I just finished listening to Jerome Armstrong - the author of the book Calcutta Yoga, on @jbrownyoga podcast, and it’s just so fascinating to discover more about India’s bodybuilding yogis from last century and the influence they had on modern yoga. In the first photo here is Bishnu Ghosh, who was not only Bikram Choudhury’s guru, but he was Paramahansa Yogananda’s brother, and part of the lineage of Kriya Yoga’s somewhat mythical figure - Babaji. According to Mark Singleton, in his book Yoga Body, and this was a revelation to me, in the early days of coming to America, both the brothers (Yogananda and Bishnu) toured the US giving demonstrations of what they called, “Muscle Control”, which, by all accounts were demonstrations of asanas, feats of strength, and judging by the photos - uddiyana bandha and nauli kriya. This is why I have included the photo of the legendary body builder Frank Zane performing the ‘Abdominal Vacuum’ which is a pose used by body builders - I wonder if they got it from the yogis?
In the fourth image I have chosen a photograph of Ramesh Balsekar, who I was very surprised to find in Singleton’s book, as he was one of (in my opinion) the great non-dual/Advaita Vedanta teachers of the modern era, and he had a big influence on my way of understanding the world when I visited him in his home in Mumbai during the 2000’s. What we were never told was that during the 30’s he was acclaimed to have the most perfect physique in India and was ranked in the top 10 in Great Britain.
Then there is this quote from the great Swami Vivekananda, ““You will understand the Gita better with your biceps, your muscles, a little stronger. You will understand the Upaniṣads better and the glory of the Ātman when your body stands firm upon your feet and you will feel yourselves as men. What I want is muscles of iron and nerves of steel inside which dwells a mind of the same material as that of which the thunderbolt is made. Strength, man-hood, kshatriya-virya plus brahmteja(?))” He called it ‘muscular Hinduism’. All this research that is coming to the fore is fascinating and I urge you to at least consider it - we certainly cannot ignore it.