A Course Trilogy 
with Marcy Goldstein and Ramesh Bjonnes

Roots & Branches
of Yoga

From Ancient India to
Contemporary Global Practices

Now On-Demand

Course Description

In this tour de force course trilogy on the history of yoga, no Sanskrit page, meditation cushion, or yoga block is left unturned. Embracing a wide variety of evidence, from pre-Common Era texts to contemporary books and academic scholarship, from archeology to mythology, from teacher-student lineages and oral histories to genetics, we invite you to journey with us into the colorful universe of ancient, premodern, and modern yoga.

We will investigate many angles and questions about yoga history:  When and where did yoga originate? Was the Buddha a yogi?  Is our received information romanticized alternative fact? When did yoga reach the US?  What are the oldest poses and which ones were made up yesterday?  How should we navigate conflicting histories? Can we strike a balance between tradition and innovation? Is the Western practice of yoga cultural appropriation or appreciation?  What, after all, is yoga—an exercise system, religion, science, spiritual path, or all of the above? 

By exploring yoga’s past and its ever-changing modern moment, you will gain new ways to think through information, mis- and dis-information about its origins and diverse unfolding expressions. You will learn how the yoga tradition developed from Indian practices deeply rooted in guru lineages to modern spiritual, exercise systems and post-lineage cultures. You will also study how ancient and modern traditions continue to blend and inform each other. A detailed 5000+ year timeline of texts, teachers, and traditions is provided.

Please Note: "Roots & Branches of Yoga" is a course trilogy in three trimesters. We recommend enrolling in the full three-course sequence, but you may also register for each course separately.  Course 1 is currently On Demand and available to take during your own time. Course 2 begins February 4th (See more about Course 2 below). 

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COURSES INCLUDE:

Downloadable Videos & MP3s
Course Readings
Yoga Alliance Cont. Ed. Credits
Embodied Philosophy Credits

Roots & Branches of Yoga - Course 2:

The Premodern Yoga Period (200 C.E -1800 C.E., including Tantric traditions, Hatha Yoga, and Bhakti Yoga)

We’ll begin where we left off at the end of course #1 by looking at textual and material culture evidence from the Ancient Yoga Period to determine what practices existed before and around the shift to the Common Era.  We will explore the core teachings of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, especially sutras that discuss meditation. Then we'll examine later texts, some of which are categorized as “Hatha Yoga,” such as the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, to learn about what they say about asana, etc. and how they relate to contemporary yoga traditions.  Our discussions will mention the Nath tradition and its teachers Goraksanath and Matsyendranath, the Kashmir Tantra traditions and texts such as the Vijana Bhairava and the Pratyabhijna-Hrdaya. The important, but often underreported Siddha tradition of South India, especially the Tamil Shaiva Siddhanta of Tirumular will also be explored.   Throughout this course, we will address the boundaries and blendings between various expressions of yoga, Tantra, and Vedanta, both before and after Muslim invasions and when Islamic colonial rule transitioned to British control. Every class will consider important, definitional questions: What is yoga, what is Tantra (Buddhist and Hindu traditions), and how do these categories merge and diverge?  How does this history, and how does my knowing or not-knowing about this history, impact my practice today?

We’ll begin where we left off at the end of Trimester #1 by looking at textual and material culture evidence from the Ancient Yoga Period to determine what practices existed before and around the shift to the Common Era. The core teachings of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, especially sutras that discuss meditation, will be our focus. 

In module 2, we will look at post 2nd c. texts, some of which are categorized as “Hatha Yoga,” such as the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, to learn about what they say about asana, etc. and how they relate to contemporary yoga traditions.  Our discussions will mention the Nath tradition and its teachers Goraksanath and Matsyendranath. 

In module 3, we will explore Kashmir Tantra traditions and texts such as the Vijana Bhairava and the Pratyabhijna-Hrdaya.  

In module 4, we will look at the underreported Siddha tradition of South India, especially the Tamil Shaiva Siddhanta of Tirumular.  We will also review the information presented until this point in history, and set the stage for where we will go in Trimester #3.  

