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In 1927, Travelling Yogis upended the state Government of Oklahoma: Read Here!

Yoga was viewed in the early twentieth century as mental and magical, and broken marriages, suicides, and contested wills were attributed to it

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Yoga at Times Square. Image source: littlemebigyou.wordpress.com
  • The 1920s saw the fears of yoga and its teachers reaching its peak
  • Broken marriages, suicides, and contested wills were attributed to yoga in the early twentieth century
  • The 2016 Yoga in America Study states that 80 million people are likely to try yoga for the first time over the next 12 months

With over 36 million yoga practitioners in the U.S, yoga is expanding its reach above all horizons. Yoga has become so popular that the total expense of yoga classes, clothing, equipment and accessories, has risen to $16 billion a year up from $10 billion over the past four years. The 2016 Yoga in America Study states that thirty-four percent of Americans, or 80 million people, say they are likely to try yoga for the first time over the next 12 months. But yoga wasn’t always held in high regard, it was viewed in the early twentieth century as mental and magical, and broken marriages, suicides, and contested wills were attributed to yoga.

Yoga or “Yogi Philosophy” was common to talk of hypnotism. Yoga teachers in the United States during this time were like travelling salesmen, moving from one town to another and Methodist circuit riding preachers, giving public lectures and teaching private courses. The American public would conjure up fantastic ideas about yoga’s power and the itinerant men from India who taught it as there were very few Asian immigrants. But by the 1920s, figures such as Mabel Daggett grouped these incidents together, connected them to fears of South Asian immigration, and imagined a deliberate conspiracy of “swarthy Hindoo priests” launching a “Heathen Invasion” of the United States.

The 1920s saw the fears of yoga and its teachers reaching its peak.

Henry Simpson Johnston, who moved to the Oklahoma from Indiana to practice law in the town of Perry, became a well-regarded and powerful figure throughout the county. Johnston was then elected to the first Oklahoma Senate, and after returning to his law practice in Perry successfully ran for the Governor’s seat in 1926.

Yogi Wassan Class Image Source: Saada.org ( Texas/Dallas History division of the Dallas Public Library)

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The governor, his secretary, Mrs Oliver Hammonds and her uncle held their own personal array of esoteric and occult beliefs. Johnston was a serial joiner of fraternal organisations and was a member of the Klu Klux Klan, the Freemasons, and the Rosicrucians, and by his own admission counted Theosophy, New Thought, Unity, and Christian Science among his philosophical affinities. Mamie Hammonds was part of the Kamelia, a women’s adjunct to the Klan and her uncle Armstrong who was a Rosicrucian. Johnston, Hammonds and Armstrong also had shared interests in numerology and astrology, mentions saada.org.

These associations created fascinating stories and articles and even warned the people that Oklahoma was under a “dictatorship of the spirits,” and that “Strange Gods” ruled Oklahoma. One of the most problematic of these associations was Judge Armstrong’s relationship with, Yogi Wassan, a Punjabi Sikh immigrant from the village of Ball.

Yogi  Wassan  placed a strong emphasis on physical wellness through diet, exercise, and breathing regimens and would often perform feats of strength on stage and use his own brawny body as proof of his techniques. He was viewed as a sort of mystic pope of the quiet sect of Yogi by the people of Oklahoma.

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Image Source: Saada.org

A pardon he issued for a murderer on the suggestion of his official secretary H.E. Sullivan, and the alleged corruption and mismanagement within the Highway Commission along with his ties to yoga resulted in Johnston’s suspension from his office and an awaiting impeachment trial.

At the end of the impeachment hearings, Johnston was acquitted of nearly all the charges except the vague charge of “general incompetence.”  The media speculated endlessly on rumours of chanting, incense smoke, swamis, and yogis, and it is difficult to not see those same rumours in the single vague charge that removed Johnston from office.

-This article is prepared by Ajay Krishna, a staff-writer at NewsGram.

ALSO READ:

  • Aparna Gupta

    Its good that they are going to practice yoga instead of so many bad things attributed to it. However; suicide, mental, broken marriages and others have no connection with Yoga.

