlightenment, worldly power, and health and wellbeing
  • the beauty and profundity of Indian art

Special Features

  • unique among art-exhibition catalogues in that it speaks to the global yoga market
  • the first scholarly book to reveal yoga's histories over 2,000 years through visual culture
  • will be accompanied by multimedia tie-ins, including a website and feature in Yoga Journal

The book features sculptural masterpieces of historical and divine yogis, exquisite Mughal paintings of militant yogis and romantic heroes, illustrated manuscripts of Hindu philosophy and Islamic divination, monumental images of the chakras (energy centers of the body), and 19th-century photography. Written by leading experts in religion, sociology, anthropology, and art history, the book's interdisciplinary perspectives make it an important resource for scholars, yet its text is eminently accessible to general audiences. In addition to seven major essays, the book includes 250- to 1,500-word catalogue entries describing each artwork or related group of artworks (e.g., folios from a single manuscript or works related to a yogic practice, such as meditation). These entries illuminate the works' individual qualities by situating them, for the first time, within intersecting historical, artistic, and yogic networks.

© 2013, Smithsonian Institution

Published by the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery on the occasion of the exhibition Yoga: The Art of Transformation, October 19, 2013–January 26, 2014. Organized by the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, the exhibition travels to the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, February 22–May 18, 2014, and the Cleveland Museum of Art, June 22–September 7, 2014.

Cloth edition distributed by Smithsonian Books through Random House. Buy online.

God figure with blue skin decorated with small royal figures.
Vishnu Vishvarupa. India, Rajasthan, Jaipur, ca. 1800–20; Opaque watercolor and gold on paper, 38.5 x 28 cm; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Given by Mrs. Gerald Clark; IS.33-2006

Preview the book


Yoga: The Art of Transformation (PDF, 5.2MB)
Debra Diamond

Yoga in Transformation
David Gordon White

From Guru to God: Yogic Prowess and Places of Practice in Early-Medieval India (PDF, 3.1MB)
Tamara I. Sears

Muslim Interpreters of Yoga
Carl W. Ernst

Yogis in Mughal India
James Mallinson

Yoga, Bodybuilding, and Wrestling: Metaphysical Fitness
Joseph S. Alter

Globalized Modern Yoga
Mark Singleton

The Path of Yoga (PDF, 36.7MB)

Landscapes of Yoga (PDF, 5.2MB)

Yoga in the Indian Imagination, 16th–19th Century (PDF, 9.4MB)

Yoga in the Transnational Imagination, 18th–20th Century (PDF, 6.3MB)

Modern Transformations (PDF, 3.1MB)