YS 101 | An Introduction to the History and Philosophy of Yoga

An 18-Hour Online Course
with Seth Powell (Harvard University)


Distance Learning

Study the history and philosophy of yoga, at your own pace, from the comfort of your own home. 

Digital Svādhyāya

Engage in the traditional practice of "Self-Study," using the latest in modern online learning technologies.

Online Community

Join a thriving online community of yoga teachers, practitioners, and students from around the world. 


Open Enrollment

Sign up anytime and receive immediate access to all six course modules!

Curious about the historical roots of yoga? Want to know more about the philosophical and spiritual underpinnings of physical yoga practice? Wonder how old all those yogic postures really are? And what does the Yogasūtra have to do with sun salutations and vinyāsa flow, anyways?

Join Seth Powell, PhD Candidate at Harvard University, for an exciting 18-hour online course that will provide you with an in-depth introduction to yoga’s multifaceted history and philosophy. Through video lectures, slides, PDF handouts, quizzes, and optional readings, 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—a journey that takes us from the periphery of premodern Indian civilization to the center of modern American health and wellness.

As the global popularity of yoga has skyrocketed in recent years—with over 30 million practitioners in the U.S. alone—so too, the past decade has witnessed a renaissance in the academic study of yoga.

In this new online format, Seth offers in a personable and truly accessible manner, an overview of the latest and most exciting research in yoga studies—illuminating yoga’s past and present. Along the way, we will debunk common misperceptions about yoga’s antiquity and uncover the incredible ways yoga has changed, innovated, and been adopted by millions of practitioners over the past 2,500+ years!

"An accessible, Harvard-quality course in Yoga Studies"

Course Structure

Module 1 — What is Yoga? An Introduction to Yoga Studies

Module 2 — Forest Ascetics and Sages: The Early History of Yoga 

Module 3 — Stilling the Body, Stilling the Mind: The Yogasūtra of Patañjali

Module 4 — The Song of the Lord: The Bhagavad Gītā and the Yoga of Devotion

Module 5 — The Yoga of Force: Tantra and Medieval Haṭhayoga 

Module 6 — Yoga in the Modern World: The Rise of Modern Postural Yoga

Topics covered in this course include:

  • How old is yoga? Is yoga really a 5,000 year-old tradition?
  • Examining the sources and methods for constructing yoga’s ancient past
  • Understanding the various meanings of the word yoga, and tracking the ways it has changed throughout history
  • The relationship between early Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism, and Yoga
  • Understanding the philosophy of the Yogasūtra and its relation to later yoga traditions
  • Bhaktiyoga and the Bhagavad Gītā
  • Yoga philology and the threatened loss of Sanskrit palm-leaf manuscripts
  • Taking stock of the major and minor texts of yoga
  • Exciting new research on the roots of medieval Haṭhayoga (“the yoga of force”)
  • How Tantra and Haṭhayoga are interrelated
  • The "yogic body": prāṇanāḍīs, cakras, and Kuṇḍalinī
  • The history and chronology of yogic postures (āsana)
  • New visual and material evidence of the history of physical yoga
  • Tracing the birth of modern postural yoga
  • Assessing yoga’s rising global popularity
  • Yoga and religion
  • Contemporary yoga, politics, consumerism, and cultural appropriation
  • The “pizza effect” of yoga

Students enrolled in this course will receive:

  • 6 video/audio lectures 
  • 6 Q&A session videos (pre-recorded)
  • 18 Hours of CE credit
  • Syllabus with Recommended Module Readings (PDF)
  • Historical Timeline of Yoga (PDF)
  • 10 Early Definitions of Yoga from Sanskrit Source Texts (PDF)
  • Yogic Studies Certificate upon completion (PDF)
  • Access to the private Facebook Yogic Studies Online Community
  • BONUS Extended Bibliography for Further Study (PDF)

Course Preview

Module 1 What is Yoga? An Introduction to Yoga and Yoga Studies

Module 2 Forest Ascetics and Sages: Tracing the Early History of Yoga

Module 3 Stilling the Body, Stilling the Mind: The Yogasūtra of Patañjali

Module 4 The Song of the Lord: The Bhagavad Gītā and the Yoga of Devotion

Module 5 The Yoga of Force: The Emergence of Tantra and Medieval Haṭhayoga 

Module 6 Yoga in the Modern World: The Rise of Modern Postural Yoga

Module 1 — What is Yoga? An Introduction to Yoga Studies

Preview the first 32 minutes from the first lecture.


