The Müller System
Jørgen Peter Müller (1866 - 1938) was a Danish gymnastics educator and author. His book ‘My System’, published in 1904, was a bestseller. His system consists of 18 exercises done in a daily 15 minute routine. The system also includes stretching and breathing routines and a towel-rubbing routine to follow a daily bath.
Müller encouraged individuals to use his system in order that they “might have children who are improved editions of their parents” so rendering “the noblest service to the state” by “raising the level of the race as a whole” (‘My System’, 1905).
A driving force behind the rise of physical culture was a growing concern about the physical and mental decline of humanity. Degeneracy was a term that was widely used to suggest that a particular social or cultural group was in decline or, in the case of Western ‘races’ at risk of moving past their prime.
Fortunately this process was said to be reversible. The hereditary flaws of previous generations could be reversed by better education, exercise, and selective breeding. Self-improvement and good health could be aligned with the greater good and national improvement.
Some postures in Müller's system are uncannily similar to modern yoga postures. Mark Singleton notes that the yoga posture, ‘the plank’, appears in his system decades before it is seen in yoga systems.
But Müller was also aware of yoga. In his book on breathing he discusses the “Yogi complete breath”, although he finds his own system to be better. His system was certainly known in colonial India, suggesting an exchange of ideas with the emergent modern yoga systems in South Asia.