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Yoga History, Philosophy, and Sanskrit (Perennial Yoga YTT)

October 13 - October 14

Perennial Yoga 200hr YTT, Fall 2018

Module 1 — The Story of Yoga: A 2,500-year Visual and Textual History

This module provides trainees with a foundational overview and the “big picture” of the history of yoga. Drawing on the latest scholarship in yoga studies, together we will journey from yoga’s shrouded origins as an ascetic tradition in ancient India, to the emergence of postural yoga in the West and around the globe—an incredible journey that takes us from the periphery of premodern Indian civilization to the center of modern American health and wellness! Along the way we will explore attempts to define “yoga”, the relationship between yoga philosophy and practice, the origins and history of yogic āsanas, the multi-billion dollar commercialization of India’s largest religio-cultural export, and much more. Debunking common misperceptions about yoga’s antiquity, we will uncover the incredible ways yoga has changed, innovated, and been adopted by millions of practitioners over the past 2,500 years!


Modules 2-3 — The Language of Yoga: An Introduction to Sanskrit 1 and 2

Sanskrit is one of the most ancient languages in the world, and is the lingua franca of yoga. In ancient and medieval India, Sanskrit was the dominant intellectual, spiritual, and cosmopolitan language—its literature spreading across the broader South and Southeast Asian world. Often written in the Devanāgarī script, it is said to be the language of the gods—the “perfected” language (saṃskṛta). For some, it is revered as the language and voice (vāc) of the entire cosmos, the vibratory ground of reality itself. Hundreds of yoga scriptures were written in Sanskrit on palm-leaf manuscripts, only a small percentage of which survive today. For thousands of years, sacred Sanskrit mantras—efficacious sound technologies—have been chanted, sung, and meditated upon for spiritual benefit. Innumerable hymns, works of poetry, literature, dramas, and philosophical treatises have been composed in this beautiful, complex, and ancient Indo- European language.

In this 2-part workshop students are exposed to this rich legacy of Sanskrit’s literary past, and guided through a unique experience of studying the Sanskrit language today. We will begin with a brief introduction to the history of Sanskrit—learning about its grammatical nature, scripts, literature, and Sanskrit’s unique role as the purveyor of yogic wisdom through its precise syllabary. We then focus our attention towards learning how Sanskrit is represented phonetically in Roman characters with “diacritic” marks. Understanding only a few rules of Sanskrit in transliteration will allow anyone who can read English to pronounce any Sanskrit word properly. In particular, we give attention to the correct pronunciation of the names of common yogic terminology and postures. Slowly, we will progress towards chanting a few Sanskrit mantras, some short sūtras from Patañjali’s Yogasūtra, building towards our “peak” practice—the recitation of a few traditional Sanskrit verses (śloka) from yogic scriptures.

Participants will walk away with:

• A deeper appreciation for Sanskrit’s spiritual and cosmopolitan history
• A better understanding of Sanskrit’s literary past
• A brief introduction to Sanskrit grammar
• An understanding of how to read Sanskrit in transliteration (i.e. in the Roman alphabet) • Knowledge of the most commonly mispronounced Sanskrit words in the yoga world
• Confidence in their ability to correctly pronounce yogic terms in Sanskrit


Module 4 — The Yoga of Action & Devotion: The Bhagavadgītā

In this module we will read, chant, and explore the Bhagavadgītā, or the “Song of the Lord” — one of the great Sanskrit yoga texts of classical India. Through this timeless dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna—teacher and student, God and devotee—we are gifted a spiritual excursus on the meaning of life, the nature of yoga, one’s social and moral duty (dharma), devotion (bhakti), and ethical action (karma) in the world. The Gītā offers two of the earliest definitions of yoga in a Sanskrit text, both of which we will explore, in addition to the following models of yoga: Karmayoga (“the yoga of action”), Dhyānayoga (“the yoga of meditation”), Jñānayoga (“the yoga of gnosis”), and Bhaktiyoga (“the yoga of devotion”). Unlike more ascetic models of classical Yoga which ask of the yogin to retreat from the world, the Gītā’s universal message promotes a social ethic of engaging in the world through yogic practice, by turning all of one’s activities into yogic service and devotion. We will reflect on the relationship between the Gītā and the Yogasūtra, and moreover, contemplate its relation to our own lives and yoga practice.

Note: All modules intend to unfold organically and in conversation with the unique group of students. Each class allows plenty of space for dialogue, questions, and contemplation.


October 13
October 14
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Perennial Yoga
5500 E. Cheryl Parkway
Fitchburg, WI 53711 United States
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