Ruth Westoby

Abuse within practitioner communities and exposure to the critical methods of the academy has tarnished my faith in yoga. The opportunity that this conference offers to come together and reflect on activism is most welcome.
— Ruth Westoby


This practice-oriented session offers different modalities of Ashtanga yoga. How should we approach the practising and teaching yoga in the light of abuses within the Ashtanga teaching lineage? The session will be an opportunity to consider how and in what way we could approach the practice, by feeling our way through sections of traditional Sanskrit count, self-practice sections, and more creatively-led explorations. We will take time to reflect on the felt experience of this modes, and methods for moving on in our practice and teaching.


This lecture will outline some of the key critical issues in the contemporary study of yoga. As globalised modern yoga becomes a dominant cultural phenomenon there has been a similar rise in the academic study of yoga both ancient and modern. The ‘critical issues’ in modern yoga which have absorbed both scholars and practitioners include power, abuse, gender, race, politics (both nationalism and neoliberalism), and science and religion. This talk will describe these phenomena and the methods from the academy which have been used to illuminate them, and the scope that this reflection may allow for change within globalised modern yoga.


Co-facilitated with Eunice Laurel

We practice yoga with our sensing bodies. Our bodies are autobiographical. They are imprinted with stories and histories. They dialogue with us through sensation. We exist in an organic and ever-changing network of experience and relationship.

In this talk Eunice Laurel and Ruth Westoby will share their approach to facilitating in spaces where we teach and practice from an acknowledgement that our bodies are autobiographical; and what are the different possibilities open to us of making pathways home to it through practices that connect - rather than disconnect - and build agency.

Eunice and Ruth will touch on the ideas behind ‘trauma-informed’ and whether we need to add new lexicons into our teaching biographies or whether we need to rearrange the pedagogy of modern yoga.


Lecture and space for questions and discussion.



Ruth Westoby is a doctoral researcher in yoga and an Ashtanga practitioner. Ruth is fascinated by yoga both in academia and practice. Alongside practice and doctoral research Ruth runs workshops and teaches on some of the principle teacher training programmes in the UK. Ruth is researching for a doctoral thesis in constructions of gender in Sanskrit texts on haṭha yoga at SOAS under the supervision of James Mallinson. To this end she continues to study Sanskrit.

Ruth has convened study groups 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 Haṭha Yoga Project interpreting postures from a precursor of modern yoga, the Haṭhābhyāsapaddhati ( She has also helped run the Sanskrit Reading Room ( and written regularly for Pushpam (

In relation to practice Ruth began to explore yoga practices in 1996, becoming absorbed by Ashtanga Yoga in her early twenties. She started teaching postural yoga in 2004. In 2010 she received an MA in Indian Religions from SOAS with Distinction.

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