What exactly is yoga, and how did it evolve from transcending the world to a global industry worth billions of dollars? This workshop explores where yoga comes from, and how its practice relates to philosophy over the centuries. We begin with ancient texts, tracing the development of yogic teachings, and seeing how ascetics from different traditions exchanged ideas. We then focus in depth on the physical practice known as hatha, and see how priorities changed to transforming the body, eventually developing into modern forms of yoga.
There has always been a tension in yoga between social engagement and inward retreat. Although some teachings promote being kinder, this is to help with withdrawal from the outside world not harmonious relationships. That’s not how yama and niyama are usually presented to modern practitioners – or how people interpret them. If old texts need adapting to sound more appealing, should we look elsewhere for moral guidance? Might other ethical frameworks be more relevant to modern challenges? Come and share ideas at a workshop in London!
From triyoga’s blog: “This summer, the triyoga book club turn their attention towards Eckhart Tolle’s best-seller The Power of Now. Yoga practitioner and scholar Daniel Simpson will guide students on a four-week exploration of how to be here now. Ahead of the course’s start, Daniel touches on his personal experience with the book as well as core themes to be discussed and questioned. If finding lasting peace of mind is of interest to you, booking this course is a no-brainer…”
I’m co-teaching this weekend immersion (May 4-5) on Patanjali’s sutras, traditional commentaries and modern applications. It’s a great opportunity to focus in depth on foundational aspects of yogic philosophy, to ask lots of questions and meet fellow students. This might have added appeal if you’ve already taken an online course through the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, which is hosting the event. There’ll be presentations from Dr Nick Sutton and other OCHS staff, plus some guest contributions.
What exactly is hatha? In modern yoga usage, it often refers to a slow approach – perhaps in contrast to flow – but originally it covered all aspects of physical practice, from breathing techniques to arm balances. In Sanskrit, the traditional language of yogic texts, the word hatha means “force”. It is therefore a “forceful” form of yoga, whose dynamic techniques have powerful effects. Another meaning of hatha is “obstinacy”, which suggests a need for strength of will.
In October, I'll be teaching yoga history and philosophy on a teacher training course in London. There'll be 15 hours of classes over two days (22 / 23 October), exploring what we know about the evolution of practice from the distant past to the present day. This essay gives a brief introduction to what to expect. The photo shows Jim Mallinson, with whom I've been studying at SOAS as part of my MA in Traditions of Yoga and Meditation.