THE SUBTLE BODY, The Story of Yoga in America, by Stefanie Syman, is an excellent and informative book published in 2010, that gives a different approach to this often confused and intricate history as the introduction will reveal. The introduction is one of the best I have read for many years that intelligently discusses YOGA and its beginnings and some of its consequences and contradictory aspects in- so-far as American understand YOGA.
I became acquainted with yoga as a 'baby-child' when I used to be given a massive book on MEDICAL HOME REMEDIES and the like. In that was,though it was a while before I actually understood such, a section on YOGA with photographs and descriptions. It was from this that I gave my first 'lecture',actually a classroom talk in Stevens High School when I was a sophomore in Mrs. Bucko's English Class. My topic was entitle WHAT IS A YOGI? And my answer to that was, A YOGI IS ONE WHO DOES YOGA.
One of my classmates(Harriet Fish) at the time said,"Oh, yogis are people who stand on their heads!" At the time, a movie comedian had a film out that involved 'wrestling' and one of the wrestlers did yoga and from that everyone seemed to have that erroneous conception. Of course, other things, like RIPLEY'S BELIEVE IT OR NOT, often showed yoga drawings and some times pictures in magazines appeared of 'yogis', sword swallowers, fakirs,etc. All of which led to many misconceptions of YOGA.
A popular magazine came out that further gave much occult and mystical information,etc. It was called FATE and I once had numerous copies of this magazine and was an avid reader. My aunt introduced me to this magazine and others. Since those days, my interest in YOGA has had its 'ups and downs' with other similar things. Some of which I may discuss at another time.
THE SUBTLE BODY is the English description of THE SUKSHMA SHARIRA or, as it is called more often by those mentioning this: THE LINGA SHARIRA. Other names for the various 'bodies of man' will be discussed eventually when I have more time. There are the 'astral body', the 'etheric body, the mental body, the emotional body, etc. Much of this needs a lot of time to describe and discuss and the information varies, of course, from attempts to prove the existence of all this to merely stating such exists and then giving 'exercises' or 'practices' to use or work these bodies,etc. often with just printed instructions rather than from a personal teacher, guide or 'guru'.
SHARIRA means 'body' or 'sheath' which surrounds these 'subtle aspects' and these 'coverings' are also known as KOSHA of which some writings describe as five in number envelope the ATMAN, another term that needs further elucidation.
In this respect, YOGA and VEDANTA and other systems of HINDU PHILOSOPHY & THOUGHT have to be considered and most practitioners of modern yoga are seldom aware of such, focusing mainly on the PHYSICAL EXERCISES,GYMNASTICS, BREATHING, & DIETING PRACTICES among many other things that do not deal fully with the 'secret', 'esoteric', 'mystical' or 'religious' areas,some of which have always been controversial for many in the United States as well as in other countries.