Students will:

  • Learn about the texts, teachers, and traditions in yoga’s 5000+ year history.
  • Become knowledgeable about the past in order to contribute productively to discussions about what yoga is and can become.
  • Identify the information, mis- and dis-information embedded in received histories of yoga; dissect facts from fictions.
  • Encounter some of yoga history’s most colorful and influential teachers.  Discover fascinating and even contested details about yoga’s origins, history, philosophies, and future.
  • Study with two scholar-practitioners from vastly different educational and personal backgrounds, whose views do not always align while watching them model civilized dialogue and mutual respect.  A rare opportunity!
  • Participate in a class where people come together despite and because of our differences to create something bigger than any of us can create from within our separate echo chambers.
  • Embrace the fact that the study of history is an essential part of being human and thus part of an ethically grounded and evolving yoga journey.

Enroll in Course 2
or the entire Three-Course Sequence (12 Modules)

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The Full Course Trilogy

The Ancient Yoga Period (5000 B.C.E. to 200 C.E., including the Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad-Gita, and Yoga Sutras)

We will address the following topics from this period: When and where did yoga originate–in the ancient Vedas, the parallel tradition of Shaivism, or through a complex confluence of both these sacred traditions? What is the Aryan migration debate all about?  Examining textual and genetic evidence, we will analyze how the Aryan controversy has affected the evolution of yoga, including India’s recent rise in nationalism. By looking at the Pashupatinat seal and a corresponding figure from Europe, we will explore various arguments about whether these are archeological evidence of ancient yoga postures. We will also delve into yoga’s formative texts and systems such as the Vedas, Upanishads, Ayurveda, Samkhya, Bhagavad Gita, and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Finally, we will discuss the oldest textual evidence of yoga postures, the latest work of James Mallinson and Mark Singleton who state that yoga originated in the Sramana movement, yogi mendicants such as the Kapalikas who may have influenced Buddhism, Jainism and later Hinduism, and lastly the development of classical yoga influenced by the compilation of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.

The Premodern Yoga Period (200 C.E -1800 C.E., including Tantric traditions, Hatha Yoga, and Bhakti Yoga)

We will address the following topics from this period: The so-called Tantric Renaissance in the Middle Ages to discern whether Tantra was a new development or a continuation from the oral tradition and the Puranas. The meditation practices described in the Yoga Sutras and analyze its Kriya Yoga system to determine its possible Tantric roots. By looking at various Hatha Yoga texts, the influential Nath tradition, and its famous teachers Goraksanath and Matsyendranath, we will discuss their possible influences on later and contemporary yoga traditions.  The Kashmir Tantra traditions, its teachers, and some of its most important texts, such as the Vijana Bhairava. Then we will revisit some important questions: did yoga originate in the Vedas and advance through the Upanishads and the Yoga Sutras, and blossom into the later Tantra traditions?  Or did yoga advance as a composite tradition from the beginning, with core teachings from both Vedic and Tantric traditions? We will finally explore the different expressions of yoga, such as Vedanta and Bhakti Yoga, the many Tantric paths, as well as the development of Hinduism after various Muslim invasions, and also the British imperialist influence on yoga, both in India and globally.

The Modern Yoga Period (1800 C.E. until today, including Vivekananda’s arrival in the US, Krishnamacharya’s invention of modern postural yoga, and the popular yoga revolution)

We will address the following topics from this period: The influential Indian sage Ramakrishna and his famous disciple Vivekananda who became the first Westernized Indian yogi.  Following in these footsteps, Yogananda arrived in the West and taught an integral yet modernized form of yoga incorporating both meditation and posture yoga. Next is Krishnamacharya who invented modern posture practice, and his disciples including Pattabhi Jois and B. K. S. Iyengar, who popularized these practices in yet newer forms in the West. We will discuss whether Krishnamacarya drew on older asana teachings or invented new postures.  We will then explore the difference between the traditional, largely soteriological paths of yoga and how that overlaps and contrasts with modern yoga as a fitness, spiritual, holistic lifestyle practice. The many cultural, psychological and even political issues surrounding modern yoga will be explored, such as appropriation vs. appreciation, commercialism, fame and abuse, the pros and cons of gurus, and the growing post-lineage yoga movement. Finally we will discuss what the future of yoga may hold—will it become largely Westernized and self empowerment oriented, or will it herald a new bridge, a global, universal, cross cultural search for health, happiness, meaning and enlightenment. Or will it blossom into something entirely different.

