Study the history and philosophy of yoga, at your own pace, from the comfort of your own home.
Engage in the traditional practice of "Self-Study," using the latest in modern online learning technologies.
Join a thriving online community of yoga teachers, practitioners, and students from around the world.
Join renowned yoga scholar, Philip Deslippe, PhD Candidate at UC Santa Barbara, and a global cohort of students, for this exciting opportunity to study and explore the fascinating and largely unknown history of modern yoga in the West—based on many years of Deslippe's deep archival research.
Through video lectures, intimate Q&A sessions, readings, and quizzes, together we will journey through the past 150 years of yoga's remarkable, bizarre, and unexpected journey from East to West.
This online course is designed to give students an understanding of the development of modern yoga in the West from the mid-nineteenth century up to the present day in areas including the United States and England, Europe and Australia, Latin America, Russia, and Japan. Students will encounter large-scale historical narratives and key figures in the development of modern yoga in the West, while also engaging with lesser-known characters and fascinating case studies.
While we will move chronologically from the turn-of-the-century to the Second World War, and then through the Counterculture and New Age movement to yoga’s recent boom in popularity, we will also have an eye to several running themes throughout this history such as modern yoga’s use of medical science, the role of media and technology in the spread of modern yoga, questions of cultural appropriation and consumer culture, scandal and critiques of yoga, the influence of colonialism and geopolitics, and the changing nature of the guru/student model. We will conclude with a look at the current state of modern yoga in the West and several key issues and ongoing controversies.
Students will have immediate + LIFETIME access to all course materials.
a broad view history of the development of Modern Yoga
case studies of known and lesser-known figures, swamis, and gurus
the demographics and practice of yoga in the late 19th and early 20th centuries
yoga after WWII
the rise of the "Counter Culture" and the "New Age"
yoga and medical science, media, and technology
yoga, politics, and globalization
scandal and critiques of yoga
questions of cultural appropriation and consumerism
the changing nature of the guru/student model
And much more!
For our introductory model we will begin with a brief overview of the course and then set out to define our subject and some key ideas that we will use throughout the course. We will differentiate modern yoga from pre-modern yoga, understand concepts such as Orientalism, colonialism, and re-enculturation, and discuss the spectrum that extends from religion to spirituality to secular wellness.
In the second module we will follow the development of modern yoga in the West from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century, as ideas about yoga, and then teachers and texts, began to spread throughout the Anglophone world and then into Europe, Latin America, and Japan. We will look at how yoga during this time was markedly different than practices in the West now, and see how it was taught, attacked by critics, represented in popular culture, and diffused globally.
Around the time of the Second World War, modern yoga in the West begins to take on the physical and postural emphasis that we recognize today, and then is shaped in turn by new technology, the Hippie Counterculture, the New Age movement, and secular fitness movements. We will look at these in turn and also explore specific schools of modern yoga and how they organized themselves, spread throughout the world, and began to lead to the global industry that exists today.
In our final module we will take a close look at the state of modern yoga in the West today, and then informed by our previous three weeks of study, look at several issues that make us rethink what yoga is or pose challenges to its future such as problems with the guru/student model, cultural appropriation and the politics of yoga, consumerism, and the economics of yoga.
Philip Deslippe is a historian of American religion with a background in American Studies and literature. He is currently a doctoral candidate in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara where he is writing a dissertation on the early history of yoga in the United States from the mid-nineteenth to mid-twentieth century.
Philip has published articles on the history of modern yoga in academic journals such as the Journal of Yoga Studies, Amerasia, and Sikh Formations, and in popular venues including Yoga Journal, Air and Space Smithsonian, and the Indian news site Scroll. He has presented his work at several dozen academic conferences, given guest lectures for courses at Stanford, UCLA, and UC Santa Barbara, and has been a lecturer for the teacher training program at Avalon Yoga in Palo Alto, California for the last five years. His writing has been translated into Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, and Turkish.
This course is set up for self-study. Sign up today to begin moving through the modules at your own pace.
"This is an incredible course! Anyone who has more than a passing interest in yoga and its place in the contemporary scene needs to listen to Philip's presentation. Highly recommended for yoga practitioners, scholars, teachers and for anyone having an interest in the contemporary culture scene in the West."
"YS 102 is a fascinating overview of the development of modern yoga in the west. The teacher, Philip Deslippe, organised the material well and presented it in an accessible way. I liked how he defined the terms he was using, and was clear about his methodology. The format of the course was engaging, making good use of the online platform, with video lectures that included visual materials, and Q & A sessions with diverse views being expressed. This course had the right amount of depth and breadth for me. I found it very informative and thought provoking and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in how yoga has developed and what forces are changing it into the future. It might just change how you think about yoga!"
"YS 102 opened my mind to look deeper at the sources of information and the motivation behind teachers, gurus, and history books. Very interesting material... this course actually made me start trusting myself more as a teacher!"
"YS 102 was an excellent course that helped me better understand the context for the work I do. Philip’s teaching helped expose a lot of false yoga mythology that I have absorbed under the guise of tradition. I am grateful for his work and gentle guidance around sometimes tricky topics. I highly recommend this class."
"I loved Phillip's pragmatic approach. This course filled in a lot of gaps in my understanding of the History of Modern Yoga in the West. It was like a really cool, yet abbreviated, Religious Studies course."
"I loved Philip’s teaching style. He made the material accessible, interesting, and fun! I would jump at a chance to take more classes with him!"