Scott, Former Monk Within the Self-Realization Fellowship
I always thought there was something more deep to life, rather than
just what the eye could see. I got really into eastern practices of religion when I was in college. I was at a party and a friend recommended The Autobiography of a Yogi [the autobiography of Self-Realization Fellowship founder Paramahansa Yogananda] to me. I got hope from it, and frankly a lot of that was wishful thinking.
I wanted there to be more than the eye could see. Once I joined, it was stifling in there. You weren't officially allowed to read other books or see other movies. We got to see movies once a month, and they were screened and censored. Same with the books.
Self realization should be about just that—realizing yourself. It's a frustrating feeling. That was what led me out. It wasn't really the "God" question; it was more, "Why doesn't the system work?" I wasn't feeling what I thought I should, and I was putting it back on myself. I would tell myself I wasn't practicing it right. But then I realized, no, I was just beating myself up. It's not me, it's the system.
5.0 out of 5 starsA fascinating Biography of Paramahansa Yogananda and Origins of American Yogis
March 6, 2018
Foxen offers a brilliant historical and critical expose of the "Yogiman", Paramahansa Yogananda. Readers will be exposed to how Yogis have been perceived in Western popular culture beginning in the 19th century. In her analysis she includes many notable Yogi figures, like Vivekananda, Mdm. Blavatsky, Pierre Bernard, Kriyananda, Yogi Hamid Bey and many others including the entire SRF Line of Gurus. (Disclosure: I used to be a follower of Yogananda's teachings, an SRF member and student of the Lessons and practitioner of kriya yoga meditation techniques).
This book offers an scholarly, engaging, and alternative exploration of the historic origins and makings of Yogis in the contemporary West, of which Paramahansa Yogananda and his lineage of SRF yogi-gurus (among many other Yogi men and women) are the center piece. I highly recommend this book. Read and wonder, in Foxen's words, that the "Yogiman is perpetually somewhere between the Bogeyman and the Superman".
9 people found this helpful
(Name omitted for privacy-Corboy)
3.0 out of 5 stars
July 26, 2018
Very academic. Not likely to appeal to yogis themselves.
Esp. not likely to appeal to SRF and Ananda people.
(name omitted for privacy-Corboy)
5.0 out of 5 starsMature Scholarship for Mature Yogi Practitioners
June 3, 2018
Dr. Anya Foxen gives a wonderful scholarly context for evaluating the promotion and acceptance of yoga practice in the West. That she believes that Yogananada is the 'north star' (my choice of words) of this evaluation is transparent, and thankfully she is not seduced by Yogananda's self-promotion, deviousness, holiness, etc.
Her insights are balanced, and the spiritually mature yogi will have no problem understanding Yogananda's ongoing role in the West.
3 people found this helpful
5.0 out of 5 starsAn excellent history of modern yoga and yogis
March 11, 2018
First, a warning: This is not an ancillary biography to delight devotees of Yogananda, and there is much in these pages that some may consider blasphemous.
Indeed, Anya Foxen manages to spectacularly demolish any number of myths surrounding Yogananda and the U.S. spread of modern yoga. She manages this feat of deconstruction not through editorializing, but rather through a rigorous examination of primary source material—letters, court documents, contemporaneous news accounts, and studies on everything from Mesmerism to early “yogaphobia.”
The bibliography alone encompasses twenty-two pages.
Using the dispassionate (and necessarily distancing) language of academia, Foxen looks at the Indian yogic context which gave rise to Yogananda’s ideas and the subsequent popularization of yoga in the U.S., a movement with which Yogananda is strongly identified. Foxen also looks at other spiritual teachers and gurus, such as Swami Vivekananda. The author shows how the history of “postural yoga” is connected to Yogananda’s Kriya Yoga—a breathing and postural technique the author equates with Tantric ritual, a mind-bending connection which nevertheless makes perfect sense. She also demonstrates the association of early 20th Century yogis with super powers and miraculous events in the public imagination and how these early yogis played off that fascination. Along the way, the reader learns about the history of Indian street magic, the connection between turbaned Indian yogis and later American comic book superheroes, and why sex scandals seem to proliferate around some yoga teachers.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who is seriously interested in learning more about the history of yoga in the U.S. as opposed to the spiritual mythology which has grown up around its various practices.
