Forty million Americans practice yoga.  Sanskrit words like mantra, guru and karma are part of everyday speech, and certain Indian precepts are so commonly held that Newsweek titled a 2009 article “We Are All Hindus Now.”  Yoga has become a billion-dollar industry – there is hot yoga, flow yoga, Christian Yoga, Jewish Yoga, chocolate yoga, cannabis yoga, and goat yoga.   

We’ve also seen a cultural backlash. Parents in Encinitas, CA sued their school district, claiming that teaching Yoga in public schools violates church-state separation. The case triggered a national debate: Is yoga a religion? An exercise regime? A philosophy?

From 19th century Transcendentalists Emerson and Thoreau to the Beatles, the Simpsons, and Mad Men, yoga and Vedanta have moved from the counterculture into our laboratories, libraries, and living rooms.  Today, physicians and therapists routinely recommend meditation, and Yoga studios are as ubiquitous as Starbucks. The American Veda Documentary Project explores how Americans have adopted, adapted, and appropriated the yogic and Vedantic precepts and practices from ancient India, contributing to what some call a “spiritual revolution” in our midst. AVDP is a four-hour television series, a traveling museum exhibit, an interactive website, and study guide.

Supported by the California Humanities Council.