  • AJ Krish

    It is natural that something foreign in nature would be rejected at first.But they sure took yoga and mistook it for something entirely!

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Guantanamo Prison Emerge As Option For IS Fighters

Trump had said in his first State of the Union last year that he would use Guantanamo "in many cases" to detain prisoners as part of the fight against Islamic State and al-Qaida.

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Gauntanamo Bay
The entrance to Camp VI detention facility is guarded at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba, Nov. 20, 2013. VOA

The Guantanamo Bay detention center would receive new prisoners for the first time in more than a decade under one option being considered as the U.S. withdraws its forces from Syria and works to resolve the fate of hundreds of captured suspected Islamic State fighters, officials say.

U.S.-backed Syrian fighters have custody of nearly 1,000 suspected IS fighters who the State Department said should be sent back to their home countries and prosecuted. The Syrian fighters have warned they may not be able to continue to hold the IS fighters after the withdrawal of American forces from Syria ordered by President Donald Trump in December.

If they can’t be repatriated, though, the detention center on the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, could be used to hold them “where lawful and appropriate,” the State Department said Thursday.

“The Administration’s National Strategy for Counterterrorism makes very clear that Law of Armed Conflict detention, including at Guantanamo, remains an important and effective counterterrorism tool,” it said in a statement to The Associated Press in response to questions about the prisoners.

FILE - President Donald Trump delivers his first State of the Union address in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol to a joint session of Congress, Jan. 30, 2018.
President Donald Trump delivers his first State of the Union address in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol to a joint session of Congress, Jan. 30, 2018. VOA

Trump had said in his first State of the Union last year that he would use Guantanamo “in many cases” to detain prisoners as part of the fight against Islamic State and al-Qaida. As a candidate, when asked about what he would do with the controversial detention center, he said he would “load it up with some bad dudes.”

But the administration has not added any prisoners to the detention center that President Barack Obama sought to close, and officials say that sending suspected Islamic State fighters back to their homelands remains the preferred choice.

“Repatriating foreign terrorist fighters to their countries of origin and ensuring they are prosecuted and detained is the best solution to prevent them from returning to the battlefield,” the State Department said.

A U.S. official said Guantanamo is the “option of last resort.” The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the U.S. has identified about 50 people among the more than 900 held by Syrian forces as “high value” suspects that could be transported to Guantanamo if they are not repatriated.

Legal issues

Sending Islamic State prisoners to Guantanamo would open up new legal challenges, according to experts.

U.S.
the administration has not added any prisoners to the detention center that President Barack Obama sought to close, and officials say that sending suspected Islamic State fighters back to their homelands remains the preferred choice. Pixabay

The U.S. is allowed to detain al-Qaida and “associated forces” at Guantanamo under the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force. But whether Islamic State group fighters meets that criteria is an untested question, said Robert Chesney, a national security law professor at the University of Texas.

“No court has ever once had the case and the executive branch for many years has really not wanted the court to answer that question,” Chesney said.

The U.S. began holding prisoners suspected of links to al-Qaida and the Taliban in January 2002, drawing intense international criticism for holding men indefinitely without charge amid reports of mistreatment at the isolated base on the southeastern tip of Cuba.

Prison size

Guantanamo held nearly 700 prisoners at its peak in the summer of 2003. Amid legal challenges and international pressure, more than 500 were released under President George W. Bush. Obama viewed the detention center as a waste of money that damaged America’s reputation and ordered it closed, but was blocked by Congress.

Also Read: Supreme Court Directs Louisiana from Enforcing New Regulations on Abortion Clinics

There are now 40 prisoners held, including nine who have been charged and are facing trial by military commission in proceedings that have dragged on for years.

From a purely practical standpoint, U.S. military officials have said they could accommodate additional prisoners at the base.

The forces overseeing Guantanamo prison say the prison can hold 40 more people “with no additional staffing” and the facility could accommodate 200 more inmates total, “with minimal adjustments to current infrastructure and manpower,” said Navy Cdr. Adam Bashaw, a spokesman for the military task force that runs the detention center. (VOA)