To watch the rest of this video and the remaining Modules, enroll in YS 101 today.


This course is eligible for 18 hours of Continued Education (CE) credits with Yoga Alliance

Your Instructor

Seth Powell is a longtime practitioner of yoga and a scholar of Indian religions, Sanskrit, and yoga traditions, and is the founder of Yogic Studies. He is currently a PhD Candidate in South Asian Religions at Harvard University, where he is writing his dissertation on the history, theory, and practice of medieval and early modern yoga traditions. Seth also holds degrees in the study of religion from the University of Washington (MA) and Humboldt State University (BA). He has taught and lectured for numerous university courses on the religions and literature of India, Hinduism, Buddhism, and yoga traditions, and presents his research regularly at international conferences.

As a scholar-practitioner, Seth is gifted in his ability to present the ancient teachings of yoga clearly in an accessible, light-hearted, and inspiring manner—while maintaining a rigor and sensitivity to traditional Indian knowledge systems. Seth conducts workshops and lectures regularly on the history and philosophy of yoga at studios, teacher trainings, and universities around the country. 

Enroll Today

This course is set up for self-study. Sign up today to begin moving through the modules at your own pace.

Regular Tuition



Lifetime access to YS 101


Regular Tuition

$88 x 2


• Lifetime access to YS 101





  • Access to YS 101
  • Access to all YS + BS courses—including live and future courses 
  • Access to SKT 100a + SKT 100b




  • Save $100!
  • Access to all YS + BS courses—including live and future courses 
  • Access to SKT 100a + SKT 100b

Frequently Asked Questions

The course was originally recorded for a 6-week program. But now upon enrollment you will have immediate access to ALL six modules, and can take the course entirely at your own pace. All together the materials comprise around 18 hours of lecture and discussion.

The six modules include the pre-recorded video lecture and Q&A session, quiz, and any PDF materials for that week. Each video lecture is comprised of Seth teaching directly to the camera, alongside keynote slides and other short web clips. They are visually rich, clearly organized, and engaging. You will also receive a bonus audio recording of each lecture for those who prefer to listen rather than watch. 

You will have continued access to these materials. There is no time limit to complete the course. 

Like any university course, there might be some reading involved, but only if you want to! Once you sign up for the course, you will receive a syllabus for the six modules. These are books and Sanskrit texts (in translation) for purchase, as well as a selection of free articles for download. These readings are entirely optional, however, will enable students to go deeper into materials covered in the course lectures and discussion sections. You will also receive a detailed Bibliography (PDF) for further readings and study material at the end of the course!

Yes! Upon completion of the course, you will be eligible for an official Yogic Studies certificate of completion. 

This is a bonus feature for those who are Registered Yoga Teachers (RYT) with Yoga Alliance. Once you've completed the course you can login to your YA account, search for the course in their registry, and add the course and your hours. Once Yogic Studies has received a confirmation request, we can confirm your CE hours. 

If for some reason you are unsatisfied with the course, contact us in the first 30 days and we will issue you a full refund! See, you have nothing to lose. So what are you waiting for? : )

Please email all further questions and inquiries to [email protected]

What Students Are Saying

"Seth Powell has created courses for Yogic Studies that engage the yoga practitioner in an honest, insightful and inspiring dialogue, bringing ancient practices into modern conversations. By illuminating the historical, cultural and social context of yoga, we come to see and understand the emergence and popularity of modern postural yoga as an ever evolving expression of the seeker’s journey toward self-development and ultimately self realization."