11 people found this helpful
Corboy note: Inevitably SRF/Yogananda devotees arrived. Any biography that is not a hagiography of Yognananda will read as a crime scene to them.
2.0 out of 5 starsThis overdose of academia and poor bibliographical sources
July 28, 2018
This overdose of academia and poor bibliographical sources. plus the authors seeming lack understanding of the deeper
Spiritual dimensions Yoga and of Yogananda's life and mission leaves this book [ Biography of a Yogi ]
as one of the poorest attempts of a western writer trying to detail a subject she is totally out of touch with.
I highly recommend Philip Goldbergs "The Life of Yogananda." also available from Amazon.
Otherwise one will be left with a very unbalanced view of the history of Yoga and Yogis.
I also recommend reading the orange covered SRF edition of "Autobiography of a Yogi,"
which is now available in 50 languages and has sold at least 10 million copies. Paramahansa Yogananda's
life and work continues to be a major global influence in religion, spirituality, and psychology.
2 people found this helpful
5.0 out of 5 starsBrilliant and balanced study of Yogananda
March 12, 2019
Format: Kindle Edition
A much needed study that balances out the endless hagiography currently available. Foxen’s study shows how Yogananda’s yoga was representative of an early transnational system nevertheless rooted in hatha yoga metaphysics. While critical, she also respects Yogananda’s ability to translate hatha yoga into an American idiom.
Truth Lives Here
1.0 out of 5 starsLacking balanced research
June 19, 2018
Unfortunately lacking balanced research and pulling information from mostly one source in regards to direct disciples. And because of that I cannot recommend this book as a representative of Paramahansa Yogananda life. It would be better to read Phil Goldbergs biography of Yogananda which was meticulously researched for the WHOLE truth.
5 people found this helpful
3.0 out of 5 starsWhat is yoga really about?
November 23, 2017
Good historical information, the context within which Yogananda appeared on the scene. Unfortunately, the author does not understand the spiritual dimension of Yogananda nor of Yoga. For her yoga is all about gaining "super powers", and not attaining God.
7 people found this helpful
1.0 out of 5 starsOne Star
January 12, 2018
I cannot recommend a worse commentary on the life of Yogananda. Do not waste your money.
4 people found this helpful
Biography of a yogi : Paramahansa Yogananda and the origins of modern yoga
Anya P. Foxen.
New York, NY : Oxford University Press, 
xviii, 238 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Foxen, Anya P., 1986- author.
Includes bibliographical references (pages 191-228) and index.
The turbaned superman
Yogis without borders
Here comes the yogiman
Hagiography of a yogi.
With over four million copies in print, Parmahansa Yogananda's autobiography has been translated into thirty-three languages, and it still serves as a gateway into yoga and alternative spirituality for countless North American practitioners.
This book examines Yogananda's life and work to clarify linkages between the seemingly disparate aspects of modern yoga, and illuminates the intimate connections between yoga and metaphysically-leaning American traditions such as Unitarianism, New Thought, and Theosophy.
Instead of treating yoga as a stable practice, Anya P. Foxen proposes that it is the figure of the Yogi that gives the practice of his followers both form and meaning.
Focusing on Yogis rather than yoga during the period of transnational popularization highlights the continuities in the concept of the Yogi as superhuman even as it illuminates the transformation of the practice itself.
Skillfully balancing traditional yogic ritual, metaphysical spirituality, physical culture, and a flair for the stage, Foxen shows, Yogananda taught a proto-modern yoga to his American audiences. His Yogoda program has remained under the radar of yoga scholarship due to its lack of reliance on recognizable postures. However, as a regimen of training for the modern Yogi, Yogananda's method synthesizes the spiritual and superhuman aspirations of Indian traditions with the metaphysical and health-oriented sensibilities of Euro-American progressivism in a way that exactly prefigures present-day transnational yoga culture.
Yet, at the heart of it all, Yogananda retains a sense of what it means to be a Yogi: his message is that the natural destiny of the human is the superhuman.
(source: Nielsen Book Data) 9780190668051 20171121