In its earliest uses, the word “yoga” meant “yoke,” primarily yoking a warhorse to a chariot. In the classical period, yoga took on a variety of other meanings, including yoking the mind-body complex through meditative practices, such as breath control and mantras, to achieve liberation. In this interview, ...

About this episode

In this interview, we discuss the history and development of yoga in its South Asian contexts, and then examine its transformations across the globe into the contemporary era. In its earliest uses, the word “yoga” meant “yoke,” primarily yoking a warhorse to a chariot. In the classical period, yoga took on a variety of other meanings, including yoking the mind-body complex through meditative practices, such as breath control and mantras, to achieve liberation. Yoga was an analysis of perception and cognition, whereby to know something is to be it; higher states of consciousness could expand individuals into the universe and even to omniscience. Yoga also included achieving superpowers through sexual and other bodily alchemical practices, allowing practitioners to see through things and to take over other human bodies. In tantric yoga, which developed during the medieval period, the goal became not union with the absolute but rather to become a living god, a yogi, through occult practices. In hatha yoga, practitioners regulated their breath and channeled vital fluids within the body, via chakras, in order to achieve awakening and supernatural powers. Contemporary forms of yoga as postural practice developed from Hindu Vedanta, Indian nationalism, the Orientalist resurrection of the Yoga Sutras, Theosophy, Swedish gymnastics, and other sources, and constitute a relatively recent phenomenon in the history of yoga. Even more recently, the study of yoga in North America has been riven by debates about what counts as “authentic” yoga and who gets to make such claims authoritatively, as the Hindu America Foundation’s Take Back Yoga campaign can attest.

This episode has not been transcribed yet. 

Consider a donation to pay for the cost of editing a transcript?

Related Resources

The Legacy of Edward Tylor – Roundtable

Podcast

This roundtable recorded at the annual BASR conference at the University of Chester 2017 brought together a group of scholars interested in different perspectives on the legacy of Tylor. Topics discussed included his impact on indigenous societies, the debates over animism,
Emile Durkheim

Podcast

"...a vital tradition of the study of religion is the Durkheimian intellectual tradition. Generally dismissed by many in the study of religion because of its supposedly narrow "sociological" bent, the school of scholarship represented by Émile Durkheim, Henri Hubert, Marcel Mauss, Louis Dumont, Roger Caillois, Georges Bataille and others is, ...
The Faith of the Killable: A Faith for Empowerment?

Response

This framework of socioeconomic disparity and violence is key to understand how entire population sectors in Río become and remain killable people, and to assess the serious restraints that inmates who proceed from these sectors will face again, once their time in prison is finished. As one listens to Dr. Johnson describe the high homicide rates of Río de Janeiro, the gap in between the haves and the have nots, as well as the appalling conditions he witnessed –through use of an admirable methodology– in this city’s prison system, ...

Responses to this episode

Timeless Yoga and Sinister Yogis: David Gordon White’s Brief History of Yoga

The current proliferation of studies exploring the development of contemporary yoga can be seen as a direct challenge to popular perceptions of yoga as a timeless and unified practice which are reproduced (often as a marketing ploy) in non-academic contexts. Research on the history of yoga has steadily grown throughout the past two decades, focusing primarily on developments and transformations since the height of the colonial period in India.

Other EPISODES YOU MIGHT ENJOY

Developing a Critical Study of Non-Religion

Podcast

Can discourse analysis help scholars avoid the pitfalls of studying non-religion? In his new book, RSP Co-Founder Christopher R. Cotter argues it can. Speaking with co-host Breann Fallon, this interview highlights the challenges of studying non-religion while celebrating the promise of new methodologies.
Video Games and Religious Studies

Podcast

The project of legitimating new cultural commodities into the canon of interpretative objects can be lengthy process. In this interview with University of North Carolina at Greensboro Associate Professor Greg Grieve, video games are presented as a content moving from the margins to the center of the intersection of religion and popular culture.
Cognitive Approaches to the Study of Religion

Podcast

The cognitive study of religion has quickly established itself as the paradigmatic methodology in the field today. It’s grounded in the concept that religiosity is natural because it is well adapted to the cognitive propensities developed during the evolution of our species. In this episode, Professor Armin Geertz tells Chris why it deserves its prominent profile, and how it is developing.
Religious Experience

Podcast

In this wide-ranging interview (our 50th!), Ann Taves and David Wilson discuss the concept of religious experience. Taves challenges traditional models of religious experience, rejecting both an essentialist approach with a sui generis category and a constructivist approach which accepts only discourses. Instead, she argues that not only can we examine unusual experiences in themselves, ...
Yoga in Museums

Podcast

Yoga, in its modern form, should be of great interest to scholars of religion. While it certainly has roots in Vedic culture, the vast majority of Western practitioners do not see it as "religious", but rather to do with health or "well-being". Yoga's status as religious has been in court, ...
Christmas Special – Only 60 Seconds!

Podcast

Can Steve Sutcliffe talk about “habitus” for a full 60 seconds without deviation, hesitation or repetition? How much does David Wilson know about “Postmodernism”? Mr David Robertson is your host (ably assisted by Mr Chris Cotter) for this special festive episode of the Religious Studies Pro Recorded live in Edinburgh on December 20th, 2012.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- NonCommercial- NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

The views expressed in podcasts, features and responses are the views of the individual contributors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Religious Studies Project or our sponsors. The Religious Studies Project is produced by the Religious Studies Project Association (SCIO), a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (charity number SC047750).