Published online by Cambridge University Press: 04 June 2021
This chapter explores how late nineteenth-century self-care guides, exercise manuals, and travel handbooks began to integrate Eastern physical and spiritual practices as health advice. It considers how European and American women became increasingly intrigued by and immersed within practices such as meditation, yoga exercises (asana), and breathing methods (pranayama). Tracing connections between gender and empire, the chapter suggests that engagement with Indian yogic philosophies and physical practices offered women alternatives to Western medicine – an increasingly institutional system from which they were often excluded. In a culture where medical and scientific practices increasingly limited women’s participation and sometimes stifled their capabilities and experiences, many women turned to foreign spaces as sites of healing and participated within alternative systems of self-care that encouraged more flexible and intuitive ways of thinking about the body and its relationship to the mind and spiritual practices.