Yoga Studies Seminar: Critically thinking through issues in Contemporary Yoga

Join Ruth Westoby to study, discuss and reflect on some of the critical issues in yoga in this new six week online course.

Yoga Studies Ruth Westoby

Course Content

  1. Time, history and philosophy within the context of practice
  2. Cultural appropriation: legacies of colonialism
  3. Feminist frames of female practitioners, physical bodies, bodies of knowledge
  4. The neoliberal worldview: yoga economics and spiritual materialism
  5. Teaching yoga post guru-gate
  6. Retreat and renounce or engage and react? Nirvṛtti and pravṛtti dharma

In these seminars Ruth will offer a framing of contemporary concerns in the world of yoga, making accessible critical perspectives from the academy. Ruth will provide resources – written and audio - to explore in advance of the sessions. During the online, live seminars Ruth will summarise key concepts and contextualise them in order to create space for dialogue. Time will be devoted to discussions—in smaller groups—to engage the concepts and articulate your views.


1: Time, history and philosophy as yoga praxis

  • time as progress or cyclical
  • critical theory as spiritual practice

2: Cultural appropriation: legacies of colonialism

  • power
  • appropriation / appreciation

3: Feminist frames of female practitioners, physical bodies, bodies of knowledge

  • gender
  • body image and imagining the body
  • menstruation

4: The neoliberal worldview: yoga economics and spiritual materialism

  • capitalism, productivity, utility
  • endgame: liberation from the world or success in the world?

5: Teaching yoga post guru-gate

  • abuse in yoga
  • #metoo
  • paramparā: lineage structures
  • cult dynamics
  • non-hierarchical pedagogies?

6: Retreat and renounce or engage and react? Nirvṛtti and pravṛtti dharma

  • ethics of yoga

Course Delivery

The course will be delivered live through the online platform Zoom. The timezone is UK, GMT. The introductory framings of each session will be recorded and made available for participants to access for 48 hours after each session. The majority of the sessions will be interactive and will not be recorded. To participate in the course participants need access to a computer, stable internet connection, microphone and camera to engage in the discussion.

What Will I Learn?

  • active participation is required
  • the intention is to deliver clear, accessible summaries of key concepts and sensitively frame these complex issues
  • participants will receive resources to engage with in advance of the sessions, drawn from a variety of academic and general literature, audio and film
  • participants will receive a summary handout for each session
  • participants will receive extensive resource suggestions to continue their studies

Who is this Course For?

This course is designed for everyone who is curious about yoga whether they be practitioners, teachers, teachers-in-training or teacher trainers. The course does not require prior study in the history and philosophy of yoga though familiarity will help. Students are directed towards the introductory sections of James Mallinson and Mark Singleton’s 2017 Roots of Yoga to acquaint themselves with the broad outlines of the history of yoga.


There are two 50% bursaries offered to anyone who is committed to engaging with the full course and is in sufficient financial need. The deadline for applications is 5th January 2021. Please click here to fill in and submit a bursary application form to be considered.

Meet the Teacher

Ruth Westoby is a doctoral researcher in yoga and an Ashtanga practitioner. As well as offering workshops and lectures at studios and conferences, Ruth teaches on some of the principal teacher training programmes in the UK and beyond. Ruth is on the steering committee for the SOAS Centre of Yoga Studies.

Ruth collaborated with the Haṭha Yoga Project’s ‘embodied philology’, interpreting postures from an 18th-century text teaching a precursor of modern yoga, the Haṭhābhyāsapaddhati, in 2016 and 2017. Ruth began to explore yoga practices in 1996 and started teaching postural yoga in 2004. In 2010 she received an MA in Indian Religions from SOAS, University of London, with Distinction. Ruth has studied closely with Hamish Hendry and Richard Freeman. In 2015 she was authorized by Sharat to teach Ashtanga level 2.

Ruth is researching for a doctoral thesis on ‘Bodies in Haṭhayoga: Gender, Materiality and Power’ at SOAS under the supervision of James Mallinson. Please see

Ruth Westoby Yoga

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