About Your Instructors

Marcy Braverman Goldstein, Ph.D. received doctoral training at University of California, Santa Barbara and in India, and has taught at UNC Charlotte, Davidson College, and The Stan Greenspon Center for Peace and Social Justice at Queens University of Charlotte. As founder of Sanskrit Revolution, Marcy teaches Sanskrit, history, yogic speech, and philosophy at studios and festivals nationally. Drawing from her academic background and 25 years of practicing yoga, she creates classes that illuminate the language and culture of yoga, deepen people’s knowledge, and inspire personal growth.

Ramesh Bjonnes was born in Norway and lived for nearly three years in India and Nepal learning directly from the masters of Tantric yoga. Bjonnes is co-founder of the Prama Institute, a holistic retreat center outside Asheville, NC. He has practiced traditional Tantric yoga for over 40 years and has written extensively on Tantra, yoga, culture and sustainability, and his articles have appeared in books and numerous magazines and newspapers in Europe and the US. He is the author of three books on yoga; Sacred Body, Sacred Spirit: A Personal Guide to the Wisdom of Yoga and Tantra; Tantra: The Yoga of Love and Awakening and A Brief History of Yoga. Ramesh teaches meditation from the Yoga Sutras and the history of yoga to various yoga teacher trainings. He lives and teaches with his wife Radhika in an ecovillage in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina..

"I want to thank you Ramesh Bjonnes and Marcy Braverman Goldstein for the amazing co-teaching - you are embodied examples of how a yogic approach to differing views works! I love it!"

Anastasia Schmierer

"This class has really changed the way I engage my students with history. I appreciate and am forever grateful for the vast knowledge being shared with us, so thoroughly rooted in scholarship and experience. It helps my students see how history is a living concept, which changes as new questions are asked or old questions are revisited."

Erika Altensee

"Huge thank you to both Ramesh Bjonnes and Marcy Braverman Goldstein for their curation of this course. I'm really excited about where you two will guide us and feel very confident in your ability to continue to blow my mind. I also appreciate the continued circling back to the "why"- really great teaching especially with such heady stuff. I love the questions posed about questioning not only our own history but how we agree/disagree with any information regarding our own biases. I'm curious how we can drill down even deeper into those questions not only about yoga history but also in our own lives and within the practice of yoga to assist along the way!"

Austin Richman

Tuition Options

COURSE 2

$127

ONE-TIME PAYMENT

Course 2 of the "Roots & Branches of Yoga" Trilogy (4 modules)

INCLUDES:
4 Interactive Zoom Sessions
4 Q&As with Marcy & Ramesh
4 Downloadable Videos & MP3s
Course Readings
10 Yoga Alliance Cont. Ed. Credits
10 Embodied Philosophy Credits
Private Pop-Up Facebook Group

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COURSE 2

$49

AUTO-DEBITED FOR 3 MONTHS

Course 2 of the "Roots & Branches of Yoga" Trilogy (4 modules)

INCLUDES: 
4 Interactive Zoom Sessions
4 Q&As with Marcy & Ramesh
4 Downloadable Videos & MP3s
Course Readings
10 Yoga Alliance Cont. Ed. Credits
10 Embodied Philosophy Credits
Private Pop-Up Facebook Group

REGISTER NOW

COURSE 2 & 3

$227

ONE-TIME PAYMENT - Savings of $27

Course 2 & 3 of the "Roots & Branches of Yoga" Trilogy (8 modules)

INCLUDES: 
8 Interactive Zoom Sessions
8 Q&As with Marcy & Ramesh
8 Downloadable Videos & MP3s
Course Readings
20 Yoga Alliance Cont. Ed. Credits
20 Embodied Philosophy Credits
Private Pop-Up Facebook Group

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ALL 3 COURSES

$297

ONE-TIME PAYMENT

All 3 courses of the "Roots & Branches of Yoga" Trilogy

INCLUDES: 
4 On-Demand Sessions from Course 1
8 Interactive Zoom Sessions
8 Q&As with Marcy & Ramesh
12 Downloadable Videos & MP3s
Course Readings
30 Yoga Alliance Cont. Ed. Credits
30 Embodied Philosophy Credits
Private Pop-Up Facebook Group

REGISTER NOW

ANNUAL

$997

ONE-TIME FEE

Unlimited Access to all EP Courses, Conferences & Seminars

LEARN MORE
Join Marcy and Ramesh as they takes us on a exciting journey through the history of yoga from ancient India to contemporary global practice.

Live sessions: Tuesdays 7 - 9 pm EST

NOTE: If you cannot make the live session, it will be recorded and made available to you the following day.

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