True or False? Physical Yoga Has Influenced America More than Spiritual Yoga.

True or False? Physical Yoga Has Influenced America More than Spiritual Yoga.

Answer: False! The reverse is true. Spiritual Yoga has had a far bigger impact on America than the physical poses most people think of as Yoga.

You’ll almost certainly agree after reading the startling new book American Veda: From Emerson and the Beatles to Yoga and Meditation How Indian Spirituality Changed the West by Philip Goldberg

(See accompanying interview with Phil Goldberg.)

The spirituality of the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads, the original texts of Yoga, has found its way into the very core of spiritual life in America, according to Goldberg, even though this is often masked by the form it has taken, and sometimes through outright repression of historical facts.

American Veda is an absolute must-read for anyone serious about Yoga. It is one of the most important books I’ve personally ever read about Yoga, or anything else, for that matter. It is surprising, entertaining, and highly readable throughout, and it will cause you to forever think differently about the impact of Yoga in America.

This book is so momentous, that at first I had trouble imagining how I could adequately describe it’s message and scope in a “review”. Then I suddenly realized that this would be the easiest review I’ve ever written. Here it is:

The following is just a partial list, just to give you an idea, of the famous people who, as documented in American Veda, have been profoundly influenced, not just a little bit influenced, but profoundly and pivotally influenced, by the Yoga of the original ancient Yoga texts, the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads, often referred to as “Vedanta Yoga” (Most are Americans, but I also included others who heavily influenced Americans.):


Ralph Waldo Emerson Henry David Thoreau Walt Whitman Aldous Huxley

Samuel Taylor Coleridge William Wordsworth William Blake Emily Dickinson

Robert Frost Jack Kerouac Allen Ginsberg Alan Watts Gotham Chopra

Tim Gallwey (Inner Game of Tennis) Herman Hesse Oliver Wendell Holmes

Somerset Maugham J. D. Salinger Christopher Isherwood Timothy Leary

Huston Smith T.S. Eliot William Butler Yeats


William James Carl Jung Abraham Maslow Stanislav Grof Daniel Goleman

New Spirituality/Self-help

Eckhart Tolle Deepak Chopra Michael Beckwith (Agape) Ken Wilber

Joseph Cambell Madame Blavatsky (Theosophical Society) Wayne Dyer

Marianne Williamson Norman Vincent Peale Tony Robbins

John Gray Joan Borysenko Andrew Harvey

Musicians & Entertainers

The Beatles (especially George Harrison) Philip Glass Judy Collins

Russell Simmons Elvis Presley John Coltrane Alice Coltrane Donovan

Mick Jagger Marianne Faithful Mia Farrow Mike Love

Paul Horn Madonna John McGlaughlin

Yehudi Menuhin Van Morrison David Lynch Shirley McClaine

Jerry Seinfeld And many others

Religious Figures

Mary Baker Eddy (founder Christian Science) Ernest Holmes (Religious Science)

Thomas Keating Thomas Merton Father Bede Griffiths Rabbi David Gelberman

The “New Thought” Movement (source of many modern congregations)


John Adams Martin Luther King (through Mahatma Gandhi) Booker T. Washington


Arthur Schoepenhauer Friedrich Hegel Alfred North Whitehead


David Bohm (quantum physicist) Rupert Sheldrake (biologist) Fritjof Capra (The Tao of Physics)

J. Robert Oppenheimer Erwin Shroedinger (physicist, close friend of Einstein)

Nikola Tesla (legendary inventor) John Hagelin Amrit Goswami

Health and Wellness

Andrew Weil Dean Ornish Mehmet “Dr.” Oz. Herbert Benson (The Relaxation Response)

See also: How Yoga Has Transformed American Spirtuality: An Interview with Phil Goldberg, Author of “American Veda”, and then read the book!

Phil Goldberg is the author or coauthor of nineteen books, including “Roadsigns: On the Spiritual Path” and “The Intuitive Edge.” Based in Los Angeles, he is an ordained interfaith minister, a public speaker and seminar leader, and the founder of Spiritual Wellness and Healing Associates. He is director of outreach for and blogs regularly on religion for the Huffington Post. Visit or for more information.

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