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Summer school of yoga

As a yoga teacher, I became a researcher partly to better understand contemporary yoga, and partly to share the unheard stories of those around me. As a researcher, the work we do can be measured not just by its quality, but also its impact – how well we engage with people to talk about our findings. So part of sharing my work is talking to academics about yoga, and another part is talking to yoga people about what academia thinks about yoga.

Very occasionally, all those worlds come together. I’m truly excited to be teaching this summer on the first international Jagiellonian University Yoga Studies Summer School.

The event is a learning platform where university students, scholars, and non-academics can come together to broaden their knowledge of the most up to date research into yoga. I suspect this event is able to go ahead on the back of the great international academic yoga studies conference held at the university last year. Those kind of conferences don’t come up very often, and this summer’s event is equally rare. I’m more than a little nervous to be sharing a timetable with some of the amazing scholars I met there last year.

  • Michel Angot from Paris will be leading sessions on “Analyzing the Yoga Sūtra with Ancient Tools and Experiencing it Through Recitation”
  • Raffaelle Torella from Rome will be talking about “Yoga as Seen from the Heights of Non-Dualistic Śaiva Tantra”
  • Małgorzata Sacha from Krakow will be looking at “Meeting at the Crossroads: Yoga, Psychology, (Psycho)therapy”
  • Matylda Ciołkosz also from Krakow will be leading discussions on “Body, Language and Modern Postural Yoga”
  • Gudrun Bühnemann from Wisconsin will be looking at “Aspects of the Visual History of Yoga”
  • Jason Birch from SOAS and the Hatha Yoga Project will be talking about “The History of Medieval Haṭha and Rājayoga”
  • And I, Theodora Wildcroft, will be leading sessions exploring “Re-thinking the Yoga Body”

My sessions will be interactive but accessible. We’ll consider how the intention and cultural context of yoga shapes the physical practice, and shapes the bodies of those that practice it. We’ll explore the disciplined body of the Mysore Ashtanga revival, the biomedical body, the yoking together of physical and devotional practices, the subtle body and self-transformation, and the impact of gender and neoliberalism on recent bodily practice.

Can you tell an Iyengar vrksasana from an Integral yoga version? Why do we hold poses for five breaths? Is there such a thing as a ‘feminine’ or ‘masculine’ asana practice? What do we mean when we talk about ‘functional’, ‘natural’ or ‘healthy’ movement? What are the boundaries of modern postural yoga? Is everything done on a yoga mat considered yoga?

My sessions are first thing in the morning on the first week. They’ll be back to back with Jason and Gudrun, and I think any yoga teacher or dedicated student would get a lot from this combination. Overall, there’s a nice balance between the historical, sociological and philosophical material. And I can’t emphasise this enough: the people teaching at this summer school are researchers, like myself. You’ll get to hear about findings that haven’t even been published yet, from people who are really excited about what they’re doing.

I really hope to see you there!

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