Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Religious Studies

Major Professor

Dell deChant, M.A.


Secularization, Spiritual marketplace, New Age, Cultic milieu, Health


Yoga is an increasingly visible and versatile commodity in the United States health market. Though its origins stretch to pre-Vedic India and its traditional religious purpose is linked to Hinduism, it is evident that yoga has undergone much change since its transmission to U.S. culture. In its popular, widespread incarnation in the United States, yoga is not usually learned at the feet of a guru, but at exercise centers and gyms. These secular locales of yoga's practice help define the "yoga phenomenon" in contemporary America. This phenomenon has resulted in yoga's wide acceptance and high visibility in American popular culture ---

especially within the "cultic milieu" as it is expressed in the "spiritual marketplace" and "therapeutic culture." Yoga's apparent transformation from an explicitly Hindu religious practice to one located in cultural environments that appear non-religious on the surface (such as gyms or therapeutic regimens) is a topic of interest in religious studies. Of even greater interest to religious studies, however, is the argument put forward by some scholars that these non-religious environments are actually profoundly religious in character and suggest that yoga's apparent transformation is a manifestation of a new type of religious experience within the United States. This thesis is interested in the various questions surrounding this apparent transformation. The central question here is what happens to yoga in U.S. culture? More specifically, what is yoga's religious status in the context of contemporary U.S. culture and religion, and what forms does yoga take within various environments t

hat are devoid of explicit Hindu connections? To engage these questions, this thesis will analyze yoga's religious status in the context of the theories of secularization and the cultic milieu as put forth by Steve Bruce, as well as the concepts of the spiritual marketplace and therapeutic culture as presented by Wade Clark Roof. Data culled from various sources and independent research will also be used in understanding yoga in contemporary U.S. popular religion and culture.