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.

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Please Note:

"Roots & Branches of Yoga: From Ancient India to 
Contemporary Global Practices" is a course trilogy in three trimesters. 

We highly recommend enrolling in the full three-trimester sequence, but you may also register for each course separately.  

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.

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.

COURSES INCLUDE:

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

Roots & Branches of Yoga - Course 1:

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

In this session, we will discuss when and where yoga originated--in the ancient Vedas, the parallel tradition of Shaivism, or through a complex confluence of both these sacred traditions? We will decode the Aryan migration debate, discuss the textual and genetic evidence and explain how the Aryan controversy has affected the evolution of yoga.

We will discuss the Indus Valley civilization and the Pashupatinath seal and a corresponding figure from Europe and explore various arguments about whether these are archeological evidence of ancient yoga postures. We will explore the early Vedas and how they were possibly influenced by a different culture; we will discuss the importance of two archetypes: the Vedic priest and the yogi. How
different are they, and can they be the same person?

In session 3, yoga’s formative texts and systems will be discussed—the Vedas, Upanishads, Ayurveda, Samkhya, Bhagavad Gita. What are some common threads in these texts and what are some of the main differences? What were the cultural circumstances under which these texts were developed, such as in the greater Magadha culture? Were the texts coming from different sources and cultures, and were they part of oral lore long before they were written down?

The oldest textual evidence of yoga postures, as well as the latest work of James Mallinson and Mark Singleton, who state that yoga originated in the Sramana movement at the time of the Buddha (500 BCE), will be discussed. We will end the module with an in depth look at the nature and importance of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and compare its nature and influence to Samkhya, the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita.

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..

Tuition Options

COURSE 1

$127

ONE-TIME PAYMENT

Course 1 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 1

$49

AUTO-DEBITED FOR 3 MONTHS

Course 1 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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ALL 3 COURSES

$297

ONE-TIME PAYMENT

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

INCLUDES: 
12 Interactive Zoom Sessions
12 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

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ANNUAL

$997

ONE-TIME FEE

Unlimited Access to all EP Courses, Conferences & Seminars

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