Nikki Costello
Founder of The Practice, CIYT, C-IAYT

"Seth knows his stuff! Each week his material was clearly and accessibly presented, completely relevant, and helpfully illustrated. Unlike many academics researching yoga today, Seth's talks were uncluttered with academic jargon, yet he never once talked down to his audience. His smile and enthusiasm were infectious, I looked forward with anticipation to each week's release... This is a terrific introduction to the history and philosophy of yoga, highly recommended to any serious student."

Richard Rosen
Yoga Teacher, Author of "Original Yoga: Rediscovering Traditional Practices of Hatha Yoga"

"This course was exactly what I needed. The term 'yoga' and its history have become so politicized and weaponized, it's hard—but crucially important, especially for yoga teachers—to separate myth from fact. Seth gently lays out the historical evidence alongside various existing narratives with clarity and compassion."

Nerine Guinée
Yoga Teacher, Amman, Jordan

"I cannot recommend Seth's courses highly enough. His presentation of the material is deep and nuanced while remaining clear and accessible. I eagerly awaited the release of each week's material and plan to return to them periodically for years to come."

Zander Winther
MA Philosophy, Yoga Teacher, Vancouver, BC

"To everyone who takes a yogic way of life seriously this course is fundamental. Seth Powell is a young and active scholar not just with deep knowledge about yoga, but also a great and kind teacher who generously explains the history of yoga, clearing misconceptions and encouraging everyone to continue studying."

Macarena González Carmona
Iyengar Yoga Teacher, Chile

"This course should become a requirement for yoga teacher trainings! Seth's teaching style and his availability, the quality of the materials, the proximity to valuable ongoing research all give the student the best synthesized and non-dogmatic information available today. I felt privileged to be part of his virtual classroom and blessed to have access to these teachings from my little village in the south of France."

Danielle Nolles
ERYT 200

"The course was very educational and taught in a professional way. It is quite a task to cover such a broad material and so many centuries of yoga history in 6 lectures. Seth Powell definitely stood up to this challenge. "

Marek Łaskawiec
Yoga Teacher, Yoga Republic, Poland, editor of Magazyn Joga

"This is a brilliant introductory course to Yoga philosophy and history. I haven't found anything equal in Germany, so I tried Seth's classes and can highly recommend them. In-depth studies and easy-to-understand lectures, even if English is not your native language. This was my fear: that I wouldn't understand everything because of the language barrier, but this wasn't the case. Not at all. It is brilliantly presented."

Monika Caparelli-Hippert
Yoga Teacher, Oberursel, Germany

"I cannot recommend Seth's course highly enough. He is a passionate, personable, and knowledgeable lecturer who is inspired by continued learning. He has the ability to present the complexity of the material in a clear and accessible manner and is always willing to answer questions mindfully. I looked forward to each week's release with anticipation. I felt very much part of a global community all wanting to learn and to grow through curiosity. All the while I was able to do this from my home so it was not disruptive to (family) life. I look forward to continuing my studies with him."

Kylie Lee

"I enjoyed this course so much. It was the first time that I took an online course and I was a bit skeptical, but I have to admit that the connection with the teacher and with his teachings has been very strong, like other live classes. Maybe even stronger, because Seth pays attention to everyone very carefully, for every doubt or question. The level of the teaching is very high, in accordance with the most recent studies. Thank you."

Barbara Barbieri
Yoga Teacher of 15 years, Rome

"As a yoga teacher I have always wanted to deepen my knowledge of the philosophy and history of yoga. I found it a bit difficult for yoga teachers to fulfill this desire outside the academic field. Seth's teachings undoubtedly cover this shortcoming, by offering high quality teachings, with a rigorous and academic standard, providing extensive information on yoga research as well as an up to date bibliography. The lectures, although challenging, are structured in a pleasurable way. The live sessions allow for participation and an enriching exchange of ideas with people all over the world, helping to build a bond in a common search. Seth is not only an excellent academic but one can also feel that he is a yoga practitioner and a sincere seeker, as well as a committed teacher, which adds a significant perspective to the course."

Carmen León
Yoga Teacher, Spain

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