Yoga, transformation and tourism

Authored by: Melanie Kay Smith , Ivett Sziva

The Routledge Handbook of Health Tourism

Print publication date:  November  2016
Online publication date:  November  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138909830
eBook ISBN: 9781315693774
Adobe ISBN: 9781317437505


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This chapter will examine the relationship between yoga, transformation and tourism, building on the work of Reisinger (2013, 2015) and Ponder and Holladay (2013). It is based on the idea that yoga is a practice which can gradually change the the life of human beings and possibly communities too. It may start with the physical body as a series of postures, but mental and spiritual transformation can follow, especially with regular practice. Even medical science has tentatively started to recognise the health benefits of yoga, e.g. for back pain, anxiety, depression, hypertension and asthma (Verrastro, 2014), but more especially as an adjunct to mitigate some medical conditions (Büssing et al., 2012). The concept of transformational tourism will be used, as defined by Reisinger (2013, 2015), where travel has the potential to contribute to a return to the existentially authentic self. This includes addressing the fundamental question(s) about meaning of life and embracing a less materialistic, more spiritual path. Yoga can arguably pave the way for such a transformation. It will be argued that for those who practise yoga this process starts even before travel takes place, but that the practice of yoga engenders a desire to intensify practice in alternative settings and maybe more ‘authentic’ ones (for example, in India), for longer periods and with like-minded communities. Ponder and Holladay (2013: 101) suggest that the development of yogic activities and spaces can lead to the creation of communities or tribes, who then seek yogic experiences in other places, e.g. through tourism. Yoga has the capacity to transform lives within both leisure and tourism contexts and can even become a vehicle for societal changes. As stated by Garrett (2001: 337), yoga ‘contains a potential for ethical development, for the transformation of self beyond ego towards responsibility for others’.

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