The Great Oom by Robert Love
The Improbable Birth of Yoga in America

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The amazing story of how yoga came to America-and the charming rogue who made it possible

In Jazz Age New York, there was no place hotter than the Clarkstown Country Club, where celebrities such as Leopold Stokowski mingled with Vanderbilts, Goodriches, and Great War spies. They came for the club's circuses and burlesques but especially for the lectures on the subject at the heart of the club's mission: yoga. Their guru was the notorious Pierre Bernard, who trained with an Indian master and instructed his wealthy followers in the asanas and the modern yogic lifestyle.

Robert Love traces this American obsession from moonlit Tantric rituals in San Francisco to its arrival in New York, where Bernard's teachings were adopted by Wall Streeters and Gilded Age heiresses, who then bankrolled a luxurious ashram on the Hudson River-the first in the nation. Though today's practitioners know little of Bernard, they can thank his salesman's persistence for sustaining our interest in yoga despite generations of naysayers.

In this surprising, sometimes comic story, Love uncovers the forgotten life and times of the colorful, enigmatic character who brought us hatha yoga. The Great Oom delves into the murky intersection of mysticism, money, and celebrity that gave rise to the creation of one of America's most popular practices and a fivebillion-dollar industry.


About Robert Love

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ROBERT LOVE has worked in magazine publishing for thirty years, including posts as managing editor of Rolling Stone and executive editor of Best Life. His articles have appeared in The New York Times and The New York Observer. He lives with his wife in Nyack, New York.
Published April 29, 2010 by Viking Adult. 416 pages
Genres: Health, Fitness & Dieting, Religion & Spirituality, History. Non-fiction

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From San Francisco to the Pacific Northwest, his Tantrik Order, featuring blood oaths, secret initiation rituals and cryptic symbols, became wildly successful among the rich and idle, and Bernard eventually relocated to a Manhattan townhouse.

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The New York Times

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A lively and idiosyncratic biography of Pierre Bernard, a headline-making swami-entrepreneur who helped popularize yoga in America in the first decades of the 20th century.

Apr 14 2010 | Read Full Review of The Great Oom: The Improbable...

The Wall Street Journal

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Eager students can study Christian yoga (or "Yahweh Yoga," as it is sometimes called) and Jewish Yoga, where students replace "om" with "shalom."

Apr 23 2010 | Read Full Review of The Great Oom: The Improbable...

Entertainment Weekly

Iowa-born Pierre Bernard was the man who tasked himself with that mission — and for his troubles, he was labeled the Great Oom by scandal-hungry newspapers determined to paint him as a sex-crazed cult leader.

May 12 2010 | Read Full Review of The Great Oom: The Improbable...

Review (Barnes & Noble)

Journalist Stefanie Syman opens The Subtle Body: The Story of Yoga in America with a moment that provided her with her own proof of yoga's triumph over our culture: the inclusion of yoga workshops at last year's White House Easter Egg Roll.

Jun 21 2010 | Read Full Review of The Great Oom: The Improbable...

Red Dirt Reporter

As someone who has taken a keen interest in the history of “alternative” and “fringe”American culture from the late 19th and early 20thcenturies, it was serendipitous to run into a wonderful new book about yoga’s introduction into the U.S. by a scandalous and misunderstood man known as Pierre Ber...

Jan 17 2011 | Read Full Review of The Great Oom: The Improbable...

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