True or False? Physical Yoga Has Influenced America More than Spiritual Yoga.

Via on Jan 17, 2011

True or False? Physical Yoga Has Influenced America More than Spiritual Yoga.

Answer: False!  The reverse is true.  Spiritual Yoga has had a far bigger impact on America than the physical poses most people think of as Yoga.

You’ll almost certainly agree after reading the startling new book  American Veda: From Emerson and the Beatles to Yoga and Meditation How Indian Spirituality Changed the West  by Philip Goldberg

(See  accompanying interview with Phil Goldberg.)

The spirituality of the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads, the original texts of Yoga,  has found its way into the very core of spiritual life in America, according to Goldberg, even though this is often masked by the form it has taken, and sometimes through outright repression of historical facts.

American Veda is an absolute must-read for anyone serious about Yoga.  It is one of the  most important books I’ve personally ever read about Yoga, or anything else, for that matter.  It is surprising, entertaining, and highly readable throughout, and it will cause you to forever think differently about the impact of Yoga in America.

This book is so momentous, that at first I had trouble imagining how I could adequately describe it’s message and scope in a “review”.  Then I suddenly realized that this would be the easiest review I’ve ever written.  Here it is:

The following is just a partial list, just to give you an idea, of the famous people who, as documented in American Veda, have been profoundly influenced, not just a little bit influenced, but profoundly and pivotally influenced, by the Yoga of the original ancient Yoga texts, the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads, often referred to as “Vedanta Yoga” (Most are Americans, but I also included others who heavily influenced Americans.):


Ralph Waldo Emerson     Henry David Thoreau     Walt Whitman     Aldous Huxley

Samuel Taylor Coleridge     William Wordsworth     William Blake     Emily Dickinson

Robert Frost     Jack Kerouac     Allen Ginsberg     Alan Watts     Gotham Chopra

Tim Gallwey (Inner Game of  Tennis)        Herman Hesse     Oliver Wendell Holmes

Somerset Maugham    J. D. Salinger     Christopher Isherwood     Timothy Leary

Huston Smith    T.S. Eliot     William Butler Yeats


William James     Carl Jung     Abraham Maslow     Stanislav Grof     Daniel Goleman

New Spirituality/Self-help

Eckhart Tolle     Deepak Chopra     Michael Beckwith (Agape)     Ken Wilber

Joseph Cambell    Madame Blavatsky (Theosophical Society)    Wayne Dyer

Marianne Williamson     Norman Vincent Peale     Tony Robbins

John Gray     Joan Borysenko     Andrew Harvey

Musicians & Entertainers 

The Beatles (especially George Harrison)     Philip Glass     Judy Collins

Russell Simmons    Elvis Presley     John Coltrane     Alice Coltrane    Donovan

Mick Jagger     Marianne Faithful     Mia Farrow    Mike Love

Paul Horn     Madonna     John McGlaughlin

Yehudi Menuhin     Van Morrison     David Lynch     Shirley McClaine

Jerry Seinfeld     And many others

Religious Figures

Mary Baker Eddy (founder Christian Science)     Ernest Holmes (Religious Science)

Thomas Keating    Thomas Merton     Father Bede Griffiths     Rabbi David Gelberman

The “New Thought” Movement (source of many modern congregations)


John Adams     Martin Luther King (through Mahatma Gandhi)     Booker T. Washington


Arthur Schoepenhauer     Friedrich Hegel    Alfred North Whitehead


David Bohm (quantum physicist)     Rupert Sheldrake (biologist)     Fritjof Capra (The Tao of Physics)

J. Robert Oppenheimer     Erwin Shroedinger (physicist, close friend of Einstein)

Nikola Tesla (legendary inventor)     John Hagelin     Amrit Goswami

Health and Wellness

Andrew Weil     Dean Ornish     Mehmet “Dr.” Oz.     Herbert Benson (The Relaxation Response)

See also:  How Yoga Has Transformed American Spirtuality: An Interview with Phil Goldberg, Author of “American Veda”, and then read the book!

