Thinking in Āsana: Movement and Philosophy in Modern Postural Yoga

Thinking in Āsana - Movement and Philosophy in Viniyoga, Iyengar Yoga, and Ashtanga Yoga - Matylda Ciołkosz

Matylda Ciołkosz [+-]
Jagiellonian University, Kraków
Matylda Ciołkosz is scholar of religions and an Assistant Professor at the Institute for the Study of Religions, Jagiellonian University in Kraków. In her research, she explores how religious concepts and doctrines are formed under the influence of different biological and sociocultural factors. As a longtime yoga practitioner, rock climber, and musician, she is especially interested in the significance of movement practices as one of these factors. In her studies- so far focused mainly on modern yoga- she applies the methodologies of cognitive science and lingustics.


In the third chapter, I present my main argument. The three subchapters– each of them focused on one of the three studied yoga lineages– present the specifics of movement characteristic of the particular style of yoga practice, the interpretation of the religiophilosophical model that corresponds to this practice, and, ultimately, the relation between the two. When discussing āsana and prāṇāyāma performance, I describe not only its objective characteristics, but also its subjective experience. By explaining how different postural and breathing techniques feel to the practitioner, I point to the kinds of recurrent kinaesthetic patterns they allow the practitioner to experience. I expand my analysis beyond individual practice and onto social interactions occurring both within and outside of yoga halls. Later I argue how these recurrent kinaesthetic patterns provide a means to construe abstract religiophilosophical concepts drawn from the Pātañjalayogaśāstra, and to interpret and regulate social interactions. When presenting the particular “yoga philosophies” of Desikachar, Iyengar, and Jois, I account for their different facets. On the one hand, I try to reconstruct the more general worldview of the three yogins as inflected by the concepts borrowed from the yoga tradition. On the other hand, I present their systematic elaboration of the technical religio-philosophical terms drawn for the yoga of Patañjali. Finally, by treating “yoga philosophy” as a counterpart of “yoga practice”, I attempt to show how these two aspect of yoga complement each other. By showing a systematic relation between the way yoga techniques are practiced and the way yoga philosophy is understood, I point to the internal coherence of the three studied systems. I argue that the yoga philosophies proposed by Desikachar, Iyengar, and Jois provide a rationale for yoga practice, and explain its efficacy. At the same time, yoga practice provides the experiential basis to interpret the yoga philosophy.

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Ciołkosz, Matylda . Thinking in Āsana: Movement and Philosophy in Modern Postural Yoga. Thinking in Āsana - Movement and Philosophy in Viniyoga, Iyengar Yoga, and Ashtanga Yoga. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. Sep 2022. ISBN 9781800502123. Date accessed: 22 Jan 2022 doi: 10.1558/equinox.42225. Sep 2022

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