A Short History of Yoga in America

Although yoga sounds like a very new trend in America, it’s not. It dates to almost 150 years. The very first time it was introduced to the American populous was in 1893. This happened during a speech at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago. It was a speech presented by Swami Vivekananda.

Vivekananda had learned yoga from a guru by the name of Sri Ramakrishna. In his speech, he talked about the relationship of the body, mind, and spirit. It was his salutation however, that received the greatest applause from the religious leaders present at the event. After that initial introduction, yoga found a new mainstay in America.

In 1920, another pioneer, Paramahansa Yogananda, came to the US as an emissary of his Guru, Babaji. His goal was to teach the Westerners about yoga. He accomplished this in his 1946 book titled, Autobiography of Yoga that has been a classic of yoga ever since.

Many events happened that cemented the place of yoga in the United States. First, the American government passed a law limiting the entry of Indians into the US. This created the necessity for those already hooked to yoga to go to India instead to learn about it. One of the first people to do so was Theos Bernard. On his return to America in 1947 he published the book, Hatha Yoga: The Report of a Personal Experience

In that same year, a yogi by the name of Indra Devi opened a yoga studio in Hollywood. She too studied yoga in Indian, bringing her knowledge to the West. In 1950, another Westerner by the name of Richard Hittleman came to teach yoga in New York after taking studies in India. He is responsible for spreading yoga in the United States. His approach has made teaching much easier than the rest thus far.

Although he was a spiritual yogi like the rest who had come from India, he did not present it as such. His teaching majored on the physical benefits of yoga instead. His hope was that by doing this, those who received the training would later desire to learn the spiritual path as well. Millions of copies of his book were bought across America and his television program became quite popular in the states.

Vivekananda’s influence also spread to San Francisco, where Walt and Magana Baptiste opened a studio in the mid-50s. They learned their skills from Walt’s father, who also learned from Vivekananda. To date, their influence is still felt in America.

Another influencer of yoga in the 50s was Swami Vishnu-devananda. He was born in India and learned yoga from Swami Sivananda Saraswati. He too taught yoga in San Francisco. However, it was his book, The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga, published in 1960 that influenced most people. Most modern practitioners have learned their yoga skills from this book.

Thanks to Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers, an organization that he established, yoga practice spread tremendously. It is still one the largest networks of yoga schools in the world today. Since then, many other large and small organizations have sprung up and started teaching several types of yoga in the United States.


The Ketogenic Diet Essentials

Lately, it seems like everyone is into the ketogenic diet, boasting that it aids in weight loss, improves quality of sleep and even increases energy. Before you run to your nearest butcher for the fattiest cut of steak, there are a few pointers that will help you if you’re thinking about trying out keto for the first time.

First, ketosis is the metabolic state you go into when you don’t eat enough carbohydrates to provide your body glucose, its primary fuel source. Your body, being the smart machine that it is has an alternative source called ketones that come from the breakdown of fat. Essentially, on a ketogenic diet your body relies on fat for energy production instead of glucose. This diet was originally used to help control epilepsy but it’s now becoming more popular in the health and wellness industry.

Like many people, you may be apprehensive about following a high fat, low carbohydrate diet but if you can power through the initial shift your body has to make when it switches over from using glucose to fat, it will be well worth it.

In order for your body to get into a state of ketosis, you will need to eat about 60-70 percent healthy fats, 20 to 25 percent protein and around 5-10 percent carbohydrates, mostly from vegetables. 

Here are some tips that will help make this transition more comfortable and more sustainable as a lifestyle change.

  1. Focus on healthy fats and omega 3 sources: Wild caught salmon, nuts, seeds and coconut oil is all fair game! Also, if you’re not lactose intolerant you can include whole fat dairy products such as cheese, milk and plenty of butter and ghee. Don’t forget about animal protein! Enjoy fatty cuts of steak, bacon and beef. If you have a craving for a burger, ditch the bun and opt for a lettuce wrap instead.
  2. Remember your greens and veggies: Getting enough fiber can be an issue for many who follow this way of eating. That’s where fibrous vegetables come in handy. Make sure you’re eating plenty of greens including kale, lettuce, spinach and collard greens. You can eat these raw or sauté them in butter or coconut oil.
  3. Minimize your consumption of acidic foods: That means alcohol and coffee- sorry! This is only temporary and once you’re truly into ketosis, you will be able to slowly re-introduce caffeine and some alcohol back into your diet. 
  4. Make sleep and relaxation a priority: Think about it, your body is going through a huge change and it will take a lot out of you. You’re most likely going to feel mentally foggy and lethargic initially and that’s why you need to make sure you are getting enough quality sleep and minimizing stress as much as possible. Meditation, yoga, light exercise such as walking and biking are all great ways to get centered and move your body in a gentle manner.
  5. Be patient: As the saying goes, this is not a sprint it’s a marathon. Your body is hardwired to rely on glucose for energy and making the switch to using ketones instead is a process. On average, it takes about one week for the body to make the shift but it could take you shorter or longer. Remember, this is a lifestyle transformation, not a quick fix.

Have you ever tried this diet? Thanks for reading and feel free to comment in the section below.

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