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Re-Thinking Yoga Pedagogy

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I gave this presentation at the ‘Yogascapes in Japan’ Conference in Kyoto.

Re-Thinking Yoga Pedagogy

This paper is based on my dissertation for the MA Traditions of Yoga and Meditation, taught at SOAS, UK. The main attempt is to initiate a discourse about the ways in which contemporary yoga is taught. Through the lens of critical theory, modern yoga as a commodity is examined. Neoliberal dynamics are characterized by flows of goods and ideas between different nations and nation states. Modern yoga became what it is through these exchange flows. The narratives of individualism, modernism and nationalism are present in yoga. My hypothesis is, that this formation of yoga is established and promoted by the globally functioning body of the Yoga Alliance. This paper scrutinizes the role of Yoga Alliance as well as their model of yoga teacher trainings in establishing yoga as a commodity.

Furthermore, the methodology of yoga teacher trainings as well as the content taught are analyzed. The overemphasis of the Yoga Sūtra of Pātañjali as ‘classical’ mainstream yoga philosophy will be understood as a tool for the conceptualization of yoga in the light of neoliberalism. Building up on the previous analysis, I offer an example of an alternative curriculum in yoga philosophy to disrupt the reproduction of the neoliberalist rhetoric. The poetry of the tāntrika Lal Ded constitutes an emancipatory yoga philosophy. This if followed by the introduction of engaged yoga pedagogy, which is informed by the findings of educator bell hooks. With this revolutionized didactic approach in yoga teacher trainings, yoga could transform into an impactful motor of social change.