Published: April 20, 2015

The Center for Asian Studies is pleased to partner with the Department of Religious Studies to bring Dr. Joseph Alter, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Pittsburgh, to CU on Thursday, April 23. In this lecture, Alter presents an answer to the question of why the practice of yoga postures (asana) and breaking exercises (pranayama) came to be understood within the framework of Nature Cure in modern India, as institutionalized in the Central Council for Research on Yoga and Naturopathy. The focus is on the correlation between purification and embodied perfection, and the way in which impurity is understood to be problematic for health, as well as for the development of transcendent consciousness. Swami Sivananda's early publications on healing and medicine are used to show how a biomedical doctor who renounced the world and established the Divine Life Society--what became one of the most influential centers in the development of modern yoga--integrated elements from yoga and Nature Cure into his understanding of the body, embodied impurity, and the perfection of health. Alter's research specialization is in medical anthropology, with interest in the relationship among religion, nationalism, health, and the body in South Asia. He is the author of several books, including Gandhi's Body, Yoga in Modern India, and Moral Materialism. Dr. Alter's talk will begin at 6:30 p.m., and will be held in Eaton Humanities 150 on the CU-Boulder campus.