Yoga Philosophy Talks Part 3: Classic Texts
with Ruth Westoby
Saturday 23 Nov 2019
1:00pm – 5:30 pm
Ruth Westoby presents two of the most iconic texts on yoga, the Bhagavad Gītā and the Pātañjalayogaśāstra. The Bhagavad Gītā or Song of the Lord dramatically sets sublime spiritual teachings against the backdrop of an horrific and devastating war. The god Kṛṣṇa and the warrior Arjuna stand amidst armies arrayed for destruction and discuss how to live in this imperfect world. Kṛṣṇa interweaves key spiritual teachings on yoga to counsel correct understanding, skilful action, the discipline of yoga, righteous violence and divine love. In its long reception history the Gītā has been a fundamental source text for Vedānta, it has been revered as the Hindu bible, and its teachings have been called upon by spiritual seekers and teachers of yoga.The Pātañjalayogaśāstra, or Patañjali’s Yogasūtra, has been the go-to text for paṇḍitas and practitioners alike in pursuit of precise teachings on the practice of yoga. Compiled around 350 CE the Yogasūtra builds on the metaphysics and psychology of Sāṃkhya to presents many practices for stilling the movements of the mind and achieving a meditative state of introversion, samādhi or aloneness, kaivalya. The text has surprisingly little to note on postures, āsanas – surprising, that is, when the text is perceived as the most important text on yoga, which in the modern world is identical with posture. We will use what the text and its commentaries do say on āsana to tease out the historical incorporation within āsana of severe physical penances (tapas) and the later proliferation of of āsana.
Individual sessions can be taken as standalone units or the course can be taken as a whole. Whilst each session will build on the material presented in earlier sessions a recap will be given to enable students to attend individual sessions. Some sessions will open with chanting sections of texts relating to the subjects of study. The lecture will be accompanied with rich visual images. Primary sources, key concepts and further reading suggestions will be given. There will be plenty of time for contemplation and discussion. Whilst there will be sitting practices there will be no postural practice. The best text to accompany these sessions is James Mallinson and Mark Singleton’s Roots of Yoga, published by Penguin in 2017.
Ruth Westoby is a doctoral researcher in yoga and an Ashtanga practitioner. Alongside practice and research Ruth runs workshops and teaches on some of the principle teacher training programmes in the UK. Ruth’s current teaching projects include facilitating Yoga Campus’s online course A Comprehensive History of Yoga. Ruth helps coordinate the SOAS Centre of Yoga Studies, has taught on the SOAS Yoga Summer School, helped coordinate the Sanskrit Reading Room and convened a study group on yoga and gender at SOAS to share the work of new and leading researchers in the field. Ruth collaborated in 2016 and 2017 with SOAS’s Hatha Yoga Project interpreting postures from a precursor of modern yoga, the Haṭhābhyāsapaddhati. Ruth began to explore yoga practices in 1996 and started teaching postural yoga in 2004. In 2010 she received an MA in Indian Religions from SOAS with Distinction.
The most influential teachers on Ruth’s practice have been Hamish Hendry, Richard Freeman and Sharat Jois. In 2015 she was authorized by Sharat to teach Ashtanga level 2. Ruth does not practice at studios which display images of Pattabhi Jois on altars in solidarity with those who were sexually abused by him. For resources and dialogue on this please contact Ruth directly.
Ruth is researching part-time for a doctoral thesis on constructions of gender in Sanskrit texts on haṭhayoga at SOAS under the supervision of James Mallinson. To this end she continues to study Sanskrit.For writings, films and workshops please see www.enigmatic.yoga.
For more information about Ruth, visit our Yoga Teacher Training Faculty page.
You can either book just this event using the form below, or you can book parts 1-5 together for the discounted price of £100. Click here to book parts 1-5.