The roots of modern yoga, alt health, and New Age spirituality are tangled with fascist movements of the early 20th century. It’s no secret that Nazis were enthralled by yoga and its esoteric promise of a super human, super-purified body. They turned to India—or rather, their own orientalist dreams of India—for inspiration as they imagined purifying the homeland of Jews, homosexuals, and every modern cultural influence they considered to be degenerate. They created physical culture—the roots of the group exercise we know now—out of the belief that their racial and reproductive supremacy must be maintained through bodily discipline. Many of the “natural” medicine and dietary themes they developed carried the same message: for bodies to be pure, the land must be pure. This leads to very thin lines between organic gardening and eco-fascism, between sun salutes and military calisthenics.
This strange alliance isn’t as strange as it may seem.