From Transcendence to Therapy: A Natural History of the Body in Yoga

Any natural history of yoga has to be grounded with conceptions of the body and its purpose through time. We’ll look at Indian sources for the cosmic body, the body of sacrifice, the body as temple, the meanings of dismemberment and mortification in mythology, and then the “hydraulic awakening laboratory” of the medieval Tantric body. We’ll look at the confusing way in which “hatha” has been translated—as “violent exertion”. Is that accurate?

How do these bodies relate to modern bodies of therapy and performance? How does the perception and consideration of the body change with colonization, industrialization, photography, and the burgeoning of the Indian Independence movement?

Who was T. Krishnamacharya? Why was he teaching yoga? For whom? How many roles did he have to play? What role did demonstration have in his pedagogy? What did he teach the students who would go on to globalize yoga as a “secular religion”?

Finally, how can we see all of these influences—somatic, psychological, philosophical, and religious—in the contemporary yoga marketplace?

Throughout this journey, we’ll see a primary tension and paradox emerge: it’s hard to know what we’re actually doing in asana, because we’re unclear about the relationship between older drives towards transcendence, and the newer ideals of therapy, which imply horizontal learning relationships and informed consent.

In researching how modern practitioners navigated the physical and emotional costs of practice in terms of disillusionment and injury, Matthew has also had the great pleasure of interviewing thought-leaders who are revolutionizing practice to address these very stresses. Woven throughout and concluding the weekend will be the findings of lead researchers and teachers in biomechanics, neurophysiology and breath, psychology, cognitive/academic/language issues, and ultimate existential concerns.

Tuition: $105

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This workshop is open to anyone, and is part of our 300-hour Advanced Teacher Training. If you are taking the class toward your teaching certification, please register for the program online in advance.


Please plan carefully: Refunds of 90% are granted up to 5 days prior to the workshop start; after which, no refunds are given.