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Orienting Yoga: the art of history

With Ruth Westoby

Sunday 14th June 17:30 - 19:00 // £18

As practitioners of yoga we are usually quite sure what yoga is and why we do it. But across time, place, language and culture – what was yoga? And what do we imagine yoga will be? Does past and future collide in the present of our practice, and should we pay attention?


Join Ruth Westoby for a short talk and discussion of what is, and was, yoga. See whether she can persuade you that historicising and philosophising could be a practice of yoga.


Ruth will define yoga, offer a timeline of yogas, and attempt to integrate contemporary and classical critical theories. By means of three case studies she will consider how yoga has been theorised: the myriad perspectives of the philosophical systematisations (the darśanas), the ‘insouciance’ towards metaphysics of Haṭhayoga (to quote James Mallinson), and the accretive and divergent messaging of Swami Vivekananda which heralded yoga to the world stage.


The format is a live Zoom seminar in which you can ask questions and offer reflections. Ruth will provide further study resources to participants.



Ruth Westoby is a doctoral researcher in yoga and an Ashtanga practitioner. As well as offering workshops and lectures at studios and conferences she teaches on some of the principal teacher training programmes in the UK and beyond. Ruth convenes the SOAS Yoga Studies Summer School, facilitates Yogacampus’s online History of Yoga course, and curates yoga seminar programmes through the SOAS Centre of Yoga Studies.

Ruth collaborated with the Haṭha Yoga Project’s ‘embodied philology’, interpreting postures from an 18th-century text teaching a precursor of modern yoga, the Haṭhābhyāsapaddhati, in 2016 and 2017. Ruth is researching for a doctoral thesis on the yogic body in premodern Sanskrit texts on haṭhayoga at SOAS under the supervision of James Mallinson. For articles, footage and workshops please see

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