Phil Goldberg is the author or coauthor of nineteen books, including “Roadsigns: On the Spiritual Path” and “The Intuitive Edge.” Based in Los Angeles, he is an ordained interfaith minister, a public speaker and seminar leader, and the founder of Spiritual Wellness and Healing Associates. He is director of outreach for and blogs regularly on religion for the Huffington Post. Visit or for more information. 

About Bob Weisenberg

Bob Weisenberg: Editor, Best of Yoga Philosophy / Former Assoc. Publisher, elephant journal / Author: Yoga Demystified * Bhagavad Gita in a Nutshell * Leadership Is Like Tennis, Not Egyptology / Co-editor: Yoga in America (free eBook) / Creator: Gita Talk: Self-paced Online Seminar / Flamenco guitarist: "Live at Don Quijote" & "American Gypsy" (Free CD's) / Follow Bob on facebook, Twitter, or his main site: Wordpress.



33 Responses to “True or False? Physical Yoga Has Influenced America More than Spiritual Yoga.”

  1. Ramesh says:

    Bob, I totally agree with you. Without spiritual yoga there would be no physical yoga and in the American historical context physical yoga is a late comer … also in India… as physical yoga has always been one of many expressions of yoga in India always integral to the spiritual yoga, which includes and transcends the physical.

    Still have not read this book, but I will, then I will write the book American Tantra….as you know, Bob, I still think yoga is more tantric than vedic…..

  2. Birdie Greenberg yogabird says:


    Wow…I can't wait to read it. Thanks for this.


  3. I am very intrigued. Like many, my first instinct was to say that Physical Yoga has had a greater impact. You have successfully convinced me to read this book :)

  4. Kali Ma Das says:

    Physical yoga and spiritual yoga? Is there really a place where one ends and the other begins? I don't believe so. Looking forward to reading the book, though. Thank you for posting.

  5. steve says:

    My first answer was "physical yoga", then I read the question more carefully.
    Ok, which has had more influence? spiritual yoga, I'm sure
    Which is practiced more? Physical yoga, by a wide margin. Speaking from my own limited experience (fairly new to yoga and living in small town Virginia) I believe that when most people think of yoga they think of people (mostly women) doing stretches and strange twists and ballence stances.
    Got the book "american veda" next on my book list, thx

  6. Melissa says:

    My yoga journey started with the physical practice then evolved into the spiritual. So while the spiritual has more effect, by getting people to start with the physical journey then at least the journey begins!

    Sounds like a great book, can't wait to read it.

  7. […] True or False? Physical Yoga Has Influenced America More than Spiritual Yoga. […]

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  15. Ragani says:

    Ah, there are SO many more too, including Benjamin Franklin, one of the great pioneers in the science of Yoga. If you read Linda Johnsen's book, Lost Masters: The Yoga of the Ancient Greeks (Amazon: you will be astonished to learn that our yoga roots go back to the ancient city of Rome, where "Durka" (Durga) was the presiding deity. No kidding.

  16. […] True or False? Physical Yoga Has Influenced America More than Spiritual Yoga. […]

  17. […] (See also my review of American Veda: True or False?: Physical Yoga Has Had a Far Bigger Impact on America than Yoga Spirituality.) […]

  18. Anna Sheinman SOFLY_Anna says:

    Hi Bob,

    Another great article! I took a few workshops with Mark S.:
    He wrote a great book of history of Yoga in America. Also, the great OM…I had no idea.


  19. I'd love to see this expanded more….:)

  20. […] elephant spirituality writer Ben Ralston does social media with spiritual style, Head Coach Bob Weisenberg’s true or false question is a reincarnation from a year back (and worth another airing), and speaking of reincarnating and […]

  21. […] Some of the eleven famous people in this book are obvious (at least to those already familiar with the story of the yoga philosophy’s influence on American spiritual history–see True or False? Physical Yoga Has Influenced America More than Spiritual Yoga.) […]

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