Yoga History, Sanskrit, and Hatha Yoga Philosophy
with Seth Powell
Sanskrit Scholar, Harvard Ph.D Candidate, and Yoga Teacher
This Workshop qualifies for 15-hours of Yoga Alliance Continuing Education
Friday Session: The Story of Yoga: A 2,500-year Visual and Textual History
Friday, July 5 (1:00-6:00pm) $65
This module provides students with a foundational overview and the “big picture” of the history of yoga. Drawing on the latest scholarship in yoga studies, together we will journey from yoga’s shrouded origins as an ascetic tradition in ancient India, to the emergence of postural yoga in the West and around the globe—an incredible journey that takes us from the periphery of premodern Indian civilization to the center of modern American health and wellness!
Along the way, we will explore attempts to define “yoga,” the relationship between yoga philosophy and practice, the origins and history of yogic āsanas, the multi-billion dollar commercialization of yoga, and much more. Debunking common misperceptions about yoga’s antiquity, we will uncover the incredible ways yoga has changed, innovated, and been adopted by millions of practitioners over the past 2,500 years!
Saturday Session: An Intro to Sanskrit: The Language of Yoga
Saturday, July 6 (1:00-6:00pm) $65
Sanskrit is one of the most ancient languages in the world, and is the lingua franca of yoga.
In this module students are exposed to this rich legacy of Sanskrit’s literary past, and guided through a unique experience of studying the Sanskrit language today. We will begin with a brief introduction to the history of Sanskrit—learning about its grammatical nature, scripts, literature, and Sanskrit’s unique role as the purveyor of yogic wisdom through its precise syllabary.
We then focus our attention towards learning how Sanskrit is represented phonetically in Roman characters with “diacritic” marks. Understanding only a few rules of Sanskrit in transliteration will allow anyone who can read English to pronounce any Sanskrit word properly. In particular, we give attention to the correct pronunciation of the names of common yogic terminology and postures. Slowly, we will progress towards chanting a few Sanskrit mantras, some short sūtras from Patañjali’s Yogasūtra, building towards our “peak” practice — & the recitation of a few traditional Sanskrit verses (śloka) from yogic scriptures.
Participants will walk away with:
A deeper appreciation for Sanskrit’s spiritual and literary history
A brief introduction to Sanskrit grammar
An understanding of how to read Sanskrit in transliteration (i.e. in the Roman alphabet)
Knowledge of the most commonly mis-pronounced Sanskrit words in the yoga world
Confidence in their ability to correctly pronounce yogic terms in Sanskrit
Sunday Session: Classical Haṭha Yoga: The Haṭhapradīpikā
Sunday, July 7th (1:00-6:00pm) $65
The Haṭhapradīpikā, or “Lamp on Haṭhayoga” is one of the classical Sanskrit treatises on the theory and practice of Haṭha Yoga. Composed by Svātmārāma in the 15th century, the Haṭhapradīpikā provides a stunning window onto what traditional yoga practice looked like in medieval India. In this workshop, we will dive deep into the world of the Pradīpikā, exploring its prescriptions on yogic diet, lifestyle, and the ideal local for practice; teachings on yogic postures (āsana), breath-control (prāṇāyāma), bodily seals (mudrā) and binds (bandha), concentration (dhāraṇā) and meditation (dhyāna)— all of which are said to culminate in the liberative state of yogic mental absorption, or Samādhi. We will read, chant, and discuss the finer details of this root text of the Haṭha Yoga traditions, while reflecting on its meaning and significance for modern yoga teachers and practitioners.
About Seth Powell:
Seth Powell is a longtime practitioner of yoga and a scholar of Indian religions, Sanskrit, and yoga traditions. He is currently a PhD Candidate in South Asian Religions at Harvard University. His research focuses on the history, theory, and practice of medieval and early modern Sanskrit yoga texts and traditions, as well as their intersections with the culture and practice of modern transnational yoga. Seth also holds degrees in the study of religion from the University of Washington (MA) and Humboldt State University (BA).
Seth is the founder and director of Yogic Studies, an educational platform dedicated to bridging the academic and practitioner yoga communities. He conducts online courses and lectures on the history and philosophy of yoga at studios, teacher trainings, and universities around the country. As a scholar-practitioner, Seth is gifted in his ability to present the ancient teachings of yoga clearly & in an accessible, light-hearted, and inspiring manner — while maintaining a rigor and sensitivity to traditional Indian knowledge systems.
In addition to his academic pursuits, Seth has spent much of the past decade “on the mat” in the American yoga studio culture, engaging in a variety of forms of modern postural yoga. Beginning in 2010, Seth has spent extended periods abroad studying with teachers and traditional yogīs in India, as well as conducting doctoral fieldwork and research into the textual and material cultural history of yoga. He is an Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher (E-RYT 200) and Yoga Alliance Continued Educational Provider (YACEP).