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March 29, 2013

Featured Find: Yoga Master of Disguise

Sir Paul Dukes papers, Box 3, Hoover Institution Archives.
Sir Paul Dukes papers, Box 3, Hoover Institution Archives.
Sir Paul Dukes papers, Box 3, Hoover Institution Archives.
Sir Paul Dukes papers, Box 3, Hoover Institution Archives.

When setting off for your yoga class, take a moment to think about Sir Paul Dukes, British journalist, author, and master of espionage and disguise.  Credited for helping introduce yoga to the West with his books Yoga for the Western World (1958)and The Yoga of Health, Youth, and Joy: A Treatise on Hatha Yoga Adapted to the West (1960), Dukes's life story reads more like that of an action hero than a yoga guru.

After traveling through Belgium, Poland, and Germany, Dukes became a concert pianist at a conservatory in St. Petersburg, Russia. After the outbreak of World War I he enlisted in the army, but his language skills prevailed over his skills as a soldier.  Having worked for a brief time in the press department of the British embassy, following the rise of the Soviet government, he began working for the British intelligence service.  Using a number of disguises, Dukes managed to join the Red Army, sneak individuals out of prisons, and infiltrate the inner circles of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.  In honor of his espionage work, Paul Dukes was knighted in 1920.

Dukes was drawn to yoga for the discipline and endurance required of one's mind and body (similar to that required for undercover intelligence work).  In addition to his diaries and writings, the Sir Paul Dukes papers include photographs of Dukes and his wife, Diana Fitzgerald, demonstrating a number of yoga poses.