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Modern Yoga Studies: Critical History, Anthropology and Methodology

Course Number: 3004
One of the primary questions students of modern yoga seek to answer is precisely how the forms of contemporary yoga practiced today are connected to pre-modern forms of yoga developed in India. To begin to answer this question and to formulate new questions, this course will trace some of the historical continuities and discontinuities between pre-modern and modern yoga practices, demonstrating that modern yoga is a complicated, transnational cultural product. We will explore the legacy of the first yoga teachers who brought yoga to America and Europe as well as yoga’s development from a historical, social, and political perspective.

Students will thus take into account current scholarly debates regarding the relationship of transnational yoga to categories such as capitalism, neoliberalism, orientalism, racism, speciesism, gender, cultural appropriation, biopolitics, nationalism, and colonization. Doing so will encourage yoga practitioners to adopt new methodologies concerning the critical study of modern yoga, and will also give them an opportunity to confront and unravel saṃskāras, or acquired mental impressions and social conditionings, related to their inherited beliefs regarding the origins, history, and contemporary practice of yoga. The course is thus simultaneously intellectual as well as, from a yogic perspective, transformational.

Learning Area

Yoga, Self-care and Spirituality