Yoga Body, a book by Mark Singleton

George Thompson gthomgt at GMAIL.COM
Tue Mar 8 03:30:16 UTC 2011

Dear List,

On another list there is a discussion of an interesting book with this title
written recently  by Mark Singleton.  In this book Singleton argues,
provocatively,  that modern hatha yoga practices are bearly a 100 years old,
and that they have been heavily influenced by early 20th century European
gymnastic regimens.   As far as I am concerned there is nothing
controversial about Singleton's interesting new claims.

But early on in his book, Singleton tries to suggest that the term yoga in
classical Sanskrit is not just one term.  He claims that it is a series of
homonyms  \that mean different things in the Upanisads, the Gita, the Yoga
Sutras, the Shaiva Tantras, etc.

But, in my view this is a very embarrassing error for any Sankrit scholar to
make.  In English "to," and "two," and "too," are homonyms.  Also, "threw"
and "through" are homonyms.  Aso, in some dialects of English, "marry,"
"merry," and "Mary," are all also homonyms.

But in Sanskrit, there is is only one word, "yoga," which has only one form
but any meanings.  There are no homonyms of "yoga" in Sanskrit.  There is
just that single  word.  Singleton obviously has no idea what he is talking
about here when it comes to the notion of homony,m.  That's bad enough.  But
he is young, and maybe he can be excused for this slight error.  But in her
review of his otherwise good book Doniger repeats the same linguistic error:
the Sanskit terrn "yoga" consists, in her view, of several so-called

This of course is very bad linguistics.

I don't know what to think.  Should we just be silent about such small
errors?  Or should we call them out?

George Thompson

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