Join renowned yoga scholar and author, Dr. Mark Singleton, and a global cohort of students, for this exciting and timely opportunity to study yoga's past, present, and future.
Yoga is changing. In its encounter with global modernity, relatively stable forms of practice and belief that have characterised yoga throughout its history are undergoing a revolution. In this online course we focus on some of the most important of these changes, beginning with the state of yoga immediately prior to the the "modern yoga renaissance" of the late-nineteenth century, and continuing with a reassessment of the history of āsana. What has been lost, and what gained, by yoga's popularisation? And what might a truly 'authentic' modern yoga look like?
In the second half of the course, we turn to yoga's long and tangled relationship with psychology. Psychology is at the heart of secularised spirituality today. How does yoga change when it is assimilated into psychology? What kinds of beliefs about human beings, ultimate values, and meaning in the world does it generate? Taking the example of the "dharma industry", we will consider the creation of a new kind of yogic subject in the world today. Finally, we look to the exponential rise of technology, and the way it is changing the culture of yoga around the world. Are we already cyborg yogis? Are technological advances in yoga practice compatible with the "traditional" goals of yoga? And what does this mean for the future of yoga?
Each Module also includes: recommended weekly readings, a PDF handout, and optional quiz.
The first module explores the state of yoga on the eve of the modern period, looking at how traditional forms of yoga were adapted and blended with hybrid forms to produce new, globalised forms of philosophy and practice. What was traditional yoga practice at this time? And what do we mean when we speak of "modern yoga"? Are modern practices really "authentic" and "traditional", or are we caught in a more tangled and complex relationship with the past? This first module aims to give students the critical tools to examine modern yoga forms in relation to the past.
In this module we will consider the colourful history of modern postural yoga in the modern era. The practice of āsanas has become the mainstay of global yoga; indeed, these practices of stretching, balancing and moving have almost become synonymous with yoga itself. But the practice of āsana, and its goals, have always adapted and morphed according to new cultural contexts. Millions of people around the world practice yoga āsanas: where do the practices come from, and where are they going? This module will offer a retrospective and a reassessment of the book Yoga Body, ten years after its first publication.
Psychology and modern yoga came into being at the same time, and they share a common, complex history. In this module, we will look at the way yoga has been transformed by its interraction with psychology, and how psychology has assimilated the theory and practice of yoga. If psychology is the secular religion of our age, how has the function of yoga changed as it has been subjected to the logic of modern psychology? What stories does psychology tell us about ourselves, and are those stories real? With a focus on 'modern dharma', we will see how contemporary yoga culture has offered us strange new ways of understanding ourselves and our significance in the world.
In this final module, we will look at some new directions in the history of yoga. Yoga's ever-closer relationship with technology signals an exciting, and perhaps worrying, turn in its history. What happens when the human becomes machine? What happens when yoga becomes post-human? And what, if anything, prohibits us from using current and near-future technologies to achieve the traditional goals of yoga, up to and including super-powers and machine-generated ‘liberation’ from the human condition? Finally, we consider yoga in light of climate breakdown, and the cataclysmic changes predicted for our planet.
Dr. Mark Singleton specializes in the history of yoga in tradition and modernity. His groundbreaking scholarship has been instrumental in shaping the modern academic field of Yoga Studies. He is Senior Research Fellow at SOAS University of London, where he works on the Haṭha Yoga Project, a five-year research project mapping a thousand years of yoga history through texts and ethnography.
He is the author of Yoga Body, The Origins of Modern Posture Practice (2010), and co-author (with James Mallinson) of Roots of Yoga (2017). He has authored many articles and book chapters on yoga history, and has edited four volumes of yoga scholarship. He is currently working on a book project on the relationship between Yoga and Technology.
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